85th Texas Legislative Wrap Up

The Texas Legislature ended its 85th Regular Session on Monday, May 29, 2017. The district followed over one hundred bills through the legislative session. As with any legislative session, most bills are not passed by both chambers of the congress, and therefore, are not sent to the governor to sign or veto. Even fewer bills make it past the governor’s veto pen. Six new laws that survived the governor’s June 18th deadline to sign or veto bills passed during the regular session that generally affected groundwater management in the state.  The new laws positively affect state water development planning, the district and our stake holders.  A summary of those laws is listed below.

HB 2215, authored by Representative Four Price, amends the Texas Water Code to better coordinate groundwater management planning by groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) and joint management planning to develop the state’s water resources. The bill revises the timeframe for GCDs to jointly plan and compile a summary regarding proposed desired future conditions and the procession of the proposal through final adoption. 

HB 2803, authored by Representative Lyle Larson, compiles local laws into one place in the government code concerning certain special districts that may have their laws spread out over a hundred years of Texas Legislation. NPGCD was one of the special districts that went through the codification process, and its enabling legislation is Chapter 8887 in the government code.

SB 864, authored by Senator Charles Perry, requires that notice be provided to a GCD with jurisdiction over the groundwater whenever a surface water permit at Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposes to use groundwater as an alternative resource. TCEQ already has a procedure for providing notice during the permitting process, so this bill would simply expand the notice requirements to include GCDs as well.

SB 865, authored by Senator Charles Perry, specifically authorizes GCDs to use payroll disbursements by electronic direct deposit and pay bills using electronic means.   The district believes that it already had the power to take this action based on another law already in place.

SB 1009, authored by Senator Charles Perry, prevents GCDs from changing administrative completeness requirements for permits and permit amendment applications without first changing its rules.

SB 1511, authored by Senator Charles Perry, amends the state and regional water planning process and the funding of projects included in the state water plan. The legislation creates an expedited planning process for those areas of the state that groundwater development has not changed substantially from one planning process to the next, and it clarifies the parameters to determine if a project seeking state funding is feasible.

Governor Greg Abbott called a special session of the 85th Legislature that began July 18, 2017. Groundwater management is not specifically on his special session agenda; however, the district is monitoring legislation that can potentially affect the local government and its stakeholders. For additional information, please contact Steve Walthour at swalthour@northplainsgcd.org, or call the office at (806) 935-6401.