The 86th Texas Legislative Session officially concluded Monday. More than 7,400 pieces of legislation were filed and TSCRA government and public affairs staff tracked almost 800 of those bills – about 11 percent of the total. Of the bills TSCRA actively engaged on, 25 have made it to the governor, who until June 16 to veto or approve.
One piece of legislation that unfortunately did not make it the governor was eminent domain reform. In April, the Senate overwhelmingly passed meaningful reform legislation with S.B. 421, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. The bill was heavily negotiated before the Senate passed it, and negotiations continued once the bill went to the House.
In the final days of negotiation, when consensus with opposition groups was at hand, S.B. 421 was abruptly taken from the House sponsor by Rep. Tom Craddick, who rewrote the bill in a manner that was not only meaningless for property owners but actually could have worsened many of the problems that already exist. However, TSCRA allowed the legislation to move forward with hopes that the bill could be fixed in the conference committee process, where the House and Senate work out the differences between their versions of a bill. The Texas Senate stood firm, and all five negotiators quickly signed a conference report that would have provided important protections for property owners. Unfortunately, the House appointed a slate of legislators, led by Craddick, who refused to sign the conference committee report, killing the legislation in the final days of the legislative session.
We are continuing to assess legislation from the legislative session and will have additional details once the governor’s veto period concludes. Be sure to attend the TSCRA Summer Meeting June 13-15 in Galveston for an in-depth review of some of the most critical legislative issues, including eminent domain.
In national news, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted Texas’ motion for summary judgment and found the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule to be invalid. The same court issued a preliminary injunction in September, but this latest ruling finds that the rule violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act and must go back to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers, where it originated. The two agencies have already been working on a replacement. TSCRA’s statement is available here.