Updates from the 85th Legislative Session
May 5, 2017
Today will be the last day for the House to hear bills and for TNLA this is a good thing. There are a number of bills that would be bad for our folks and because of TNLA’s efforts and the efforts of our friends in the Legislature, many of these bills are a going to die in their respective committees. For example, HB 1535 that banned the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides on right of ways and HB 173 that would require a license to harvest rainwater. TNLA staff is now watching for vehicles (bills that will make it to the floor of a similar subject matter) that could be amended with the bad bills we are tracking that haven’t moved. We will remain vigilant until the clock runs out, but so far so good.
The big hub-bub this week was Governor Abbott signing SB 4, the bill banning Sanctuary Cities into law. In the wee hours of the evening when the bill was being debated in the House, Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) slipped on an amendment that allows law enforcement to check a person’s legal status if they are being lawfully detained as opposed to being arrested. This was not in the original bill, but the Senate concurred with the change and the latest version is what went to Gov. Abbott’s desk.
Here are five things you should know about Senate Bill 4 and how it will affect Texas' undocumented immigrants and local authorities.
1. What does Senate Bill 4 do, and what are the consequences for not following it?
Senate Bill 4 aims to outlaw "sanctuary cities" by requiring local police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and allowing police to inquire about the immigration status of people they lawfully detain. Under SB 4, local authorities are forbidden from adopting polices that prevent a peace officer from asking about a person's immigration status. Sheriffs, constables, police chiefs and other local leaders can be slapped with a Class A misdemeanor — and possibly jail time — if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities by honoring requests to hold inmates who are subject to deportation. They also could face civil penalties: $1,000 for a first offense and up to $25,500 for subsequent infractions. These penalties also apply to public colleges.
2. What does this mean for undocumented immigrants?
Police officers will now be able to question a person’s immigration status upon detainment. House Republicans expanded the scope of questioning in a controversial amendment that incensed Democrats and immigrant rights groups, who called it a "show-me-your-papers" law.
Opponents of the law worry it will turn routine exchanges like traffic stops into excuses for police to flag immigrants for deportation. “When people go from a broken taillight to a broken family to broken trust in the system, that is real,” Houston Democratic Sen. Sylvia Garcia said during the Senate debate in February. Some lawmakers also worry it could discourage undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes from contacting the police.
Sen. Charles Perry, the Lubbock Republican who authored the anti-sanctuary legislation, pointed out that police are not required to ask about the immigration status of anyone lawfully in their custody — but the law still makes it legal for them to do so.
The law also applies to college campuses, meaning students may think twice before attending or hosting any parties. Democrats worry minor offenses like possession of alcohol could trigger a path to deportation. Administrators at public colleges have to comply with the law or they, too, face penalties.
3. How does the Texas law compare to Arizona's so-called "show me your papers" law?
Arizona's law, passed in 2010, made national news but has since been blunted by legal challenges. Unlike the Texas law, which allows police to ask about immigration status, Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 required police to do so. But Arizona's attorney general later told police to ignore that provision as part of a settlement agreement. Arizona's law doesn't require local authorities to honor federal detainer requests, as the new Texas law does.
5. What about legal challenges to the law?
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represented some of the plaintiffs who successfully sued the state over its 2011 redistricting maps, has vowed to file a lawsuit in federal court.
Marisa Bono, a staff attorney at the organization, said her group hopes to shoot the regulations down before they are implemented in September. They’re taking aim at questions about what power states have to craft their own immigration enforcement laws and whether detainer requests from federal authorities are mandatory or voluntary. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represented some of the plaintiffs who successfully sued the state over its 2011 redistricting maps, has vowed to file a lawsuit in federal court.
Marisa Bono, a staff attorney at the organization, said her group hopes to shoot the regulations down before they are implemented in September. They’re taking aim at questions about what power states have to craft their own immigration enforcement laws and whether detainer requests from federal authorities are mandatory or voluntary. The law is slated to take effect Sept. 1. Although Democrats were unable to kill SB 4, lawyers are already preparing to challenge it in court.
