Who Represents Me?
Click on the link, then enter your address to find your Texas state representatives.
2017 Legislative Session
The Texas Legislature, which meets every other year from January through May, has launched the 2017 session. As always, there are bills that are good for Texas’ environment and bills that would have harmful impacts on the state’s natural resources. Below is a description both of opportunities to enhance protections for Texas’ amazing natural world and of some of the potential threats to Texas’ water and wildlife resources. You’ll also find links to learn who represents you, and who to contact to make a difference for the future of Texas.
Municipal Water Recycling Resolution Introduced by Rep. Yvonne Davis
Rep. Yvonne Davis has introduced House Concurrent Resolution 43 into the Texas House of Representatives. HCR 43 encourages municipal water recycling for drinking water purposes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. TCA, who supported a similar resolution in the 2015 legislature, will update info on HCR 43 when it has been assigned to committee. Check back soon.
Special Funding for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
A major responsibility of every state legislative session is the appropriation of funds for the next two years’ budget for each state agency. With all the Texas state agencies facing cuts in appropriations to balance the state budget, TCA and other conservation and wildlife groups are supporting what are termed “exceptional items” for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, that is, items above TPWD’s base appropriations.
Top priority is a request for $76.5 million in the Texas House of Representatives ($86.8 million in the Texas Senate version), to fund much-needed capital improvements and long-deferred maintenance at state parks and other facilities. Another exceptional item requests an additional $49.2 million for critical repairs at parks and wildlife management areas due to flooding, severe storms, and other weather events.
Another big-ticket item is $31.5 million, part of it from the Unclaimed Refunds of Motorboat Fuel Tax, for under-funded law enforcement. TPWD must also request the $23.9 million for State Park Operations in the Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST). SGST funds can only be expended for state parks and historical sites, but the funds must be formally appropriated for TPWD to use them.
Two smaller requests that TCA feels are important are $5 million to the Texas Farm and Ranchland Conservation Program, to purchase conservation easements on ranchland, which would protect wildlife habitat, and $4.4 million for the Local Parks Fund.
Your contact is especially important if you live in the district of a member of one of the committees. To learn who your state rep and state senator are, go to Who Represents Me?
Bills Expected that Would Relax Rules about Transport of Deer Bred Behind High Fences
Wildlife conservationists are deeply concerned about bills expected to be introduced soon in the Texas Legislature to relax regulations concerning transport and sale of trophy deer bred behind high fences. One bill would extend Deer Management Permits to mule deer as well as white-tailed deer. Another would allow deer breeders to use a microchip rather than an ear tag to identify pen-reared deer, to make those paying to shoot the deer less aware that the deer was not grown in a natural environment. A third would allow deer breeders with a special “TTT” permit, who can currently move excess deer from one high-fence area to another, to move excess deer to low-fence areas. Since chronic wasting disease (CWD), a neurological disease that affects deer, elk, moose, and related animals, was identified in a Texas deer-breeder’s enclosure two years ago, and has since spread to other sites, fear of an epidemic of CWD among wild Texas deer has wildlife biologists and conservationists concerned about any measure which broadens the transport of captive deer. Check back here for specific bill numbers and let your state legislators know that you do not favor lessening restrictions on transporting captive-bred deer. To learn who represents you, go to Who Represents Me.
Legislation to Limit the Length and Substance of Hearings on Water Rights Permits
There are multiple bills expected to be introduced that would limit the length of contested case hearings regarding water rights permits and the issues that can be considered in such a hearing. Bill sponsors are waiting on committee assignments before introducing the bills. Committee assignments are expected soon. Check here for specific bill numbers.
HB 51 to Create an Oyster Buy-Back Program Would Reduce Overharvesting
Harvest pressure on oysters along the Texas Gulf Coast has led to a decline in oyster beds and a moratorium on new licenses to harvest oysters. HB 51 by Rep. Ryan Guillen would create an oyster “buy-back” program, to use funds from the existing commercial oyster boat license fees to “buy” licenses and retire them, thus reducing harvest levels and taking pressure off the resource. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has described the oyster buy-back program as one of its legislative priorities.