By: Pete Bonds, TSCRA president
The 85th Texas legislative session will convene on Jan. 10, 2017, in Austin. This date may seem like a long time from now, however it will be here before we know it. We must keep in mind that pre-filing of legislation starts in November. It is for this reason that TSCRA is working hard during the interim to keep a pulse on important issues facing ranchers and landowners.
Many interim committee charges have been announced by the speaker and lieutenant governor. As we analyze the priorities they set for their committees in the House and Senate, it is obvious many issues we have focused on in the past remain on the front burner today. It probably isn’t a surprise to most of you that some of these top issues include water, private property rights, transportation and property taxes.
These interim charges are so important because as House and Senate Committees have hearings on these and many other issues of interest to Texans, their findings could end up becoming legislation during the next session.
While we have had more rain since 2011, the cattle industry hasn’t fully recovered from the recent drought of record. In fact, I believe it could take up to 10 years of regular rainfall to get back to where we need to be. With the rapid population growth in Texas paired with lack of rainfall, water is becoming a more precious resource by the day.
TSCRA is tracking several water issues that House and Senate Committees are looking at this interim. Many of these issues are related to groundwater planning, management and regulation. These issues could obviously have impacts on groundwater ownership rights that TSCRA and other landowner groups have worked hard to successfully protect. There will also be several issues relating to surface water rights that TSCRA is also monitoring. TSCRA will remain active in any water rights and ownership issues that may come up moving into the next session.
Eminent domain is another issue TSCRA and its members continue to be concerned about. Leveling the playing field for landowners’ private property rights in the condemnation process remains one of TSCRA’s top goals. TSCRA will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure landowners are treated fairly when an entity attempts to use the power of eminent domain to acquire land for public use.
TSCRA is also working through the interim to research surface use issues created by the development of minerals on private property. Ensuring landowners’ surface rights are respected and upheld has always been and will remain a priority for us.
Additionally, TSCRA has been working to let TSCRA members know about important hearings being held by the Texas Senate Property Tax Select Reform and Relief Committee. These meetings are taking place across the state to study the property tax process and appraisal system. These issues are important to TSCRA members and we encourage anyone interested in finding out more about the hearings to contact the TSCRA Austin office to learn more.
In the past, TSCRA members have been instrumental in voicing concerns on critical issues and providing a strong voice at the Capitol in Austin. TSCRA will continue to need this same amount of input and involvement in the legislative process as we prepare for the 2017 legislative session.
TSCRA has several policy committees made of TSCRA members who are interested in helping with our efforts in a variety of areas. These policy committees are already hard at work discussing many important legislative issues and will be having more discussions at the TSCRA Summer Meeting in June and at the TSCRA Policy Conference in September. For more information on how to become involved, please contact the TSCRA Austin office at 512-469-0171. TSCRA always welcomes members’ ideas and concerns.
TSCRA will continue working through the interim to ensure we are prepared to make the 85th Texas legislative session a success for Texas ranchers and landowners. For a list of interim charges, visit http://www.house.state.tx.us/_media/pdf/interim-charges-84th.pdf or http://www.senate.state.tx.us/assets/pdf/Senate_Interim_Charges_84_pt1.pdf.
Pete Bonds has ranched his entire life. He operates the Bonds Ranch in Saginaw, where he also lives. Bonds currently serves as the president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He and his wife Jo have 3 daughters, Missy, Bonnie and April.