Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Register
Texas Rural Water Blog
Blog Home All Blogs

Texting While Driving Banned Statewide

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Friday, September 29, 2017

As of  September 1st, texting while driving within the state of Texas is punishable by a fine of $25-99 for first-time offenders, and $100-200 for repeat offenders (though no points will be assigned). The new law also states that if an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, they can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year (in addition to any other charges/punishments).

It’s important to note that this new law only addresses “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages” via a “wireless communication device.” It is still legal for motorists in most cities to use their phone for GPS navigation, music apps, dialing phone numbers, etc., but drivers may still get pulled over if an officer suspects them of texting.

While the law includes a provision to preempt local texting-and-driving ordinances which already existed in over 100 cities, it does not address stricter cell phone bans (i.e., hands-free laws) put in place by at least 45 other Texas cities such as Austin, San Antonio, Denton and El Paso. Attempts made during the special session to roll back any city ordinances that ban mobile phone use beyond texting while driving were supported by Governor Abbott, but did not come to fruition. Cities are still free to pass (and enforce) hands-free laws within their city limits.

 

This new law adds to some existing laws that prohibit all drivers under 18 and school bus drivers from texting or making telephone calls while driving—even with a hands-free device. Texas also forbids use of phones in school zones. In 2010 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finalized rules to restrict texting and the use of hand-held mobile phones by truck and bus drivers while operating a commercial motor vehicle.   

Tags:  #txlege  rural texas  rural water  Texas legislature  Texas water  TRWA  water operators 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

The Top 10 Bills You Need to Know About if You’re in the Texas Water Business

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Texas 85th Regular Legislative Session came to a close on Memorial Day, and just under 18 percent of the 7,051 bills and resolutions that were filed were signed into law. With much fanfare on issues such as immigration and privacy, it would have been easy to overlook other important issues under consideration before the legislature. That’s why the Texas Rural Water Association Legislative Team tracked 638 bills and resolutions across 30 different categories that could pose challenges or offer opportunities for those of us in the water business. Here are the top 10 bills that passed, which will become effective on September 1, 2017 unless otherwise noted.

 

10. HB 1083 by Perez and Rodriguez amends the Water Code to allow the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to authorize an investor-owned utility (IOU) to establish a class of rates for elderly people at a lower rate than other classes, and allows for utilities to establish a fund to receive donations to recover the costs of providing these reduced rates. The new law prohibits recovery of costs through charges to other customers.

9. HB 1508 by Giddings and West amends the Occupations Code to require entities that provide educational programs that prepare an individual for issuance of an occupational license (which applies to TRWA) to notify each applicant of their potential ineligibility to obtain the license if they have certain criminal convictions.

8. HB 2647 by Stephenson and Taylor amends the Public Funds Investment Act to make interest-bearing banking deposits that are guaranteed or insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund authorized investments under the Act, with certain exceptions. This law became effective June 15, 2017.

7. SB 499 by West and Wray amends the Property Code to add the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act. The new law will impact who has the right to property after the owner’s passing, which may impact, for example, who would be entitled to membership in a water supply corporation (WSC).

6. HB 3047 by Dale and Schwertner amends the Open Meetings Act to specify that a member of a governmental body who participates in a meeting by videoconference call shall be considered absent from any portion of the meeting during which audio or video communication with the member is lost or disconnected.

5. SB 564 by Campbell and Capriglione amends Section 551.089 of the Open Meetings Act to allow a governmental entity to discuss in closed session matters regarding security of information resources technology, security personnel, critical infrastructure, and security devices; expanding on an existing provision in Section 55.076.

4. SB 1289 by Creighton and Paddie adds a new provision to the Government Code also referred to as the “Buy America” law. It requires political subdivisions, including water districts, to use U.S. produced steel and iron products in projects financed, refinanced or partially funded by money from a state governmental entity such as the TWDB, but provides some exceptions.

3. HB 1648 by Price and Seliger requires the TWDB to require a retail public utility that provides potable water service to 3,300 or more connections to designate a person as the water conservation coordinator responsible for implementing the water conservation plan and to notify the TWDB Executive Administrator of this person.

