Legislative Update: Hearing Things... Which Bills Are Getting Heard?

Hearing Things

Photo: Texas Capitol Extention, by Al Braden.

Pressure is mounting at the Texas Capitol. While it is not surprising that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's megalomania is manifesting in bad bills sailing through the Senate, it's still difficult to see, as our team works feverishly to weaken bad bills and push for good bills and amendments. The clock is ticking on getting hearings on good bills too.

UPDATE 1: Three of Dan Patrick's "Repower Texas" bills were voted out of Senate Business & Commerce this week. The anti-renewable energy bills SB 1287 and SB 2015, authored by Sen. Phil King, sailed through on a party-line vote, with Democratic Sens. Nathan Johnson, Jose Menéndez, and Judith Zaffirini voting no. SB 2014 (retiring the Renewable Portfolio Standard) was improved with a committee substitute and passed unanimously. While we still oppose SB 2014, it is more or less toothless since Texas far surpassed the RPS goals, and we are pleased to see the bill no longer includes ending the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) trading program.

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: We got word late on Friday that Senate Business & Commerce is expected to vote on SB 6 and perhaps the rest of the "Repower Texas" package on Monday. Although committee substitutes that would lessen the harm of these bills are expected, they are still bad and expected to pass to the full Senate. Since these are bills carried by the Chair, Sen. Charles Schwertner, there is little chance they would be delayed. However, there is still great value in raising the pressure put on your State Senator to push energy efficiency and people-centered solutions to our grid problems. It may be worth tuning in on Monday to see what changes are made and how these committee members vote on this bad package. Here's the page where the livestream will be.

Frack water pond in Eagle Ford Shale area.

Photo: Frack water pond in Eagle Ford shale area (Al Braden).

UPDATE 2: SB 28, Sen. Charles Perry's big water infrastructure bill (our testimony here), has been placed on the intent calendar for April 3 (Monday), though it was first placed on the intent calendar for March 23, and then removed from the calendar on March 30th. It's unclear what prevented the bill from being read on the floor in that week, but it could be attributed the potential costs of the two new funds that the bill creates.

If the bill is finally voted on in the Senate, it's likely to pass and then it will move over to the House (Rep. Tracy King has the companion bill, HB 10, but it has yet to have a hearing). Sierra Club will continue to work on the bill in the House to get some of our concerns addressed — especially setting up a regulatory framework that protects Texans and wildlife from the harmful and understudied pollution from produced water and desalination prior to funding these projects.

UPDATE 3: House State Affairs heard a handful of bills this week related to energy and grid fixes. Though they are not as terrible as the "Repower Texas" package of bills in the Senate, they leave a lot to be desired. For more on the House bills, see our written testimony page under "House State Affairs." Also, Cyrus and I took a minute from lobbying to record the latest updates on that as well as the TCEQ Sunset bill, SB 1397. 

UPDATE 4: Well some good news. One of the bills we are supporting, HB 4811 by Rep Anchia, will get a hearing in House State Affairs on Wednesday. The bill would create the Texas Energy Efficiency Council, meaning that the Public Utility Commission of Texas would convene an official group of state agencies like the State Energy Conservation Office and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and utilities with public input to better coordinate and improve our energy efficiency programs. While the Council by itself will not lead to higher goals or programs, having a one-stop shop for all things energy efficiency would be tremendously helpful. Sen. Schwertner has the same bill in the Senate. 

UPDATE 5: Budget time is here. On Thursday, April 4, the House will take up the supplemental (SB 30)  and overall budget (HB 1) for the entire state. Expect a long night, with many many amendments offered. The Sierra Club will be there to support funding for park acquisition, flood infrastructure, oil and gas inspectors and air monitors, among other issues. We are feverishly working with representatives on amendments. Will the House agree to go above spending caps? Will they touch the Rainy Day fund? Will we finally expand Medicaid in Texas? Will they use some of the surplus to help Texans pay high gas and electric bills leftover from Winter Storm Uri? 

Once the bills pass, the real fun begins as the Senate and House start negotiating over their respective budgets.