Texas House Advances Big-Dollar Water Fund Bill

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Amid a worsening drought, the House overwhelmingly approved a plan to seed the state water plan with $2 billion today. Rep. Allan Ritter (R-Nederland) and his legislative allies shrugged off attempts by their Republican colleagues to significantly alter the legislation. House Bill 4 would create a water bank to pay for water supply projects from new reservoirs to conservation efforts. The proposal has received broad support from business groups, environmentalists, Democrats and Republicans spurred into action by drought and water scarcity. The 2012 state water plan estimates that over the next 50 years, Texas’ water supply will decrease by 18 percent while water demand will increase by 27 percent.

“We can’t control when it rains, but we can control how we use water,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas in a statement. “State funding can help cut water waste, improve water conservation, and steer Texas toward a more sustainable water future.”

Despite the bill’s easy passage (there were 146 ‘ayes’ and just two ‘nos’), tea party-oriented members launched a challenge to key provisions in the bill-and spectacularly failed in what was another defeat for ideological enforcers like Michael Quinn Sullivan and Texans for Prosperity’s Peggy Venable, whose involvement in the spoiler effort lurked just beneath the surface of the debate.

Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) led an effort to remove a key water-conservation provision. HB 4 has earned the support of some conservationists because Ritter included a stipulation that at least 20 percent of the funding go toward water conservation. King’s amendment would’ve gutted that requirement. King’s fellow legislators didn’t buy it though; the amendment was killed with a vote of 104 to 41.

Rep. Van Taylor’s (R-Plano) proposed amendments didn’t go over so well either. Taylor, for one, wanted to ban the transfer of Rainy Day Fund money to get the water bank rolling.

Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), in a moment of political drama, called Taylor out for being what he called “disingenuous.” He asked Taylor if, should his proposed amendment pass, he intended to vote for HB 4. Taylor replied that he would still not vote for the bill.

Larson blew up. “If you’re not going to vote for the bill and you’re offering up amendments, I think everyone in this body needs to recognize that. The idea of an amendment is to make the bill better … and what you’re doing I believe is disingenuous, to step up and offer amendments for political reasons, to try to gain some kind of favor instead of trying to make the bill legitimately better.” The House shot Taylor’s amendment down with a vote of 127 to 18.

House Bill 4 has survived relatively unscathed. Next up: House Bill 11, which would authorize the actual transfer of $2 billion to water fund from the state’s (irony alert!) Rainy Day Fund.

  • susea

    Will the State of Texas float motor boats but have to pay for costly
    fixes because of muzzling good science, fairness, good faith and logic? Is the
    State of Texas above the constitution of the USA? Will Texas float boats and not be able to drink the water or bathe or swim in it?
    Why did LCRA reward marina developers linked to dumping toxins, oil, batterieswelding rods, tools, metal, human feces, glass, tires, airconditioners, cement etc… in the water and watershed of Lake Travis
    our central Tx reservoir with marina permits? How did the state of Texas illegially take individual property rights based on lies? Water, water everywhere but not
    enough to drink….Clean drinking water should be priority. How is putting
    motor boats and floating habitable structures and gigantic marina’s where they
    do not belong….taking over 70 yr individual property rights in by deed no
    commercial neighborhoods good for us? How is manipulating the courts and illegally
    giving individual deeded property rights to PRIVATE developers good for us? How
    is overturning lower court rulings without legal justification, evidence or
    fact of law and with gross impropriety giving deeded property rights to PRIVATE
    corporate marina developers to put gas storage tanks and parking in the
    watershed. and illegally taking deeded property rights that protect the clean
    take what a person owns and give it to PRIVATE MARINA DEVELOPERS….This is
    what the State of Texas did….now the rainy day fund and taxes pay for water
    that was given away based on lies….in the guise of helping the economy of
    motor boating….because we have the wrong people in charge….what legacy will
    we leave our children….when our clean drinking water is being sold to the
    highest bidder and when PRIVATE profiteers are allowed to do what is based on a
    lie.