President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 into law on Friday. The law allows the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, to approve additional H-2B visas. The President signing the law is a great development and hopefully DHS will quickly implement this provision of law and immediately resume H-2B processing.
Senator Tillis (R-NC), Senator King (I-ME) and Representative Harris (R-MD) are circulating a joint Senate-House letter to the Secretaries of DHS and DOL asking them to immediately resume processing H-2B visa petitions as allowed under the FY17 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
As always, thank you for your engagement in TNLA’s legislative efforts. If you have and questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us 512-579-3851.
April 21, 2017
The 85th Legislative Session ends in five weeks, which means the deadlines imposed on the legislature will begin to affect the lawmaking process. Here is a summary of those deadlines below:
Monday, May 8 - Last day for House bills to be reported from committee
Thursday, May 11 - Last day for House bills to be passed on second reading (other than local or consent bills)
Tuesday, May 23 - Last day for Senate bills to be passed in the House on second reading
Wednesday, May 24 - Last day for House bills to be passed in the Senate
Sunday, May 28 - Last day for House and Senate to approve conference committee reports
Monday, May 29 - Legislature adjourns
I would like to add that by this point if a House Bill is not approved by a committee sometime during the next two weeks, it is most likely not passing (unless it hitches a ride on another piece of legislation as an amendment).
SB 1459 (Sen. Hinojosa-D, McAllen) has passed out the Senate. If you recall, TNLA has done some of the heavy lifting on this legislation. SB 1459 creates and incentive for owners of abandoned Citrus groves in pest management zones to remove or treat their Citrus trees. This bill that will help the USDA and TDA control the spread of citrus pests and disease that affect our Citrus folks. The bill’s companion in the House, HB 3013 (Rep. Martinez-D, Weslaco) also sailed through committee and is set to be heard on the House floor this week.
TNLA staff is confident this legislation will become law.
HB 1535 (Rep. Farrar-D, Houston) This bill forces TDA to ban the use of Neonicotinoids on right of ways. This was an attempt to ban Neonics in a small piece of statute, therefore setting a precedence that the Legislature has an issue with their use.
This bill has been stuck in the House Agriculture Committee for almost a month, and TNLA staff has gone to great effort to see it stay there.
Local Government GMO Bans
SB 1172 (Sen. Charles Perry-R, Lubbock) Prevents a political subdivision from adopting regulation on seeds, including planting seeds or cultivating plants grown from seeds. It implements a statewide seed standardization law. A statewide seed standardization law will prevent local governments enacting bans on genetically modified seed. This has been an issue around the country and this bill is to preempt local governments from enacting such laws in Texas.
The bill has already made it over to the House from the Senate and has passed out of the House Ag Committee. TNLA staff will continue working to keep this bill moving.
HB 2567 (Rep. Ernest Bailes-R, Shepherd) Relating to forest pest control. This bill popped up on TNLA’s radar since it added “invasive plants” to the definition of “forest pests.” The bill was brought to Rep. Bailes from the Texas A&M Forest Service. The Forest Service’s intent was for “invasive plants” to mean, plants listed on TDA’s Invasive Species list. TNLA pointed out to Rep. Bailes that if the definition in their bill did not point to the TDA list, adding “invasive plants” to the statute would be up to interpretation by anyone in the future. Rep. Bailes and the Forest Service agreed to TNLA’s language and the bill was amended.
This was a great catch by our staff and we are fortunate that Rep. Bailes is a friend to TNLA.
HB 2684 (Rep. DeWayne Burns-R, Cleburne) Relating to the acquisition of property by an entity with eminent domain authority. This bill is the vehicle in the House that contains everything our side wanted and more compared to Sen. Kolkhorst’s SB 740, 741, 742. Currently, our coalition (Texans for Property Rights) are in negotiations with the infrastructure folks on the bill. I will have more on this when committee substitute is agreed to, if at all. I do know that Sen. Kolkhorst has added most of the changes from our opposition to her bills. This means it is likely TNLA will no longer support her version of the legislation.
HB 2684 is still pending in the House Land & Resource Management Committee.
March 31, 2017
Things are fast and furious down at the Capitol and TNLA staff actively engaged a couple of bills that had committee hearings this week.
