The Texas Legislature is in full swing, and there are multiple bill hearings this week that could affect family farmers and local food consumers. If you can come by the Capitol for 15 minutes to register for one of the good bills, or against one of the bad bills, it really does make a difference!
Information on all the bills we’re tracking, good and bad, is provided after the list of this week’s hearings.
Wednesday, April 29 – milk hauler permit hearing
***Note – the hearing date has been changed! It is now on Wednesday,not Tuesday****
A subcommittee will hear HB 3129, by Representative Ken King, which would require a permit for vehicles transporting milk. If this bill only applied to bulk milk haulers, we would have no objection. But there is no such limitation in the bill, which means it could require a permit from someone who is transporting a few dozen gallons of milk for a group of raw milk consumers, or a small farmer bringing low-temp pasteurized milk to a farmers’ market.
Rep. King’s staff has said they are working on an amended version to address this concern, but we do not have language yet.
HB 3129 would require a $500 annual permit fee.
- Committee: House Transportation subcommittee on Long-Term Infrastructure Planning
- Time: 8 am (registration will open around 7 am, and will close when the bill is heard, most likely by 8:30 or 9 am)
- Room: John H. Reagan Building, Room 120 (The JHR building is on the north side of the Capitol Complex, off 15th and Congress. You can still park in the Capitol Visitors lot and walk over – MAP)
- Position: AGAINST
- Not testifying
Wednesday, April 29 – water bill hearing
The Natural Resources Committee will hear two good water bills on Wednesday afternoon.
HB 632, by Representative David Simpson, would provide more local control over water supplies. It is far too common for urban areas to include projects that take water from a rural area to “solve” the city’s need for water. This is particularly dangerous when the rural area is in a different planning region, so that they have no say in the planning process. HB 632 provides that a regional water plan may not include a proposal for the construction of a water project in another region, unless at least 2/3 of the members of the planning group for the other region have consented to the inclusion of the proposal in the plan.
HB 3163, by Representative John Cyrier, would protect groundwater district Board members from being personally sued for their actions as Board members. This common sense bill is necessary to stop abusive litigation tactics, already being used by water marketers to try to intimidate volunteer Board members who are acting in the best interests of their community.
- Committee: House Natural Resources Committee
- Date: Wednesday, April 29
- Time: 2 pm (registration usually opens between noon and one, and continues into the late afternoon)
- Room: E2.010 (you can register at any kiosk in the Capitol Extension)
- Position: FOR (on both HB 632 and HB 3163)
- Not testifying
Thursday, April 30 – “sound science” resolution
Using “sound science” to address agricultural issues is vital. But due to the money and power of large companies with vested interests, the studies that are conducted on agricultural technologies, from GMOs to pesticides, are often deeply flawed. Scientists who want to conduct impartial studies are often blocked by a lack of funding, or outright attacked if their study results contradict the industry’s position.
HR 1508 opposes any regulation of GMOs, pesticides, or other “modern agricultural technologies” except when based on sound science. The premise of the resolution is that these technologies are the key to an abundant, safe food supply — a premise that is contradicted by multiple studies and reports.
We need support for independent, objective studies on these issues — not a blind vote of confidence in the industry.
- Committee: House State & Federal Power & Responsibility, Select
- Date: Thursday, April 30
- Time: 10:30 am (registration will open around 9:30 am, and continue until the bill is actually heard, which will most likely be late in the afternoon)
- Location: Room E2.036 (you can register at any kiosk in the Capitol Extension)
- Position: AGAINST
- Not Testifying
More details on HR1508, including the full text of the resolution, are posted here
PARKING: Parking is usually available at the Capitol Visitors Center, located between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets at 12th and 13th. You can find a map and other options also here
WHAT TO DO: The House uses electronic witness affirmations, which can be entered at kiosks located throughout the Capitol Extension. Take the elevator down to Floor E1 or E2, and walk down the main hallway about halfway. Turn down one of the side hallways, then turn again so that you are going parallel to the main hallway. The kiosks are in the alcoves where there used to be pay phones.
Registration for House Committee hearings usually opens one hour before the hearing, and sometimes earlier for afternoon hearings. Registration closes once the bill is actually heard by the Committee, which may be close to the starting time for the hearing or may be many hours later.
Status of all the bills
This list only covers the bills that still have a chance of passing this session; it does not include those that are effectively dead because they have even been scheduled for committee hearings
FARFA Priority Bills
- HB 91, to expand legal sales of raw milk: pending in House Public Health Committee
- HB 1900, to provide fair property taxes for small farmers: sent to the Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote
- HB 1846, food safety regulation transparency: sent to Local & Consent Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote
Other Good Bills
- HB 262, to limit liability for landowners who allow their property to be used for community gardens: sent to Local & Consent Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote
- SB 474, eminent domain reform: passed the Senate, awaiting a hearing in the House Land & Resource Management Committee
- SB 1766/ HB 3764, to allow direct-to-consumer sales of honey from hobby beekeepers: passed the Senate; sent to Local & Consent in the House to be scheduled for a vote
- HB 3163, protecting groundwater district officials from personal lawsuits: set for hearing 4/29 before the Natural Resource Committee
- HB 632, providing greater local control over water resources: set for hearing 4/29 before the Natural Resource Committee
- HB 557, allowing academic institutions to grow hemp for research purposes: sent to Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote
- HB 3298/ SB 1907, water marketing & transportation: placed on Senate Intent calendar and in House Calendars Committee
- HR 1508, sound science resolution: set for committee hearing 4/30
- HB 3129, requiring an annual permit to haul milk: set for hearing 4/28