2023 Legislative Scorecard Key Senate Votes

SB 114

Author: Sen. José Menéndez
Summary: SB 114 was a bill designed to increase programs to help residential consumers of electricity shift their demand from times of high use to times of lower use, thus putting less stress on the grid. Within ERCOT, our main electric grid, generally, only large power customers (think factories and the like) are paid for curtailing their power use in times when electricity is in short supply. However, thousands of smaller power users (think small businesses and homes) can reduce their power too and that adds up to many megawatts that our electric grid could desperately need when we’re approaching blackout conditions. Specifically, the bill would have set a 5% goal for aggregated demand response savings from these smaller users.
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The original bill made it through the Senate on a 27-4 vote after it was weakened. It died before reaching the full House for a vote. However, it was amended to a separate bill - SB 1699 which dealt with distributed energy resources. The amendment occurred on the House floor thanks to the efforts of Chair Todd Hunter and Rep. Chris Turner. The amended version of the bill was a weaker version of the original bill with no specific goal, but only a requirement that a goal be set, but it was signed by the Governor and will require some action on residential demand response through rulemaking at the PUCT. 

SB 258

Author: Sen. Sarah Eckhardt
Summary: This bill would have raised our state’s energy efficiency goal for the first time since 2011. It would have quadrupled the energy savings goals that each utility would need to meet through programs like home weatherization and duct sealing. These programs would save Texans lots of money on their energy bills and reduce stress on the grid (among other benefits).
Our Position: A vote for the bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The Senate passed SB 258 on a bipartisan 18-13 vote. While it was weakened slightly in the process - the original goal of one percent savings by 2027 was changed to one percent by 2030 - the bill would still have required major increases in programs to help working Texans. However, it did not get out of committee in the House. True to form, the utilities like Oncor, Centerpoint, AEP Texas, and Texas New Mexico Power opposed it. An attempt to amend it onto the PUC Sunset bill failed in the Senate 11-19.

SB 1032

Author: Sen. Lois Kolkhorst
Summary: SB 1032 expanded the availability of certificates of location to be used on natural oyster beds for restoration purposes when an oyster bed is degraded. The bill also sets preliminary criteria to consider in making a determination that the bed is degraded, including relative abundance, sediment overburden, and whether the bed has been exhausted. These certificates of location for restoration purposes close the locations to wild harvest, and permit the locations to undergo restoration without the unsustainable harvest pressure that Texas oyster populations currently face. It also shifted the definition of “natural oyster bed” to more accurately reflect the existence of wild oysters rather than the potential landings from industry. Oyster fishermen and vessel owners were passively opposed to the bill, given that their livelihoods could be affected in the short-term. The work to transition the oyster industry must continue in future legislative sessions to ensure jobs focused on oysters (and other commercial fisheries) and the ecosystem they rely on are healthy and sustainable, and that there are sufficient oysters for both commercial and environmental purposes.
Our Position: A vote for the bill was a vote in favor of the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: SB 1032 passed the Senate on a 31-0 vote, passed the House on a 137-3-2 vote, and was signed by the Governor on May 27, 2023.

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.

SB 2453

Author: Sen. José Menéndez
Summary: This bill would have fixed a conflict between two different codes, 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: The Senate passed it 17-14. It was voted out of the House 84-59, then vetoed by Gov. Abbott. In vetoing the bill, Gov Abbott 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. 

HB 4885

Author: Rep. Brooks Landgraf
Summary: HB 4885 was a bill to update the Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP) and programs managed by 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 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: The Senate passed HB 4885 on a 27-4 vote. It had passed the House earlier on a 108-37-2 vote. It was signed by the Governor on June 13, 2023.

SB 6

Author: Sen. Charles Schwertner
Summary: SB 6 was part of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “Repowering Texas” suite of bills designed to subsidize the fossil fuel industry and make it harder to expand solar and wind power. The bill would have used Texans’ hard earned pay to subsidize the construction of up to 10,000 Megawatts of new gas power plants to be used as emergency backup power if Texas ever faces another grid crisis (what day is it?). As shocking as it was to see Sens. Judith Zaffirini and Nathan Johnson at the press conference announcing the bill package, the two Democrats voted no on SB 6 while working to improve other problematic bills that there was no chance of stopping in the Senate. The bill was not supported by existing generators, large industrial, or consumer representatives. In fact, only Berkshire Hathaway, one of the entities that could have benefited directly from the rate payer-backed contracts, and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), voiced support for the concept.
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The Senate passed SB 6 on a 22-9 vote. However, it did not receive a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee and died without reaching the House floor.