SB 1459 (Sen. Hinojosa-D, McAllen) was heard in the Senate Ag Committee. TNLA is doing some of the heavy lifting on this legislation. SB 1459 creates and incentive for owners of abandoned Citrus groves in pest management zones to remove or treat their Citrus trees. This is a great bill that will help the USDA and TDA control the spread of citrus pests and disease that affect our Citrus folks. The bill passed unanimously out of Committee and was sent to the Local and Consent Calendar in the Senate. In other words, it should pass out of the Senate and be over to the House very soon.
To our surprise HB 1535 (Rep. Farrar-D, Houston) got a hearing in the House Ag Committee this past Wednesday. The bill forces TDA to ban the use of Neonicotinoids on right of ways. In our opinion this bill is a solution looking for a problem. Currently, Neonics are not used in right of ways and TNLA was told by Rep. Farrar’s staff that this bill would simply prevent its use in the future. TNLA’s opinion is this bill is a veiled attempt to ban Neonics in a small piece of statute, therefore setting a precedence that the Legislature has an issue with their use. The hearing went off of the rails with a large number of environmental folks trying to pin Bee Colony Collapse on Neonics, thus TNLA engaged and testified on why we had issues with the bill. HB 1535 was left pending in Committee and we will continue working to keep it there.
You can watch TNLA’s testimony on HB 1535 here starting at the 105 minute mark.
Next week, SB 740 (Sen. Kolkhorst-R, Brenham) will be heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee. This bill is piece of the Eminent Domain legislation being pushed by Texans for Property Rights, a coalition in which TNLA is a member. This is shaping up to be a big fight, but we will be working diligently along with our other coalition members to see SB 740 move out of the Senate.
On the regulatory side, TNLA has been notified that a Citrus tree in Corpus Christi (North Padre Island) has tested positive for Citrus Greening. This particular tree has been on TDA’s radar for quite a while and this is the first time testing on the tree had not comeback inconclusive. The good news is, other trees in this residential area have been tested and so far this tree is the only positive. TDA and the USDA have moved to establish parallel emergency citrus quarantines for Nueces County. TNLA will continue to monitor this new find and will keep you all abreast of any future developments.
As always, thank you all for being engaged. If TNLA staff can ever be of service, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
March 24, 2017
been a very productive last couple of weeks at the Capitol. TNLA Staff has begun to engage on a number of bills that look like they might move and we are also working diligently to keep a few bad bills static as the process moves along.
On Wednesday, TNLA Staff had the pleasure of taking the TNLA Board of Directors on a tour of the Capitol. The TNLA Board was able to experience the hustle and bustle of Session. After a brief tour, the Board went up to the House gallery to watch the Legislators in action and at one point where even recognized on the floor by Rep. Dewayne Burns (R-Cleburne).
He is a true friend of our industry who took the time out of his busy schedule to walk up to the gallery to say hello to our Directors. You can watch TNLA’s recognition on the floor at the 24:20 minute mark to the right.
After their introduction on the floor, the Board Officers made office visits to their Legislators. It was a great tour and it was nice to be able to show them the ins and outs of the Capitol, while also educating the Board on how TNLA is working for the Green Industry in Austin.
On the Legislative front, next week is shaping up to be a busy one. On Monday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs will hear SB 1459 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen). This legislation will provide incentives to encourage landowners to destroy, remove, or treat abandoned Citrus groves located in pest management zones. This is a great bill for the Citrus Industry as a whole and TNLA will be working to help pass this legislation.
On the Eminent Domain front, the word at the Capitol is SB 740, SB 741, and SB 742 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) will be set to be heard in the Senate State Affairs next week. TNLA will be working together with the Texans for Property Rights Coalition to get these bills out of committee and onto the Senate floor.
As always, thank you for your leadership and interest in TNLA’s legislative efforts. If TNLA can ever be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to call.
March 10, 2017
Happy bill filing deadline day! So far, the House and Senate have filed over 6,000 bills this Session and it has been fast and furious. Below are a few of the bills we are currently tracking and working on. TNLA will continue to highlight more bills for as we get further into the 85th Session.
