It’s been a while since our last update. If you’ve ever been privy to a Texas legislative session, you know things can get a little crazy towards the end. This session was no exception. I’ve started four or five of these updates over the last couple of months that I never had a chance the finish. Even on the days we expected to be quiet, inevitably, the phone would ring, or the email would chime, and we’d be off to the races, working the halls of the Capitol well into the night.
The good news is that the 87th Texas Legislative Session (Regular) is over. They adjourned sine die, a fancy way of saying “with no definite date to return,” last Monday. However, we expect Gov. Abbott will call at least two special sessions later this year. The first is anticipated to be sometime in July and will specifically address several of the governor’s priority issues that did not pass during the regular session. We know for sure that voting reform will be on that call, but other issues may be as well. Border security, possibly? Keep reading; I have more on that below.
We also expect a late August or September special session for the legislature to deal with redistricting. Though typically part of a regular session, delays in receiving census data from the federal government prevented that from happening.
It’s important to note that during a special session, the legislature can only file bills on and discuss issues that the governor specifies, so the scope will be much narrower than during the regular session. Nonetheless, we will continue to be vigilant because there could be issues that impact your ability to raise cattle that we need to advocate for or against during the specials.
I know many of you are also anxious to hear about what happened during the recently concluded regular session. We’re compiling a recap of all the pertinent legislation. We hope to have that ready to share in the coming weeks. Governor Abbott also has a little longer to sign or veto legislation, so by then, we should be able to tell you definitively what made it across the finish line and what didn’t.
We will also be scheduling virtual TSCRA policy committee meetings for July, ahead of the Cattle Raisers Convention and Expo in Fort Worth. We will provide a thorough recap of the relevant legislation for each policy area. If you’re interested in this kind of stuff and want to be more involved, the policy committee process is a great way to do it. If you’re already on a committee, keep an eye on your email. We will be sending you an invitation and additional information in the next several weeks.
Even though the legislative session is over, things still haven’t slowed down in the government relations office.
One of the most pressing issues we’ve recently been working on is border security. I don’t need to tell you that the situation along Texas’ southern border has deteriorated significantly in recent months. We’ve been working with policymakers to raise awareness and to try to get some relief for those of you dealing directly with the border crisis.
Two weeks ago, we sent a letter to Gov. Abbott and members of the Texas Congressional Delegation in Washington. Less than a week later, Gov. Abbott set a border security summit in Del Rio, which took place last night, Thursday, June 10. I was in attendance with President Hughes Abell, First Vice President Arthur Uhl, and several other association directors.
During the public comment portion of the event, Arthur Uhl spoke on behalf of the association and all our impacted members who couldn’t be there. If you haven’t read his editorial from The Cattleman magazine, be sure to check it out here. It provides a pretty good summary of the issues he raised last night.
Fortunately, the governor heard our concerns and those of the countless other landowner organizations, South Texas residents, and border law enforcement agencies that have been calling for more assistance to stem the tide of illegal border crossings.
During the event, he touted the more than $1 billion appropriated by the Texas legislature for border security, which he intends to use to increase state law enforcement operations in the region, as well as the construction of physical barriers along the border, and increased jail capacities for those apprehended illegally entering the country and trespassing on private property. The governor took several other actions that I won’t go into detail on, but you can check out his press release here for more.
A few points of interest for those of you with property in the border region:
- It should probably go without saying, but make sure you have your fences marked with purple paint or no trespassing signs. That will allow DPS to arrest and charge individuals with a class b misdemeanor for trespassing on your land.
- The fencing and physical barrier efforts will be voluntary and on private land. If you own land directly on the border, you’ll be able to volunteer for the program. Details haven’t been announced yet, but we will pass them along as soon as we get them.
- Finally, the damages incurred by border region landowners are mounting. The State is launching a mobile application where impacted landowners can submit photos and cost estimates of the damages they incur due to illegal immigration across their land. They plan to submit those costs to the federal government for reimbursement, but more importantly, we will be able to put a price tag on the plight of border-area ranchers and landowners for the first time. That program is expected to begin next week, and we also share more info as it becomes available.
We are staying in regular contact with the governor’s office and will continue to work diligently on this issue and keep y’all up to date.
There’s a lot more I could talk about, from carbon sequestration and 30×30, to WOTUS (yes, again), to the DOJ packer investigation and price discovery efforts, but I’ve already made this one long enough, so we’ll save that for another day.
Until next time!
Jeremy Fuchs is the director of policy communications and government relations for Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.