Legislation Would Urge
Increased Flexibility, Cooperation
AUSTIN - The Senate today adopted a pair of resolutions aimed at giving Texas more flexibility and better coordination in implementing federal environmental rules.
Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 22 asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide more latitude to the state in implementing federal environmental programs and regulations. The second resolution, SCR 23, urges the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) to improve its coordination with federal regulators.
The resolutions were authored by Lake Jackson Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown, the chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Brown said the idea of the legislation is not to weaken enforcement of environmental regulations but to "let us be more creative in our planning and in our programs so that we can make the maximum of use of our state resources in meeting those requirements."
Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos asked Brown if the EPA might be more receptive to allowing Texas regulators greater freedom to enforce regulations if TNRCC would "rethink their position" on threatened litigation over federal environmental policy.
"That's another example, senator. If they give us a little bit more flexibility, (TNRCC) probably wouldn't have done that," Brown replied.
Corpus Christi Sen. Carlos F. Truan took the opportunity to compare the requested flexibility with another environmental issue.
"It is not to be confused with what we have had under previous laws, like the grandfathering of facilities?" Truan asked.
The State of Texas has allowed manufacturing, petroleum and power plants built before 1972 to operate out of compliance with more recent regulations.
"Because I'm following the example we have had here since 1972," Truan said, "when we took advantage of the flexibility of allowing the grandfathering of facilities that many thought, including myself, that by now (would) comply with the same regulations as any other facility that has come to be since 1972."
"It doesn't touch grandfathered facilities," Brown replied.
The Senate today also passed House Bill (HB) 551, which would allow licensed cosmetologists to work on a person's mustache or beard following a debate peppered with bad puns.
"This bill is very straight-edged, and we have trimmed all the unnecessary stubble so that the vote this morning will not be a close shave," said San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the bill's sponsor.
Also in today's session, a bill addressing Texas' liability for the operations of some health care facilities was the subject of a brief but sharp debate.
The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 801 would allow Texas to exercise immunity from liability for state mental health, chemical dependence and rehabilitation facilities.
A motion by CSSB 801's author, Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan, to bring the bill up for consideration failed to receive enough votes. Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief, the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, objected to giving the state immunity for its operation of those facilities.
A two-thirds vote of the members present is required to bring a bill up for consideration in the Senate. Although the motion to consider the bill failed Friday, the bill could come up again later in the session.
In other Senate news, Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff talked about the status of negotiations surrounding hate crimes legislation.
"We had a very good meeting (this morning)," Ratliff said. "It was free of the kind of emotional dialogue that went on yesterday. It was a very, very constructive discussion."
The informal meetings will continue, he added, which increases the chances that an agreement can be reached.
The Senate stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday.