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Surprise Veto of TV Recycling Bill Turns Heads

June 24, 2009

perryvetoSan Antonio Current

Since the 81st regular legislature closed up shop June 1, environmental organizations here waited to hear Governor Rick Perry say yes and officially sign HB 821, otherwise known as the TV TakeBack Bill, into law – or at least let it slide by unconfronted. The TV TakeBack Bill was based on the 2007 Computer TakeBack Bill (HB 2714), and it would have created a widespread recycling system less reliant on taxpayer dollars, according to Jeff Jacoby, Director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment’s Dallas office. Everyone was ready for the yes.

The digital transition that took place on June 12 was one motivator for the creation of this bill because consumers are expected to dump their old TVs en masse. “Ninety-nine million TVs are currently sitting in storage in the United States. If you look at the number proportionally, eight million TVs are sitting and gathering dust in Texas,” Jacoby said. “With the switch, we estimate about 3 million TVs could be sent to the landfill.” Even so, not everyone decided to dump their TVs.

But Perry vetoed the bill, June 19. Before the TCE found out about the veto at 4 p.m. that Friday, “all indications from his staff were that he was OK with the bill,” Jacoby said.

“At the end of May, that’s when we got a very strong message that the Governor would be fine with this,” Robin Schneider, TCE Executive Director, said.

The office of Representative David Leibowitz seemed similarly confident of Perry’s support. Prior to the veto announcement, Rob Borja, Leibowitz’s Chief of Staff, noted that Perry signed the Computer TakeBack Bill, so there was a high probability he would sign this bill as well.

Rep. Leibowitz himself was stunned at the announcement. “It did nothing but help people, then out of the blue, he vetoes it. It absolutely boggles my mind,” he said. “Of all the missteps and all the screw-ups in this session, this is probably the most tragic.”

The bill’s author, Leibowitz, is taking the veto personally. “It’s as if somebody said ‘Who cares about your hundreds of man hours?’” he lamented.

Governor Perry’s statement concerning his veto was full of reasons why this bill was not beneficial for Texas – many of which are seen as contradictory by the TCE and Leibowitz’s office. “Although House Bill No. 821 attempts to make it easier for consumers to recycle old televisions, it does so at the expense of manufacturers, retailers and recyclers by imposing onerous new mandates, fees and regulations,” his statement said.

Schneider assessed the statement as “strange, because these groups worked with us [to create the bill]. The retailers were not necessarily for it, but they were not opposed.”

“The first draft of the bill that we worked off of, which was provided by the television industry, included these fees,” Borja said. “The industry said the $2,500-a-year fees were fine. It was a trade-group and TV-manufacturer proposal.”

“All the different perspectives kept meeting until we came up with a compromise everyone agreed on,” said Leibowitz. “It was very unique in the sense that all these different groups worked together . . . I know we even met with a Baptist organization.”

Schneider received no better answer when she confronted Perry the morning after the veto. “The weird thing was he said he vetoed the bill because it was an industry-backed bill. He said it was backed by GE,” she said. “What he failed to mention was that the [Computer TakeBack bill he passed] was made by computer manufacturers like Dell.”

Perry recommends “that the next legislature look at this issue and maybe look at ways to make [the TV TakeBack Bill] like the computer recycling bill,” Perry’s Press Secretary, Allison Castle, said.

Yet after looking at Perry’s statement, participants in the creation of the bill were again confused. “[Gov. Perry] put it in the veto message that the bill needed to be more like the Computer TakeBack Bill,” Borja said, “but that was the bill this was based on.”

Even with the veto, the fight is not yet over. “Well we can’t override a veto if we are not in session, and the governor has not called a special session,” Leibowitz said. He believes the Governor might have waited until the session ended on purpose, but he said “[I am] working on a response to his veto right now.”


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