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Texas Senate Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Meets, Considers Interim Charges

Senate Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Meets, Considers Interim Charges
May 10 & 11, 2022

Last week, the Senate Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee held two days of hearings for several of the interim charges they were given. An interim charge is a policy issue in which the lieutenant governor directs a specific committee to study ahead of the next legislative session. Often times, the findings of these charges are the basis of statutory language changes for bills filed next session.

On Tuesday, May 10, the committee held a hearing regarding the following interim charges:

  • Water Utility Infrastructure: Evaluate the state's water infrastructure. Study and make recommendations on options to upgrade and update water infrastructure to address deferred maintenance, disasters, and water loss.
  • Water Supply: Review and make recommendations to complete specific projects identified in the 2022 State Water Plan. In light of recent changes to the global economy, consider the current regulatory process regarding innovative technology solutions to water supply needs, such as marine desalination, and make recommendations for their improvement.

On the Water Utility Infrastructure charge the Committee heard invited testimony from the following entities: Texas Water Development Board, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Public Utility Commission, Texas Rural Water Association, Texas Water Conservation Association and Texas 2036. Much of the testimony was related to boil water notices related to falls in water pressure following Winter Storm Uri and explored various funding options to alleviate some of the problems related to faulty infrastructure.

On the Water Supply charge there was invited testimony from the following: Texas Water Development Board, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Water Infrastructure Network, Texas Desalination Association, Intera, Seven Seas Water and the City of Alice. Senators discussed the urgency regarding new water supply inputs with witnesses and emphasized the need to meet future water needs across the state through innovative technologies.

On Wednesday, May 11, the committee held a hearing regarding the following interim charges:

  • Rural Employment: Study and make recommendations on rural small business development and workforce needs. Consider and recommend innovative methods for business development in rural parts of the state.
  • Rural Immigration: Consider the Federal government's open border policies and practices of releasing illegal immigrants in rural areas of the state. Report on the impact to rural Texas, and their local ability to address social, health, and law enforcement needs.
  • Meat Packing Facilities: Study the need for additional meat packing facilities in Texas. Evaluate and report on the increased cost to Texas ranchers and revenue lost in the Texas economy when meatpacking facilities are utilized outside of Texas.
  • Agricultural Theft: Study the impact of cattle theft on farming and ranching operations throughout Texas and recommend cost-effective measures to mitigate loss and increase security.

On the Rural Employment charge, there was invited testimony from the following: Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Rural Water Association, two investment capital firms, and economic development corporations. Testimony largely centered around how to attract employees to rural areas and how to incentivize people to move back to a rural community for a job after college. Remote work was mentioned several times as a way to incentivize movement back to a rural community, but Chairman Perry warned against too much remote work. The need for a healthcare workforce in rural areas was also discussed by several witnesses.

On the Rural Immigration charge, there was invited testimony from the following: Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Agriculture, Attorney General’s office, South Texas Property Rights Association, Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, and Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Invited testimony shed light on the increased cost of law enforcement, health care and public education due to the large number of migrants coming into the state at the border. These costs were felt by rural communities as well as many migrants travel to seek employment. A large number of migrant workers end up in the agriculture sector. Senators pointed to the need to increase coordination with federal immigration agencies.

On the Meat Packing charge, there was invited testimony from the following: the Associate Commissioner for Consumer Protection at Department of State Health Services, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and Farm Bureau. Witnesses discussed the various inspection options for facilities and noted the lack of processing capacity in the state.

On the Cattle Theft charge, there was invited testimony from the following: Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Witnesses testified that in addition to cattle theft, equipment was also being stolen, usually of things that could be sold for immediate cash.

Please consider us The Law Offices of J Pete Laney for representation before the Texas Legislature for any needs related to water, agriculture, and rural policy issues.

Categories: Agriculture, Water, Rural
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