UPDATE: Contact your state representative ASAP and urge him or her to vote NO on HB 3114! This legislation could be scheduled for a floor vote anytime. Unfortunately the committee reported this bill favorably on April 4 by a 5-4 vote. Representatives Lozano, Thompson, Kacal, Kuempel, and Morrison voted for the bill (against our position). Representatives Blanco, Reynolds, Turner, and Zwiener voted against the bill.
This is the time in the Texas legislative session when our involvement can make or break bills—good and bad. HB 3114 is a very bad bill currently being considered by the House Environmental Regulation Committee. A public hearing was held in committee March 20 and the committee will vote on this bill soon. We need to make our voices heard now!
Why Is this Bill So Bad?
HB 3114 is part of an ongoing effort to undermine the hearing process and make it even easier for corporations to obtain permits by limiting or eliminating affected citizens’ rights to fight back.
While contested case hearings are far from perfect, we saw on March 6 that they do give affected individuals a hearing before an impartial judge. This piece of legislation would give TCEQ broad authority to reverse the recommendation of a contested case hearing and allow TCEQ to replace the independent SOAH judge with a lawyer hired by TCEQ—potentially creating a huge conflict of interest!
The bill is authored by Bryan Representative Kyle Kacal, who has received multiple contributions from the big quarry and concrete lobbyists.
What to Do—NOW!
Email or call (preferably both) all nine members of the House Environmental Regulation Committee (listed below). The committee will soon vote on whether to send this bill to the full house. Please urge them to vote NO on HB 3114. Explain your reasoning from the section above, read this document for more detailed talking points, or use our sample email template. Your input will be especially meaningful if you mention that you are currently involved or have been involved in a contested case hearing and appreciate the impartiality of the SOAH judge. (Also, if you have friends or relatives living in any of these districts, reach out to them: their voices as constituents may be even more powerful.)
The State of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), while not perfect, currently provides a level of independence and impartiality that is important to protecting private property rights and natural resources of Texas citizens.
Additionally, the SOAH Sunset review in 2015 noted that the Legislature’s ongoing investment in SOAH as an independent hearing tribunal has improved fairness, reduced bias, and contained costs.
Should HB 3114 pass into law, a conflict of interest would exist and citizens’ rights in these cases would be further eroded. Replacing independent SOAH judges with attorneys that regularly represent either industry or environmental causes is unfair and unjust to Texans.
Furthermore, HB 3114 undermines the protection of Texas water—one of our most precious natural resources.
It is also important to contact your own state representative and ask him or her to personally communicate your opposition to all members of the Environmental Regulation Committee. If you live in Comal, Kendall, or Gillespie counties, Kyle Biedermann is your representative: