2023 Legislative Scorecard Key House Votes

HB 3522

Author: Rep. Mary Gonzalez
Summary: HB 3522 would have expanded the amount of funding from the Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP) that the Texas Water Development Board is allowed to spend without repayment. By expanding the proportion of grants to loans, this would have enabled Texas’s most vulnerable communities to apply for funding with a greater chance of grant funding rather than dealing with the pressure of loan repayment. By expanding the amount of loan funding available, EDAP-eligible communities would be more able to take advantage of funding for needed water and wastewater system connection and maintenance. There was no clear opposition to the bill, though all water bills relating to economically distressed areas or the EDAP program did not receive a hearing in the Senate.
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The House passed the bill on a vote of 118-26-2, then was referred to the Senate Water, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs Committee but did not receive a hearing.

HB 4811

Author: Rep. Rafael Anchia
Summary: If passed, HB 4811 would have created the Texas Energy Efficiency Council. The council’s charge would be to convene state agencies, utilities, and other stakeholders to share and collaborate on ideas to improve energy efficiency programs and services throughout the state. The bill was actually a recommendation of the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) itself. With billions of dollars in new federal funding coming to Texas over the next several years, the Council would have been a great venue to coordinate effective use of those funds. You might have assumed something like this already exists given how clear the benefits would be for utilities and their customers, but good ideas rarely get past the Texas Legislature these days. There was no specific opposition to the bill, although utilities like Oncor did want the bill changed to make it clear the council would have no rulemaking authority. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The bill passed the House 93-50-1, and was referred to the Senate Business & Commerce Committee but did not receive a hearing, even though the bill’s Senate sponsor was Chair Charles Schwertner.

HB 4885

Author: Rep. Brooks Landgraf
Summary: HB 4885 was a bill to update the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP) and programs managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The bill made a number of changes to programs and funding, including adding a new hydrogen truck and infrastructure grant program, expanding funding and programs to reduce oil and gas emissions, and providing expanded funding to the Energy Systems Laboratory for a contract to assess the benefits of energy efficiency and advanced building code implementation on air emissions. The bill also reduced some funding for natural gas vehicles. A variety of different special interests attempted to increase funding for certain programs through the legislative process, but the final version of the bill was supported by a wide variety of stakeholders. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: HB 4885 passed the House on a 108-37-2 vote. The Senate passed it on a 27-4 vote. It was signed by the Governor on June 13, 2023.

SB 7

Author: Sen. Charles Schwertner
Summary: SB 7 was another grid reform as part of Lt. Gov Dan Patrick’s Repowering Texas package. As originally filed, it contained some good and bad provisions. As an example, we very much opposed a proposed change to the cost allocation of ancillary services from all loads, to a complex formula consisting of loads, dispatchable generation, and renewable energy generation. However, we did support the creation of a new ancillary service for times of uncertainty and improved reporting requirements. The bill was amended in the House and some of the most concerning language was removed or changed substantially, while additional guardrails were put on a provision we were opposed to - the creation of a PCM (performance credit mechanism). Because of these changes in the House, we ended up supporting the bill. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: After passing the Senate 31-0, SB 7 was significantly changed through a very different House version, and it passed the House easily 134-11-1. However, rather than resolving the different Senate and House versions in SB 7 itself, many of the provisions of SB 7 were incorporated into the PUCT Sunset bill (HB 1500). Importantly, this included the cost caps on the famous “PCM” (performance credit mechanism) to ensure that the scheme favored by fossil fuel interests would not be too costly. 

SB 1648

Author: Sen. Tan Parker
Summary: If the companion SJR 74 is adopted by voters in November, SB 1648 would create the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund, to buy land for more state parks. The program would be established in the Texas constitution, subject to approval by voters in November. HB 1, the budget for the 2024-2025 biennium, appropriates $1 billion for state park land acquisition, contingent on the passage of the constitutional amendment. 
Our Position: A vote for the bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position. 
Outcome: SB 1648 passed the Senate 26-3-2, and passed the House 120-19-1. It was signed by the Governor on May 29, 2023. A constitutional amendment to authorize the use of the $1 billion dollars is on the ballot in November. 

SB 2011

Author: Sen. Charles Schwertner
Summary: As originally filed, SB 2011 (also part of Patrick’s Repowering Texas package) would increase maximum penalties from $25,000 to $1,000,000 on abuses in the ERCOT market. It would also update Voluntary Mitigation Plan requirements to ensure that such plans provide meaningful protections against market power abuse. The bill also sets up the procedure for enacting a Voluntary Mitigation Plan, modernizing our enforcement regime. Some of the large generation companies - notably NRG and Vistra - were opposed to the bill as it passed the Senate, and they continued to try to get the bill on the House floor weakened. While a slight compromise was made, Vistra in particular continued to push for other changes and were working against passage of the bill. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: After passing the Senate 31-0, the House approved SB 2011 on a much narrower 73-67-2 vote. The Governor signed the bill on June 18, and it became effective on September 1, 2023. 

SB 2453

Author: Sen. José Menéndez
Summary: This bill would have fixed a conflict in state law and enabled the State Energy Conservation Office to update state energy building codes as long as they met certain cost effectiveness criteria. It would have also allowed state-owned buildings to adopt high performance building standards, leading to a reduction in operating costs. In past sessions, there were attempts made to update statewide building codes standards through legislation. This bill would have allowed SECO to do it without legislation, thus allowing Texas to move forward without having to wait years for the legislature to meet and agree on a no brainer. The Sierra Club worked collaboratively on this bill with the Texas Association of Builders and the Texas Chemical Council. To get support from the builders and overcome some opposition, the original bill was amended to add a cost-benefit analysis requirement before adoption.
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position. 
Outcome: After the Senate passed it 17-14, SB 2453 was voted out of the House 84-59, then vetoed by Gov. Abbott. In vetoing the bill, Gov Abbottt made it clear the veto was not based on the bill, but on the failure of the legislature to address property tax relief. It is possible the issue could be brought back in a future special session. 

SB 2627 Amendment 2

Author: Rep. Vikki Goodwin
Summary: SB 2627 was a problematic bill that was filed only after SB 6 (See Senate Votes) failed to move in the House. The bill, and constitutional amendment (if approved by voters), would create low-interest loans for new so-called “dispatchable” power plants (likely to be new gas plants) as well as early completion bonuses, paid for through the Rainy Day Fund. While there are also some parts of the bill that Sierra Club was not opposed to (such as a separate fund for backup power for vulnerable communities and other resiliency projects) the guts of the bill remain a subsidy for future fossil fuel plants. Recognizing that thousands of megawatts of new fossil fuel power plants could exacerbate air quality problems across Texas, Rep. Goodwin’s amendment sought to include new projects' ability to obtain federal air permits to maintain air quality standards as a condition of getting access to state funds. Many developers of gas power plants supported the bill, as did large industrial interests like the Texas Chemical Council and Texas Association of Manufacturers - who saw it as the lesser of two evils compared to SB 6. 
Our Position: A vote for this amendment was a vote for the Sierra Club position since it would have improved the bill. 
Outcome: The amendment failed on a vote of 52-93-2. SB 2627 passed the House on third reading on a 118-23 vote and was signed by the Governor. A related measure - a constitutional amendment to allow taxpayer funds to be used for loans and grants for dispatchable power plants - most likely gas plants - was also approved, but is subject to approval by voters in November. 

HB 5

Author: Rep. Todd Hunter
Summary: When big corporate polluters want something from Texas state government, they get it. HB 5 was a resuscitation of a program (Chapter 313) that provided school property tax abatements worth millions of dollars to big corporations that claim they would not build here if it weren’t for the abatement. According to Every Texan, wind and solar projects accounted for two-thirds of all Chapter 313 projects, although only one-quarter of the cost in forgone school property tax revenue. The rest went to oil and gas, plastics, chemical manufacturing, cement, and semiconductor companies, for example. In HB 5, renewables were explicitly excluded from eligibility, but even if they were, we were still against the bill because it is an unneeded corporate subsidy that pits communities against each other. HB 5 was improved substantially in the Senate. Lots of big corporate interests wanted in on this gravy again, from Energy Transfer to ConocoPhillips and a whole lot more. Chambers of Commerce were the most visible proponents of the bill, pressing lawmakers not only to support but co-author the bill. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: HB 5 passed the House by a depressingly wide margin, 120-24-1, then the Senate passed it on a 27-4 vote. Importantly, the Senate did improve the bill significantly, increasing transparency and public input requirements, and decreasing the total amount of the abatement. Gov. Abbott signed the bill on June 9, 2023.

