TSCRA CATTLEMEN’S COLUMN
CONACT: LARAMIE ADAMS, 512-922-7328
By Pete Bonds, president, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
This year started off on a busy note as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) tracked legislation and worked with state elected officials and staff during the 84th Texas Legislative Session, which convened Jan. 13 through June 1.
Over 6,400 pieces of legislation were filed by state legislators and TSCRA leaders and staff tracked over 600 bills and resolutions of interest to ranchers and landowners.
We were actively involved with more bills this session than ever, proving there are a growing number of issues impacting our members. This is why it is extremely crucial for us to keep these important matters on the radar of elected officials whom we have worked to build and maintain relationships with over the years.
As we expected, a central topic for TSCRA this session was water. We aggressively monitored and weighed-in on numerous pieces of legislation related to groundwater rights and ownership issues. TSCRA played an active role in opposing legislation that would have infringed on Texans’ constitutionally protected groundwater rights. Thankfully, we succeeded in preventing bills from passing that would have ultimately threatened or taken away local management of groundwater.
Additionally, TSCRA represented private property owners this session by being directly involved in many discussions associated with eminent domain legislation. We successfully worked with other landowner groups to block legislation that would have allowed certain entities to misuse the power of eminent domain to drill allocation oil and gas wells on land that many have worked tirelessly and sacrificed to own.
Further, I was proud to see a balanced budget pass to provide necessary funding for some very important needs in Texas.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) received a 52 percent increase in general revenue funds as a result of Proposition 1 passage in November 2014. Texans will have another opportunity to vote on an additional constitutional amendment this November, which could add another $2.5 billion toward transportation needs in Texas. We have supported these efforts as our state continues working to meet growing mobility needs. TSCRA will work to ensure that rural Texas gets its fair share of these dollars.
Also, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) received a 27 percent increase in general revenue funds and 27 new full-time employees focused on border disease issues and feral swine disease response. These additional resources are crucial to protect the cattle industry from devastating animal diseases.
While this year’s session has ended, our work continues as many state agencies focus on implementation of the new policies signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. TSCRA is already closely working with agency leaders and staff to conscientiously implement these new laws. We will make sure rancher’s and landowner’s best interests are taken into serious consideration as we work through this process.
The next legislative session in 2017 seems like a long time away, however it will be here before we know it. TSCRA is already discussing key legislative items and looking forward to having more of these conversations at our fall Policy Conference in September and throughout the next two years.
Most importantly, we greatly appreciate the efforts of the many TSCRA members who reached out to us and their state senators and representatives to support or voice concerns on legislation this session. You were instrumental throughout the entire process and we greatly appreciate your willingness to help in these vital efforts. We will need this same amount of attentiveness and participation from members during the interim and for sessions to come.
If you have questions or would like to voice concerns on a particular legislative issue, please contact TSCRA’s Government and Public Affairs office anytime at 512-469-0171. Your feedback is always welcome.
Pete Bonds has ranched his entire life. He operates the Bonds Ranch in Saginaw, Texas, 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.
TSCRA CATTLEMEN’S COLUMN