HB 173 Lucio III, Eddie (D) Relating to the licensing and regulation of certain rainwater harvesting.
A person may not install or maintain or offer to install or maintain, for compensation, a rainwater harvesting system with a capacity of more than 500 gallons unless the person holds:
(1) A Rainwater Harvesting License issued by the Texas Department of Agriculture. (This bill creates this license)
(2) A master plumber or a journeyman plumber license issued by the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners and holds a water supply protection specialist endorsement issued by the board.
TNLA Position- Oppose
HB 572 Stephenson, Phil (R) Relating to the disposal of pesticides.
Establishes the Pesticide Disposal Fund.
TDA, in coordination with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, shall organize pesticide waste and pesticide container collection activities statewide. The department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service may contract for the services of contractors that are licensed in the disposal of hazardous waste under Section 401.202, Health and Safety Code, or other contractors to implement the pesticide waste and pesticide container collection activities and facilitate the collection of canceled, unregistered, or otherwise unwanted pesticide products and pesticide containers.
TNLA is doing some of the lifting on this one.
TNLA Position- Support
HB 1535 Farrar, Jessica (D) Relating to the prohibition of certain pesticides on public road rights-of-way.
This bill would require TDA to prohibit the application of a neonicotinoid pesticide to the right-of-way of a public road or highway. This bill is about bees and we had a feeling we would start seeing legislation like this pop up.
TNLA Position- Oppose
HB 3013 Martinez, Armando (D) Relating to incentives to encourage landowners to destroy, remove, or treat citrus trees located in a pest management zone.
Companions: SB 1459 Hinojosa, Chuy (D)
There has been an issue in the Valley with abandoned Citrus groves. These groves are never checked, treated or destroyed and they make it much more difficult to combat diseases when they arise. This is a great bill.
TNLA Position- Support
TNLA is still in the process of running the traps on many of the bills we are tracking. If you have any questions on something you have come across that has been put in the legislative hopper, please contact Jeff Stokes, TNLA Legislative & Regulatory Director. Thank you all for supporting TNLA’s legislative efforts!
February 24, 2017
With committees beginning to meet in the House, this Session has really started to pick up. Currently, TNLA is tracking over 200 bills that could affect the Green Industry. Most of these bills are legislation we will support, but we have found a few that we will oppose. In both cases, we have been engaging the bill authors and proceeding accordingly.
In my last report I mentioned that TNLA has joined a coalition called Texans for Property Rights to push three eminent domain bills filed in the Senate by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). This week I wanted to provide you all little more detail on what these bills actually do.
S.B. 740 addresses five important issues that property owners recognize as necessary. The bill includes the following provisions:
Equal disclosure of appraisals:
Some condemning entities take advantage of a loophole by providing a new or updated appraisal at the special commissioners hearing, giving the property owner no time to assess the new information. The bill would require those entities to provide the appraisal reports no later than three business days prior to a hearing, as is currently required of property owners.
Property rights protections in bona fide offer:
There are few protections in place that require condemning entities to act in good faith when negotiating with landowners. This provision would require certain information to be contained in the “bona fide” offer to allow property owners to better understand the impact of the project.
Reimbursement of property owner’s expenses when sued on a low-ball offer:
This section of the bill would require the condemning entity to pay reasonable landowner expenses if final damages awarded to the property owner in eminent domain proceedings meet or exceed 20% in excess of the condemner’s final offer.
In some cases, private condemners have declared bankruptcy and failed to pay property owners even though they are in possession of the condemned property. SB 740 would require nongovernmental condemners to post a bond in the amount of the property owners award, pay the award or deposit the award with the court prior to appealing a court judgement.
No property taxes:
Condemning entities often take possession of property to begin work prior to the exchange or title or final compensation. In this situation, the condemner has possession, but the original property owner must still pay taxes on the land. Sen. Kolkhorst’s bill would require the ending property owner to pay those taxes.
S.B. 741 includes provisions that address two issues:
This bill would allow, but not require, a bona fide offer to include compensation to the landowner by means of a royalty or percentage of the net profits generated by the project.