HB 33

Author: Rep. Brooks Landgraf
Summary: HB 33 was a foolish waste of time. As badly needed federal regulations on oil and gas pollution take shape, oil and gas legislators sought to prevent our state officials from collaborating with federal enforcement officials on enforcement of rules or laws where there is no specific state law. Specifically, the bill prohibits a state agency or person employed by a state agency from contracting with or in any other manner assisting a federal agency or official regarding the enforcement of a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation purporting to regulate oil and gas operations if the decree, order, rule, or regulation imposed a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation that did not exist under state law. However, the bill as introduced could have violated federal law for programs that have been delegated to the state since we have existing memoranda of understanding with federal authorities on joint enforcement. While the final version of the bill was muted somewhat, at the very least the bill creates confusion on enforcement of federal laws in Texas, and could impact our ability to access federal funding or have delegated federal programs. Texas needs to coordinate enforcement of rules and laws not put up roadblocks to protecting public health from oil and gas interests. Special interests included oil and gas interests, including TIPRO, the Texas Pipeline Association, the Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association, and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The House passed it 99-44-1, then the Senate passed it on a 19-12 vote. The Senate did weaken the original bill somewhat. Gov. Abbott signed it on June 14, and it is due to become effective on Sept. 1, 2023, although the actual impact of the bill is unknown.

HB 2127

Author: Rep. Dustin Burrows
Summary: This was the infamously named “super preemption” or the “death-star” bill that stripped local governments of existing and future powers, like requiring construction companies to give workers water breaks, protecting consumers from payday lenders, and adopting tree ordinances. The bill essentially took whole sections of state statutes and declared that local governments could not adopt new policies unless they were given specific authority by the legislature to do so. In doing so, the bill reverses 100 years of home rule powers for municipalities. Every major business interest was lined up to support the draconian, anti-democratic legislation, from the Texas Association of Business to Texas Association of Manufacturing to the homebuilding and construction industry to airlines to the Texas Oil and Gas Association to the Texas Chemical Council, and right-wing groups like the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: After passing the House 92-55-1, the Senate passed the bill 18-13. It was signed by Gov. Abbott on June 14, and became law on Sept 1, 2023. Interestingly, the City of Houston and the City of San Antonio are suing the state over the law, saying that it is unconstitutional. Several other cities have filed amicus briefs opposing the state law.

HB 2239

Author: Rep. Ellen Troxclair
Summary: This bill would have prevented municipalities from regulating the removal of ashe juniper trees - or establishing mitigation fees for the removal of ash juniper trees - in residential developments, thus destroying critical habitat for bird species. It is another example of preemption of local control, where the bill was seeking to prevent cities like Austin and San Antonio from protecting trees that can provide important shade, habitat, and water quality benefits. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: HB 2239 was approved by the House on a 109-35-1, but after clearing the Senate Committee of Local Government it died before being voted on in the Senate floor. 

HB 2827

Author: Rep. DeWayne Burns
Summary: HB 2827 was an agricultural wastewater bill that would have eliminated individual permits for confined animal feeding operations (aka, CAFOs), instead relying on more general standard permits. Because general permits are not individually evaluated, this bill would increase pollution in Texas rivers. Special interests supporting the bill included the Texas Farm Bureau and Texas Association of Dairymen.
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The bill passed the House 80-53-2, but did not get out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development.

HB 1500 Amendment 2 Motion to Table

Author: Rep. John Bryant
Summary: Rep. Bryant had a good amendment to the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) Sunset bill that would have established an independent market monitor for the gas supply. Currently, the PUCT has one for the electricity market, but after Winter Storm Uri, it became apparent that certain gas suppliers could potentially withhold gas supplies, causing price spikes, which ultimately lead to spikes in electric prices. Bryant’s amendment would have given Texas another tool to look at the gas supply market and practices which could illegally jack up prices on consumers. Special interests included the oil and gas industry, TXOGA, TIPRO, gas supply companies like E. The Railroad Commission itself has been opposed to the idea of giving additional powers to the PUCT to monitor or regulate the gas supply market. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: After the amendment was laid out, there was a motion to table it, which was approved on a vote of 88-59-2.

SB 471

Author: Sen. Drew Springer
Summary: SB 471 as originally filed would have created penalties for individuals who reported permit violation concerns to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality if they did not end up being verified by the agency after three complaints. Any Texan who has tried to seek redress through the TCEQ probably winced when they first heard about this bill, playing a scene in their head like this, “Caller: Hello, I smell something very bad coming from the factory down the road. TCEQ: We’ll check it out. [LOTS OF TIME ELAPSES] Caller: Did you find anything out? TCEQ: Nope. But now we’re concerned about these bogus calls of yours.” Okay, a dramatization to be sure but you get the point. Thankfully, the bill was watered down but still allows TCEQ to do nothing about complaints if previous complaints didn’t go anywhere.
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The bill passed the House 85-59-2, then the Senate 22-9, and was signed by Gov. Abbott on June 18, and takes effect on Sept. 1, 2023.
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