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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 

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White House Proposed Budget Cuts Endanger Rural Water & Wastewater Programs

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 20, 2017

On Thursday, the White House’s fiscal 2018 budget blueprint contained a 21 percent cut to USDA’s discretionary spending. This proposed budget would eliminate the USDA water and wastewater loan and grant program, as well as the water circuit rider program, wastewater training and technical assistance program, and energy efficiency assessment program. These programs have been the lifeline for rural water and small communities in Texas and across Rural America.

Instead, the Administration is placing its confidence with the EPA State Revolving Loan Funds. Approximately 75 percent of State Revolving Loan funding goes to systems serving over 10,000 population. Additionally, in Texas, these funds are primarily allocated to systems with compliance issues, so the larger community of rural water systems would not be able to rely solely on these funds for support.

 

There are approximately 52,000 community water supplies in the nation, of which 92 percent serve less than 10,000 population. In 2016, USDA Rural Utilities Service dedicated their funding exclusively to Rural America — 85 percent of projects were for small communities, with populations of 5,000 or less. The USDA Water and Environmental Program is a vital lifeline for rural residents funding the water infrastructure we rely on today.

 

We urge systems who have utilized any of these programs to get involved. If you have received or plan to receive funding from the USDA for infrastructure projects, benefit from your visits with your circuit rider, or rely on the expertise of our wastewater technicians, then please reach out to your congressional representatives. Tell them that investing in these USDA programs will forward the President’s mission to address the nation’s aging infrastructure in rural communities. Let them know that these programs have been effective for 70 years, that your system relies on them for financial and technical support, and that eliminating them would be detrimental for rural America. Visit http://whoismyrepresentative.com if you need help identifying your representative.

 

Established in 1969, the Texas Rural Water Association is a statewide nonprofit association dedicated to the improvement of water quality and supply in rural Texas. With an active membership consisting of nearly 750 nonprofit water supply corporations, special utility districts, municipal utility districts, small-town water departments, investor-owned utilities and individual members, TRWA members provide water and wastewater service to over 2.5 million customers throughout the state. The Association supports these members by providing them with on-site technical assistance, education and informational programs and representation in legislative and regulatory processes at both the state and federal level.  

Tags:  drink local water  funding  legislature  quality on tap  rural texas  rural water  Texas water  TRWA  USDA  water quality 

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