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and at press time is currently pending in the House Human Services Committee. Son of a Beach HB 1603 SB 740 In 1959, Texans took public access to their beaches seriously enough to pass the Open Beaches Act. But in the current climate of wealthy-interest rule, predictably enough, erosion of the Open Beaches Act has begun. HB 1603 and SB 740 exempt the Treasure Island subdivision in Brazoria County from the Open Beaches Act to allow the Municipal Utility District tures:’ Not only do these bills give the MUD the authority to construct any structure it deems appropriate to prevent erosion \(with the approval of the changes the location of the line of vegetation, which affects public beach access. The Open Beaches Act defines a public beach easement as an area between the continuous line of vegetation and the Gulf of Mexico, thereby recognizing that this line moves with erosion. These bills place the line of vegetation for this 4,500-foot stretch 30 feet into the Gulf of Mexico in three feet of water, which makes it pretty difficult for beachgoers to lay their towels in the sand and soak up some rays. The Texas General Land Office gave the legislation to Bonnen and Janek after a major erosion problem in Treasure Island was brought to their attention. “We considered [it] a public health and safety problem,” said Trace Finley, Policy Director for Commissioner Jerry Patterson at the GLO. Though the state has had the authority to build structures on Treasure Island to help prevent this problem, it has not, causing the MUD \(a.k.a. elected propto take action. These property owners are not strangers to erosion control structures in their area. In 2000 the MUD built a geotextile tubedespite questions from pro-open beach activists about whether it had proper authorizationonly to see it fail 18 months later, leaving potentially dangerous tattered nylon underneath the sand. Currently, boulders, rocks, concrete, and metal barbs line the area as a weak deterrent to erosion that Ellis Pickett, spokesman for the Surfrider Foundation Texas Chapter, describes as nearly impossible to pre vent. “It would require something similar to the Galveston Sea Wall to provide [the] protection that these proponents claim to achieve with [these] bill [s] .” The Surfrider Foundation opposes the bills because they “set a dangerous legal precedent… for exempting beachfront homes from the provisions and public protections of the Texas Open Beaches Act,” says Pickett. “Our worst fear is this is a thread that will accelerate as coastal development intensifies. What will happen is the public will be regulated to a few pocket parks along the coast, while front-row property owners will enjoy nearly empty beaches.” But Sen. Janek insists his bill is only making an exception to the Open Beaches Act for this one area, “The law needs to allow for tailored, narrowed exceptions when the time calls for it and this is one of those times,” said Janek. Pickett, however, feels the bills will set a precedent for other beaches in Texas to restrict public beach access: “It’s a Trojan horse full of bullshit.” Bad Bills are compiled by the Observer’s Bad Bill Girl, who rises vampire-like from hibernation every two years to suck the blood from vile or absurd state legislation. Pis, continued from page 5 and likely to sail into state code. That would scuttle the ACLU suit and ensure that the testing of our voting machines will go down in secret. FRISKING FRISCO On May 7, Frisco voters went to the polls and roundly defeated two proposals that threatened to shake up the homebuilding industry in the state \(see, “The Exurb Rebellion,” amendments to the city charter one mandated that builders in the area back up their work with a bond and the other required a “full disclosure” form on new home contracts, revealing, for example, any hidden arbitration clauses were put to a vote because nearly 5,000 voters signed a petition asking for the proposals. Why did these same people change their minds? Perhaps it’s because the homebuilding industry, the state’s leading real estate association, the local chamber of commerce, and the city government teamed up to spend at least $100,000 in a smear campaign. Efforts to defeat the proposals and vilify their main champions, the Becka family, included television and newspaper ads, signage posted all over the city, and borderline propaganda on the city’s website. “The vote demonstrates how easy it is to sway an election if you have enough money,” wrote Dr. David Becka in a faxed message to the Observer. “The ‘Goliath’ residential homebuiding industry is alive and well; and, citizens remain where ‘Goliath’ wants them right under their thumb.” Despite the clear defeat at the polls, the Beckas and their organization, Take Back Your Rights, say they are down but not out. “We’re thinking about starting up some seminars to advise new homebuyers on building problems in Texas and to help alleviate problems they might face,” says Dr. Becka. “Involved in the group would be a builder, an attorney, and some engineers to educate the buyers on what to look for in contracts and what to know before purchasing a home.” MAY 27, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13