Sierra Club Asks Abbott to Put Better Building Codes on Special Session Call

Call em back

Image: The Texas House of Representatives (photo by Al Braden).

By Cyrus Reed

Last week, Governor Greg Abbott announced that legislators would be called back to Austin on October 9, 2023 at 1pm for a third special session. While he didn’t announce the subject, it is no secret that vouchers for private schools will be at least one of the focus areas. The real question is whether he will add other subjects, including border security, and a whole bunch of bills that he vetoed back in June, in large part because the House and Senate had not come to an agreement on property tax relief. 

Among the bills supported by the Sierra Club was SB 2453 by Sen. Jose Menendez, and sponsored in the House by Rep. Ana Hernandez. The bill passed the Senate and House in May, only to be vetoed by Abbott. 

Why did he do that? Because, as he said in his veto proclamation, the Texas Legislature had failed to take action on property tax relief. The House and Senate did pass a property tax bill in a special session earlier this year, and voters will decide in November whether to grant approximately $18 billion in property tax reductions (Prop 4). 

Fast forward to today: Sierra Club has joined with some unlikely allies: the Texas Association of Builders, the Texas Chemical Council, and the South Central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource, to ask the Governor to add the building code bill to the call. 

The bill is simply to clarify that the State Energy Conservation Office can adopt the latest energy codes for new private construction, and high performance standards for state-funded construction, going forward after a stakeholder process, including the opportunity for amendments to base codes. 

The Energy Systems Laboratory has found, for example, that adoption of the 2021 International Energy Conservation Codes would lead to a 5-10% reduction in energy use in new construction compared to buildings built to the 2015 code, the current state standard. While many large cities have already moved to the 2021 codes, getting the entire state on a more updated code would help lower stress on our grid as Texas continues to grow. We are hopeful that Gov. Abbott will add SB 2453 to the call. 

For a copy of our letter see here

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