2. HB 1573 by Price and Creighton requires the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to establish rules requiring water loss audits to be completed by a person trained to conduct water loss auditing. The bill requires the TWDB to make training on water loss auditing available without charge from the TWDB's website. The TWDB may provide training in person or by video or a functionally similar and widely available medium.

1. SB 79 by Nelson and Capriglione expands the Public Information Act to allow additional entities, including WSCs, to refer a requestor to an exact internet location or uniform resource locator (URL) address on a website as a method of producing information requested under the Act. The law requires the governmental body to provide the information in another format if the requestor prefers a manner other than access through the internet.

 

The Texas Rural Water Association works hard every day to protect rural Texas’ drinking water. We have resources and expert staff that help rural and small systems with a wide-range of issues, including compliance and legal challenges. We are passionately engaged in representing the interests of rural water at both the state and federal legislative levels. We are here to help ensure rural Texans have access to efficient service and clean, quality drinking water. We represent over 750 small and rural utilities that serve communities that enjoy #qualityontap and #drinklocalwater.

Tags:  #txlege  #txwater  drink local water  legislature  quality on tap  rural texas  rural water  Texas legislature  Texas water  TRWA  water quality 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Groundwater Bill Seeks to Protect Water Supplies for Rural Communities

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 17, 2017

The Texas Farm Bureau published an article in its newsletter last week opposing HB 645 and HB 1318, bills filed by Representative Eddie Lucio III aimed at ensuring that rural economies thrive by continuing to be allocated a fair share of their local groundwater supply. The Farm Bureau’s arguments for opposing these bills address issues that are not included in these bills. The bills do not transfer any private property rights or water rights. These bills strengthen current law, while still providing districts with the discretion they need to balance local needs with market demands.  

 

There is a growing trend of groundwater districts changing the rules of the game for rural utilities, threatening their supply of water by restricting the amount of water they can pump based on the amount of surface acreage they own. These bills are a response to that trend. The practice of basing the amount of water a utility can pump on the amount of acreage owned at the well site, which the Farm Bureau is advocating, is not required by law, and most groundwater districts do not currently employ this practice. Historically, groundwater districts have taken into account the needs and rights of rural communities to their local supply of groundwater, and these bills seek to preserve these rights.

 

The Farm Bureau asserts that the property rights of utility customers are being threatened by these bills, but their interest is to maximize profits for large landowners who are working with water marketers to pump water out of the rural areas to sell to the highest bidders — the big cities. This practice will force local utilities to compete for the purchase of water to serve their communities, driving up the cost for their customers. House Bills 645 and 1318 will preserve access to a sufficient supply of affordable water before it is sold to the highest bidder and piped out of their area. Ninety-five percent of rural utilities serve 4,000 connections or less, and these communities already pay higher water rates than the big cities, because they do not benefit from the same economies of scale.

 

Rural utility customers benefit from having access to an affordable supply of water, which adds value to their property and makes the rural economy possible. Rural water utilities are not large landowners, but are required by law to serve communities of landowners who are relying on the local utility to pump, treat, test and deliver their groundwater for their household needs. Representative Lucio’s bills allow groundwater districts to balance the rights and needs of local communities with the rights of landowners to sell their groundwater.

 

Some groundwater districts are not only requiring rural systems to purchase land in order to pump sufficient supplies to serve their communities, but are requiring that the land be adjacent to the well site where they are pumping. In these districts, utilities are held hostage to whatever price the adjacent landowner seeks to charge, driving up costs to customers even further.

 

In northeast Texas, rural utility customers are being approached by for-profit business enterprises represented by big Austin law firms seeking to purchase water from every customer. With a for-profit business purchasing all the groundwater in a community, where will the local utility obtain the supply to serve that community? Will they be competing with Dallas to purchase that supply, perhaps paying double or triple the amount of the original purchase price? How will customers in that area be able to afford water for their household needs that they have “sold”? What will happen to the economies in those areas when they no longer own or have the right to pump their groundwater?

 

Local communities shouldn’t have to compete to purchase their own water resources with the big cities who are looking to these areas for their future supply. HB 645 and HB 1318 do not transfer any private property rights or water rights, but seek to help ensure that rural communities receive credit for the ownership of their groundwater resource that they are relying on their local utility to provide. 

Tags:  groundwater  HB 1318  House Bill 1318  rural water  Texas legislature  Texas water 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 
Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal