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Every two years, the Texas Legislature meets in Austin for just a few months. When they do so, nothing and nobody is safe. What will they do this year?
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Bills in the Texas Legislature Seek to Give, Take Away Local Control from Lewisville

Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2015/3/14 5:00:23 (3719 reads)
Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!

By Steve Southwell

The Texas Legislature’s 84th session is in full swing, and Friday was the deadline for legislators to file most bills. There are a couple of bills we would like to bring to your attention, as they directly affect the City of Lewisville. One attempts to remove local control over most aspects of oil and gas operations, while the other is targeted at giving Lewisville and Carrollton more say over municipal solid waste landfill expansion permits.

Granting More Local Control over Municipal Solid Waste Landfills
House Bill 281 and House Bill 1284 both relate to municipal solid waste landfills.

HB 281 would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to consider comment from members of the Legislature from affected districts prior to issuing any new or expansion permit for a landfill. It would also prohibit the TCEQ from issuing a permit unless approved by a resolution of the governing bodies of each affected local government. Its companion bill in the Senate by Senator Jane Nelson (R, Flower Mound) is SB 878, which has been referred to the Natural Resources & Economic Development committee. State Rep. Tan Parker (R, Flower Mound) also filed a duplicate bill, HB 3412. You can read the full text of HB 284 here.

HB 1284, also filed by Rep. Simmons requires TCEQ to consider comments and recommendations of each municipality within one mile from a landfill facility, as well as the county judge and health authority when considering a landfill permit application, and grants TCEQ the authority to deny or amend a permit application based on those recommendations. You can read the full text here. HB 1284 has a companion bill in the Senate, SB 879 by Senator Nelson. Rep. Parker also filed a duplicate bill, HB 3411.

HB 281 is narrowly tailored to landfills situated similar to the Camelot and DFW landfills in Lewisville, where the population of the county is over 600,000 and the landfill is no more than 500 feet away from a second municipality. Both bills are aimed at helping Lewisville and Carrollton fight the expansion of the Camelot Landfill, which seeks to build a mountain of garbage over our skylines, adding an additional 200 feet to the top. Currently TCEQ has no authority to consider the wishes of nearby residents or municipalities with regards to a landfill expansion. Lewisville and Carrollton residents bought their homes knowing they were near landfills, but also knowing that those landfills would be capped and shut down after a limited number of years. Camelot’s expansion, if approved, would add decades, and further decrease property values in both cities.

The City of Lewisville maintains that its zoning regulations require a specific use permit (SUP) to operate a landfill, and that substantial changes to operations require city approval. If TCEQ approves Camelot’s permit, the City of Lewisville would likely sue to prevent Camelot (owned by the City of Farmers Branch) from expanding. Lewisville and Farmers Branch just recently settled a separate federal lawsuit related to groundwater pollution from Camelot.

Both bills are in the House Committee on Environmental Regulation, and scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday, March 17th. Lewisville Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Neil Ferguson will travel to Austin on Tuesday to testify for the City of Lewisville in favor of both bills.

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A Real Conversation About the Cost of Tax Cuts in Texas

Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!
Posted by LewisvilleTexan on 2015/3/10 13:53:02 (1961 reads)
Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!

By Bret Wooten

I want to start off by saying I love this state and want to keep it strong for our kids. Additionally, this is not a political statement of any persuasion; these are facts. I'm a firm believer that Democrats and Republicans both have stupid ideas they do not pay for, and even dumber ones they do.

The Texas Legislature is in full swing and bills from the house and Senate are being discussed and debated. Tax cuts are one of the first issues discussed. Unfortunately, how these tax cuts would be paid for was not included in their plans. This includes the property and franchise tax cuts proposed by Sentator Jane Nelson (R, Flower Mound). These are the main source of funding for our education system. Two state courts have already deemed the current level of funding unconstitutional.

Texas is always in the bottom 8 for funding public schools, and is currently around 44th in spending, depending on whose statistics you look at. As the costs and burdens have increased, inflation-adjusted per pupil spending had actually decreased by $611 since the recession, according to the American Federation of Teachers.

The Texas Legislature clearly understands the value and ability of the public education system to execute their wishes. This is evident in the 82 currently unfunded mandates passed down to our school districts.

With all the challenges that Texas schools face, somehow our teachers get our kids to the middle of the pack on standardized test scores. So we reward them with great benefits and pay, Oh wait-- nope!!!

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Senate Bill 5 Failed After Filibuster

Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2013/6/26 7:00:00 (1868 reads)
Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!

Update 8/26/2013 - 8:22 a.m.:
Early this morning, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst declared the anti-abortion bill SB 5 to be dead. Read more in the Austin Statesman...

Original Post:
We have been watching the filibuster in the Texas Senate tonight, and our initial take was that midnight came and went prior to a vote being taken on SB5. Republicans are claiming that a vote was started before midnight, but Democrats challenge not only the parliamentary procedure that led to the vote, but that the vote was invalid because of the time it was taken.

