Water Legislative Update (TFB Austin Newsletter 5-11-13)

HB 4, by Representative Allan Ritter (R-Nederland), and SB 4, by Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), have both been passed by the Senate.? The bills create the State Water Implementation Fund to finance revolving loan programs for water infrastructure and conservation projects. The committee substitute still requires the 16 different Regional Water Planning Groups in the state to prioritize projects in their regional plans, and the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will be required to rank projects in the State Water Plan according to a point system.? However, the point system is no longer tiered, and the TWDB must give equal weight to the following factors in awarding points:
The TWDB must award the highest points to projects that meet the following criteria:

*? Serve large populations

*? Provide assistance to a diverse urban and rural population

*? Provide regionalization

*? Meet a high percentage of the water supply needs of the water users to be served by the project

*? Amount of local contribution to finance the project

*? Financial capacity of the applicant to repay

*? Ability of the board and applicant to leverage financing in a timely manner

*? Whether there is an emergency

*? If the project is “shovel ready” at the time of application

*? The effect on water conservation

*? Priority given by Regional Water Planning Groups
To ensure that rural areas are supported, at least 10 percent of the fund must be used for projects designed to serve rural political subdivisions and agriculture water conservation projects. The bills also require 20 percent of projects funded to be dedicated to water conservation and reuse. Updated language in the bills specifies that agricultural water conservation projects qualify under either of these fund set asides.
The bills change the structure and administration of the Texas Water Development Board. The Board will consist of three members instead of six and none may have served before Jan. 1, 2013. They also impose a two-term limit, and board member positions will become full time. Additionally, the bills provide that one member must have experience in engineering, one in public or private finance, and one in the field of law or business.
The House refused to concur in the Senate’s amendments to the bill. As a result, the bill has gone to Conference Committee. Committee members include:
House Chair:

Alan Ritter

Jim Keffer

Bill Callegari

Eddie Lucio III

Doug Miller
Senate Chair:

Troy Fraser

Glenn Hegar

Craig Estes

Tommy Williams

Carlos Uresti