Capitol Update: In the heat of summer
We are beginning to experience the true heat of a Texas summer, but things have cooled off at your State Capitol since the Legislative Session concluded last month. I hope everyone has had the chance to enjoy some time off and find ways to stay cool.
A tale of two bills: Ethics Reform
Ethics was at the front and center of attention during this past Legislative Session, partly because it was highlighted by Governor Abbott as one of his five emergency items during his State of the State Address. There were many well-meaning bills filed on this topic, and I would like to focus on two in particular, both of which were good pieces of legislation that would have considerably tightened our ethics laws. House Bill 408, which I was proud to coauthor, passed and effectively eliminates the practice of “double dipping” by state elected officials. Double dipping is the practice of a state official receiving a salary in their official capacity while at the same time collecting his or her retirement benefits. Closing this loophole was long overdue, and I am proud to have been an advocate for this bill. Senate Bill 19, on the other hand, was one of my biggest disappointments of this past Legislative Session. SB 19 was a comprehensive bill which would have provided for sweeping ethics reforms. Among other things, it would have greatly increased government transparency and accountability, as well as placed a spotlight into some of the darkest places in campaign politics. Unfortunately, the House and the Senate had different views on some of the details contained in the bill, and the two chambers were ultimately unable to reconcile the differences before the clock ran out on the session. My belief is government should be as open and transparent as possible, and we have much more work to do in this area. I look forward to working with my colleagues during the remainder of the interim to find common ground on this issue so improvements can be made in future Legislative Sessions.
Private Property Rights
Even with the massive amounts of rain we’ve received across Texas over the past few months, water is and most likely will continue to be one of the most pressing and contentious issues in the Legislature. As Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, I am honored to have a seat at the table and to serve as a critical voice for East Texas and rural areas of the state in the area of water. This past session, HB 4112, authored by one of my fellow rural colleagues in the House, clarified some important areas of the rights of individual property owners. This bill protects a landowner’s groundwater rights under common law, and explicitly guarantees the right to produce or save a fair share of the groundwater below the surface of the landowner’s land. This was a major victory for private property rights, and I was proud to support this legislation as it moved through the legislative process.
For the convenience of constituents not wanting to travel far from home, the mobile office will continue its regular Wednesday travel schedule throughout the District even now that session has concluded.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at (936) 634-2762 or (512) 463-0508 if we can ever be of assistance, and remember that our door is always open.