Senator Wendy Davis (D) was attempting a full-day filibuster of the bill, and needed to talk until midnight for the session to end without a vote on Senate Bill 5. However, Republicans repeatedly made points of order seeking to have Davis called out for violating Senate rules. These "rule violations" included when a fellow Senator attempted to help Davis put on a back brace, and supposedly straying from the topic at hand by talking about the state's current abortion restrictions while explaining the ones proposed by SB5.

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst ruled that Davis' comments about the existing sonogram law were not germane, so Senator Kirk Watson (D) appealed Dewhurst's decision, setting off a series of points of order and motions. Confusion was rampant, with some Senators saying they didn't know what they were voting on. Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D) was upset that she was not recognized for the privileged motion to adjourn, asking "At what point does a female need to raise her voice to be heard over her male colleagues in the room?"

The crowds in the galleries erupted, and screamed at the tops of their lungs for the final 20 minutes of the session, upset at the rulings from the President Pro Tempore.

Texas Tribune has a good rundown of the action.

We suspect this one will get played out in court, whether or not it passed, since it constructively shuts down the majority of Texas abortion providers.

Official status of the bill is listed on the Texas Legislature Online website here.

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How to Contact Your State Legislators

Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!
Posted by LewisvilleTexan on 2013/3/8 3:02:26 (1809 reads)
Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!

Residents of Lewisville are represented in the Texas Legislature by one State Senator and one State Representative. For Lewisville, we are in Senate District 12, served by Senator Jane Nelson. Two State Representatives cover different parts of Lewisville.

Open in new windowDistrict 12 State Senator Senator Jane Nelson (R, Flower Mound).
Capitol Office: CAP 1E.5
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0112
Capitol Address: P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
District Address: 1235 S. Main St., Suite 280
Grapevine TX 76051
Phone: (817) 424-3446
State District Offices
Email: Submit a form

Open in new windowDistrict 63 State Representative Tan Parker (R, Flower Mound)
Capitol Office: EXT E2.602
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0688
Capitol Address: P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
District Address: 800 Parker Square, Ste. 245
Flower Mound TX 75028
Phone: (972) 724-8477
Email: Submit a form

Open in new windowDistrict 65 State Representative Ron Simmons (R, Carrollton)
Capitol Office: EXT E2.420
Capitol Phone: (512) 463-0478
Capitol Address: P.O. Box 2910
Email: Submit a form

You can find your exact representatives by using the Who Represents Me link.

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Texas HB 1496 Would Strip Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations

Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!
 Posted by WhosPlayin on 2013/3/8 2:40:00 (2924 reads)
Legislature is In Session; Run for your Lives!

By Steve Southwell

Here's one I've been meaning to tell you about, but fell behind in my reporting. As you know I served on the City of Lewisville's Ad-Hoc Gas Drilling Ordinance Committee, which worked with city staff and representatives of all of the local gas drillers to come up with ordinances that work for our city. Our biggest accomplishment was making sure that gas drillers cannot drill too close to homes, schools, parks, day cares, and other protected uses. None of us are anti-drilling; I want to stress that. We just believe that our investments in our homes dictate that we don't allow gas wells right in the middle of residential neighborhoods. We wouldn't want lead smelters, slaughterhouses, paint factories, or any other heavy industry in a place where it is not zoned.

A bill filed in the Texas House of Representatives by Rep. Van Taylor - R, Plano (who does not live where drilling takes place) seeks to undo the careful regulations of cities like Lewisville, Flower Mound, and just about every other city in North Texas that sits on the Barnett Shale.

House Bill 1496 would subject cities to litigation from gas drillers if city regulations cause a gas driller to miss out on the speculated value of the property they have bought or leased to drill on. The loss of value would be labeled a "taking", and the gas company could sue the governmental entity for the value of the "loss".

The only regulations allowed under the bill would be a "reasonable standard established by the political subdivision for oil or gas wells relating to: visual aesthetics; noise abatement; or hours of operation".

Homeowners who could then get stuck with a polluting gas or oil well within 200 feet of their residence may lose property value or suffer safety consequences, but have no recourse. Since the homeowners are only represented by their locally elected city council, instead of highly paid lobbyists bearing campaign contributions, they would not be compensated, as the oil and gas companies want to be.

In Lewisville, the bare minimum distance from a well to an occupied dwelling or protected use is 300 feet from the nearest equipment to the nearest outside wall. This number was set because HUD regulations do not allow home lending on homes closer than that to an oil or gas well. A driller could only go this close with unanimous property owner approval and 3/4ths of the City Council approving. Distances of between 500 and 800 feet are allowed with 3/4ths City Council approval, and distances over 800 feet are allowed with a standard permit.

House Bill 1496 would override the basic rights of a city to control its own zoning and set the highest and best use of property. It would be a win for the drill-at-all-costs oil and gas industry, at the direct expense of homeowners and citizens who get stuck with these wells in their back yards. It removes incentives for drillers to work with cities and with neighborhoods to seek the best solutions for the cleanest, safest operations that fairly protect the most property rights.

The Flower Mound Town Council has passed a resolution opposing the bill. The City of Lewisville needs to do the same. The State of Texas needs to respect the rights of cities to keep heavy industrial sites out of residential neighborhoods. Please contact your state legislators and urge them to put a stop to this bill.

- Contact your Lewisville City Council Members
- Contact your State Representative and State Senator

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