Valuation of easements:
SB 741 would require the court to admit evidence on the price paid for privately negotiated transaction made in the absence of condemnation authority. By allowing the special commissioners to admit evidence on the freely negotiated right-of-way prices and comparable easement sales, property owners are more likely to receive fair “market value” for their property.
S.B. 742 is a stand-alone bill addressing the Property Rights Protection in Bona Fide Offer issue similar to, but with more requirements than SB 740. It provides several additional requirements pertaining to information about the project and property owner protections.
We have a couple of issues concerning items in the budget that with affect our industry. First, I’d like to talk about funding for the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). Commissioner Miller has not requested an increased appropriation, but he has asked the Legislature to restore a number of tools that will give the Agency some flexibility when it comes to moving funds around within the TDA. TNLA feels this is a reasonable request and we are working with budget writers to make it happen. Due to some animosity between a number of House Members on Appropriations and the Commissioner this will be a tough haul, but we are doing all that we can to help TDA, which in turn will benefit our industry.
Second, the Texas A&M Kingsville Citrus Center in the Valley has fared well in the House Budget, but has been zeroed out in the Senate version. This would really affect our citrus folks, due to all that the Citrus Center does for our ornamental growers. TNLA staff has coordinated Texas A&M Kingsville’s legislative team and we are working with them to see the Citrus Center made whole.
Obviously there is a lot of “dust in the air” and anxiety in our industry over the barrage of announcements regarding immigration enforcement. I have attached a copy of the recent DHS enforcement order to this email.
Homeland Security Secretary Kelly’s guidance memo on enforcement priorities (attached) implements the specifics of executive orders signed by President Trump during his first week in office. The orders, and by extension the guidance, dramatically expand the definition of who is a potential priority for immigration enforcement and removal.
While potential targets for removal are expanded greatly beyond the Obama administration’s focus on recent border crossers and convicted criminal aliens, it remains to be seen how these priorities will be implemented. While there is a call for the hiring of 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, such expansion will take time and resources that will need to be approved by Congress. In short, there is reason to be vigilant, but not for panic.
There is expected to be a return to more intense worksite enforcement, which could potentially include both I-9 audits, and workplace raids. Worksite enforcement was deprioritized under the Obama administration in favor of going after criminal aliens. Prudent employers will ensure that they are properly prepared and diligently following the law with respect to the I-9 employment verification process.
Those who have received relief from deportation, and work authorization, under the “deferred action” program (DACA) are NOT included in the new enforcement priorities, at least at this time.
In terms of “know your rights” resources for immigrant workers, it’s best to rely on other organizations (churches, community groups) for such guidance. Many of these organizations receive and provide legal guidance from groups like the National Immigration Law Center, and are positioned to provide help and guidance at the local level.
TNLA has had great success accessing Legislators and their Staff. This is a testament to TNLA’s visibility at the Capitol and TNLA PAC. As always, thank all of you for supporting our legislative endeavors. If we can ever be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to call.
February 10, 2017
This week, the Speaker’s Office handed down Committee assignments for the House. While many of the Committee Chairs stayed the same, there was a bit of a shakeup with some new Chairmen this Session. After looking at the assignments, many of our friends in the House have landed on, or are Chairmen of Committees that are the most important to us. In this respect, TNLA looks to be in good shape once Committee work begins. Things should really get rolling this week!
In other news, TNLA has joined a coalition of agriculture groups working on new legislation that will protect landowner rights in eminent domain cases. This legislation will provide for the reimbursement of landowner expenses if they are sued by a condemnor and are ultimately awarded significantly more than the final offer. It will also spell out the use and restriction details required within a condemnor’s “bona fide offer” to ensure the entity will properly use and maintain the property.
SB 740, SB 741 and SB 742 by Senator Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) will provide common sense reforms in several areas of concern for landowners. Additional details on the coalition’s initiatives can be found by visiting the Texans for Property Rights website.
This is shaping up to be a big fight with our coalition on one side, and tort reform groups, local government entities and utility associations on the other. We are still looking for a sponsor in the House, but we believe we should have one nailed down by this week. TNLA will keep Members abreast of any developments as we move forward in this endeavor.