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 Senate 22-9, passed the House 85-59-2, signed by Gov. Abbott on June 18, and takes effect on Sept. 1, 2023.

SB 624

Author: Sen. Lois Kolkhorst
Summary: SB 624 would have made all renewable energy power plants – even those already in existence - obtain operating permits from the PUCT (a requirement that would not be required for any other type of power plants), establish minimum distances from certain structures, and also require additional bonding requirements and a special review by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The bill was clearly aimed to slow down the growth of renewables in Texas and impose difficult requirements that would make renewable energy more costly. Local landowners opposed to renewable energy development in their area supported the bill, as well as some conservation organizations, along with some property rights association groups. Much of the support for the bill came from individuals that had bad experiences with individual renewable projects in certain regions of Texas. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The Senate passed SB 624 21-9, but it was never taken up by the House (and an amendment on the PUC Sunset bill to do the same was stripped out).

SB 1750

Author: Sen. Paul Bettencourt
Summary: This bill was a blatant partisan power move to weaken voting access in Harris County. The bill abolished the position of the County Elections Administrator and split its duties between the County Tax Assessor-Collector (who will serve as the voter registrar) and the County Clerk, who would take over the other duties of the Administrator. All the testimony for the bill was from officials and volunteers associated with the Republican Party. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The bill passed the Senate on a 20-11 vote (Hinojosa was the only Democrat to vote in favor), the House passed it 81-62-2, Gov. Abbott signed it on June 18, and it becomes effective Sept. 1, 2023.

SB 2015

Author: Sen. Phil King
Summary: This bill would have created a huge cost on consumers large and small by creating a specific state-mandated goal for “dispatchable generation.” Beginning on January 1, 2024, 50 percent of any new installations of power plants would have been required to be dispatchable. The bill would also create a dispatchable energy credit trading program that would go into effect if less than 55 percent of new installed generation was not “dispatchable.” It essentially would have bound our state to a future of fracked gas-fueled power plants. SB 2015 was supported by the South Texas Electric Cooperative, and by many fossil fuel interests like Valero, Occidental Petroleum, and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers who would stand to benefit if more gas plants are required to be built. 
Our Position: A vote for this bill was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The bill passed the Senate 21-10, but died in House State Affairs. Despite an attempt to add the bill to the PUCT Sunset bill (HB 1500), it ultimately was not included. 

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: Having passed the House by a depressingly wide margin, 120-24-1, the Senate passed HB 5 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. Several of the Democrats in the Senate who voted for the bill did so because of these improvements, though Sierra Club remained opposed to the bill. 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 Senate passed the bill on a 19-12 vote after the House passed it 99-44-1. 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 1500 Amendment 9

Author: Sen. Phil King
Summary: Amendment 9 was originally SB 1287, a part of the Repowering Texas package that failed to move in the House. That bill passed the Senate but was killed on a point of order in the House. The amendment would for the first time require that some generation facilities pay for the cost of interconnections of their facilities, which have previously been paid for by all customers. The bill creates an allowance paid for by loads, with any additional cost borne by the generator. Because renewable energy facilities tend to be located in areas with good wind or solar resources, the bill is most likely to make it more difficult to build renewable energy facilities, or at least make them more expensive to build. The bill was supported by most large industrial consumers including the Texas Association of Manufacturers, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, and also large fossil fuel generators like the Texas Competitive Power Advocates as well as right wing think tanks like the Texas Public Policy Foundation. 
Our Position: A vote for this amendment was a vote against the Sierra Club position.
Outcome: The amendment was adopted on a 21-9 vote, becoming part of the PUC Sunset bill. It was included in the final version of the bill, though importantly, some changes were made to the bill as originally filed due to efforts of those opposed to the bill. 

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 becomes 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.
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