Let’s pass 2 more bills before 87th TX Lege ends!

Published May 14, 2021

What a week!

Last night (May 13) was the deadline for the Texas House to pass House bills. Any “HB” that did not get a vote last night is dead, unless it’s on today’s “local and consent” calendar for noncontroversial bills (and none of the bills we’re watching are in that category).

In the remaining 17 days of the legislative session, the House will be debating Senate bills that have passed and the Senate will be debating House bills that have passed.

Our healthy soils bill, SB 1118, is now sitting on the Governor’s desk. Two more of our priority bills are well-positioned to pass – but we need your help to get them over the finish line in these last two weeks!

Of the almost 100 bills we’ve been tracking that could impact agriculture and food, the majority are dead. We’ll share news on the surviving ones in next week’s update.

And if you want to get the scoop on what’s happening in between email updates, we’ve started doing Facebook live updates, on-site at the Capitol! Check out our Facebook page at ____ to watch/share the videos and add your comments.

ACTION #1: Help get the Home Food Security Bill through the Senate

The Home Food Security Bill, HB 1686, passed the House this week by a vote of 143 yeas to 1 nay!

Since the Senate version of the bill already had a committee hearing before the Local Government Committee, HB 1686 can skip that step. However, now the committee must vote to approve the House bill, and then we’ll need at least 18 Senators to vote “yes” on the Senate Floor.

Please call your State Senator today and urge him or her to support HB 1686 and to co-sponsor it to provide a public statement of that support.

(Note that the bill number and designation remain the same even though it is now in the Senate– HB 1686.)

Look up who represents you and how to contact them.

Sample call script:

“Hi, my name is _____ and I am a constituent. I am calling to ask Senator ____ to support HB 1686, the Home Food Security bill. It passed the House by 143-1 and is heading to the Senate.

Add just a sentence or two about why the bill is important to you. Be concise. This is the busiest time of session, so shorter is better!

I hope my Senator will sign on as a co-sponsor and help move this great bill forward in the Senate.”

MORE INFORMATION: HB 1686 would protect people’s right to raise food for themselves on their own property, by preventing cities and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) from banning front yard gardens or a few backyard chickens or rabbits. The bill also prevents HOAs from banning cottage food operations. It allows cities and HOAs to adopt reasonable restrictions, such as banning roosters or to prevent odor or pest problems, as long as the restrictions don’t reach the level of effectively banning the gardens, chickens, rabbits, or cottage foods.

You can download our Fact Sheet to learn more about the bill.

ACTION #2: Help get the farmer’s market bill through the House

Another of our priority bills, the Farmers’ Market bill, has passed the Senate unanimously and now needs to get through the House.

Call your State Representative today and urge him or her to vote YES on SB 617 and to co-sponsor it to show their support.

Look up who represents you and how to contact them.

Sample call script:

“Hi, my name is _____ and I am a constituent. I am calling to ask Representative ____ to support SB 617, the Farmer’s Market bill.

This is a simple clean-up bill that ensures that the laws passed in the last session, to protect farmers’ market vendors from excessive permit fees, are fairly and consistently applied across the state.

I hope Representative ____ will support the small businesses who sell food at farmers’ markets by co-authoring the bill and helping it move forward before the session ends.”

MORE INFORMATION: Last session, we successfully worked to pass two bills to reduce the burdens on farmers and other people selling food at farmers’ markets, limiting the permit fees that could be charged and allowing sampling of food without a permit. Local health departments opposed both bills last session, but the Texas Legislature passed them with almost unanimous votes. And most jurisdictions have complied since.

But Harris County, Galveston County, and Smith County have not – they continue to charge excessive permit fees and require frequent renewals for some vendors. As their explanation, those 3 county health departments cite the use of the word “producer” that appears in the section title of the 2019 law. They then refer to an old and obscure definition of “producer” from the state health department, of which the authors of the 2019 bill were unaware. That definition limits the word to mean “farmers” only, which even in its original context makes no sense.

SB 617 would fix this problem by providing legislative definitions of “producer” and “farmers’ market” that match what farmers’ market organizers and consumers around the state understand them to be. 

You can download our Fact Sheet for more details.