February 3, 2017
The fourth week of the 85th Session has come and gone and it appears things are really about to ramp up next week when House committee assignments come out. The rumor is there will be some shake up with committee chairs, but until the assignments are handed down by the Speaker it’s just a rumor. It appears the House Leadership is slow-playing these assignments to counteract the Senate who has hit the ground running passing bills like SB 4 (Sanctuary Cities) out of committee. Regardless of how the House committee assignments turn out, TNLA feels we will be in good position and may even have more of our friends in chairmanship positions.
Currently, not much has changed concerning bills that might affect our industry. More good than bad, and we are working diligently to address the bad bills and advocate for the good ones. Historically, once committee assignments are handed down there is an uptick in bill filings. TNLA staff will continue to monitor these filings and engage when necessary.
This week, in his State of the State address, Governor Abbott laid out his emergency items for the Session. You can click the links below for and in depth perspective on the State of the State address and the Governor’s four emergency items.
Session should go from 0-60 next week, and I look forward to filling you all in once the House committees are in place. Thank all of you for being engaged in TNLA’s legislative efforts and please don’t hesitate to reach out to TNLA Staff with any questions or concerns.
January 20, 2017
So far, it has been an uneventful first couple of weeks into the 85th Legislative Session. As I mentioned last week, TNLA has been tracking bills that may affect our industry and currently everything seems calm on on the home front. This likely to change since we have had a number of legislative offices contact us on bills they are yet to file that they think might affect us. We are looking at these bills and if we have issues with any of them our goal is to get them cleaned up or killed before they are even filed.
This week, Senate Committees were assigned but we are still waiting for the House to do the same. The House members have put their committee requests in to the Speaker, so we should see committee assignments come out at the end of this month or early February. Until then, this Session is in somewhat of a holding pattern.
With the release of the Senate Budget Bill (SB 1) there looks to be some good news for us concerning the Texas Department of Agriculture's funding and our Phytosanitary Certificate Inspection Fee issue. As introduced in the budget, the program is still being funded through General Revenue. This means, we may have dodged a bullet when it comes to cost recovery that would have changed our fee structure. TNLA will continue to monitor the budget process to ensure the funding stream for this program stays as is.
In closing, we would like to thank all of you who support TNLA PAC. Due to the access we've had and the number of legislative offices that have reached out to TNLA on their bills, it is evident that we are definitely on the radar down at the Capitol.
January 13, 2017
This 85th Legislative Session is shaping up to be much like the 82nd Session in 2011. After two sessions of running in the black, Texas is faced with a budget shortfall and red meat social issues like sanctuary cities seem to be the hot button topics. Currently, TNLA Staff is reviewing the bills that have been submitted looking for good bills to support and bad bills that we need to fight or have amended. So far, it appears there will be more bills we will support than bills we’ll need to fight.
On Tuesday, Legislators were officially sworn in and our good friend Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) was elected to a record fifth term as Speaker of the House. Speaker Straus being elected was never in doubt, but what came as a surprise was him receiving a unanimous vote when many thought he would meet some opposition from the far-right wing in the House. Now that the Speaker is officially in place, TNLA is in a good position to have our friends in the House appointed to key committees at the end of this month.
TNLA has met with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and Legislators to talk about strategies to get the Agency the money it needs to properly protect our industry. Per Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s report on Monday, it looks like the State Budget will have around a 4-billion-dollar shortfall this Session. This means getting TDA the funding they are requesting is going to be a tough haul. The good news is the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) or Rainy Day Account used for emergency budgeting is sitting at approximately 11.5 billion dollars. The question is whether our Legislators will tap into the ESF to sure up the budget.
In summation, aside from securing funding for the TDA, TNLA looks to be in position to play defense. That is not a bad position to be in, but if something that threatens our industry arises we will engage. The next couple of weeks should be uneventful until committee assignments come out, but we will continue to keep you all abreast on what is going on in the Capitol.
TNLA appreciates the opportunity to work on your behalf, so please don’t hesitate to call if we can ever be of service.
Want more information on current issues?