There are 46 days left in the 87th Texas Legislative Session and each one counts more than the last. Bills are being heard by committees and we need to make sure that the ones that we support are the loudest. Here are some bills that we are paying particular attention to.
Transportation, But Make It Sustainable
Currently, 97% of the state’s transportation funding is constitutionally dedicated towards highways. HJR 109 by Rep. Armando Walle and the bills’ Senate companion SJR 40 by Sen. Borris L. Miles propose an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would allow for more investments in building and maintaining non-tolled public roads, public transportation, sidewalks and bicycle paths, not just highways. As of mid-March, both have been referred to the Transportation Committees. HJR 109 will have its hearing next Tuesday, April 20; its Senate companion, SJR 40, is still awaiting a hearing.
TAKE ACTION: Click here to urge your representatives to support these two great bills, and make sure to inform others. We also encourage you to testify in Austin in support of HJR 109 or submit written public comments.
We are also in support of HB 2219 and HB 2223. These bills offer an opportunity to shift our statewide transportation planning practices toward sustainability. Our Policy Advocate, Harrison Humphreys wrote to Chair Canales and Members of the House Committee on Transportation in support of these bills on Mar. 23. HB 2219 was heard in committee, but is still waiting for approval at this time. HB 2223 was approved by the committee and has been sent along to be considered by the full House.
Let’s Keep Concrete Batch Plants Out of Our Communities
On Monday, April 19, we’ll be testifying in support of HB 65 by Rep. Jarvis Johnson. This bill would provide better opportunities for communities to voice their concerns by requiring that new concrete batch plants provide all residents within 880-yard radius with information regarding the new facility, including how to properly submit public comments.
TAKE ACTION: Submit public comments here.
In addition, on March 29, our Executive Director, Dr. Bakeyah Nelson, testified on Capitol Hill to the Committee on Environmental Regulation in support of HB 1627 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson. “This really is a unique problem in this area,” said Adrian Shelley of Public Citizen, “and this bill offers a unique solution specific to Houston.” If passed, the bill would give unzoned areas in municipalities of more than 2 million people and counties with more than 4.5 million people the right to deny concrete batch plant permits next to a sensitive site such as a home or school.
Dr. Nelson’s testimony highlighted some critical issues, saying “residents are in fear of the impact on their health and feel violated that their neighborhood quality of life is not being protected from these types of facilities.” As of Mar. 29, 2021, the bill remains in committee.
“If we don’t pass this bill,” Rep. Reynolds asked, Dr. Nelson, “do you think that the problem is going to continue to manifest and possibly get worse?” Dr. Nelson responded in the affirmative, saying “absolutely.”
You can watch the full hearing via this link. Bakeyah’s testimony starts at 25:00.
Climate Change and Pollution Regulation
After the deadly freeze that we experienced this February, we submitted a letter to the Texas Senate Business and Commerce committee to remind our representatives about the climate crisis that made the storm as devastating as it was.
In order to understand this crisis, and avoid future crises, we must look to the following things.
- Transparency and Accountability from State Representatives
- The deregulated system Texas legislators chose have created an environment where a disaster of this magnitude could take place.
- People over profits
- Texas should rejoin the national grid and power should be managed through public utilities that are accountable to the people they serve.
- Transition toward 100% Renewable, Resilient Energy Systems
- While transitioning from a carbon-centric economy, we can put millions of people in good union jobs that ensure a more resilient future for our state and country.
- Prioritizing the most vulnerable communities
- This situation is untenable, especially for communities of color and working-class neighborhoods; We need leaders who are willing to accept the realities of climate change and take aggressive steps toward a more resilient, equitable and sustainable future.
TAKE ACTION: Texas has given big oil a free pass for too long. Don’t let lawmakers use the freeze to take us off the path to renewable energy. Use this easy tool to find your representative.
It’s Time to Make Polluters Pay
HB 1820 by Rep. Zweiner would impose stricter limits on emission events, make penalty payments more intimidating to companies and encourage them to make community-health minded changes. More specifically, the bill would:
- Establish annual limits on the volume and frequency of emission events a facility is allowed before their permit is suspended or revoked.
- Create minimum penalty requirements for emission events that meet certain criteria.
- Establish a state toxic chemical emergency alert system to notify surrounding communities of a pollution release that could endanger public health or the environment.
- Strengthen penalty requirements for certain environmental violations – particularly for repeat offenders or violations that result in injury or death of first responders.
- Tie penalty amounts to the inflation rate.
In recent news yet another industrial fire blazed on the afternoon of Apr. 7 in Channelview. We should not wait for the next reminder of the importance of this type of legislation.
Juan Flores, resident of Galena Park and AAH’s Community Air Monitoring Program Manager spoke on capitol hill at the hearing for HB 1820 on Apr. 12, 2021 by the Environmental Regulation committee. “I’ve seen many fires,” Flores said,” I’ve been through explosions. We’ve been around pollution. You can smell the chemicals in the air. We need more enforcement.”
The hearing will be available via this link once it has been posted online by the Legislature.
You can view the full list of our legislative priorities here. Stay tuned for more updates.