Reps. Metcalf and Toth, Why? Concern Mounts about Last Minute Amendment to San Jacinto River Authority Bill - Why to Call State Legislators Now
The following article was submitted by Robert Lux, President of the Woodlands Water Agency Board of Trustees.
We all need and use water. However, we are depleting and collapsing our precious aquifers in Montgomery County because of over-pumping the groundwater. This depletion can be mitigated by piping treated surface water from Lake Conroe to parts of the county as a complementary source of water. This benefits ALL of Montgomery County because it helps protect and conserve aquifer levels and capacity for all groundwater users in the county. The foresight and planning of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) has made alternate sources of water possible with a shared cost model in the county.
Private groundwater interests and certain municipalities are not happy with this and are attempting to undermine the SJRA by pushing for targeted legislation that would force the General Manager, Jace Houston, out of his position. This is an abuse of the legislative process and it does nothing to address any underlying issues and concerns for Montgomery County, which will need water from multiple sources now and in the future. Our precious groundwater resource should be managed on a conservative basis for widespread public benefit. It should not be treated as an inexhaustible resource.
Representative Metcalf, Why? How does this improve SJRA? Representative Toth, Why are you supporting this bill?
See how you can take immediate action below.
A last-minute amendment to a current Texas House Bill (HB 1540) would result in Jace Houston being replaced as General Manager of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), Jace's current position. The currently approved House bill conflicts with a previously approved Texas Senate Bill (SB 2586).
This is wording that was added to HB 1540 which is directly aimed at Jace:
"SECTION 6. Not later than the 30th day after the effective date of this Act, the board of directors of the San Jacinto River Authority shall appoint the general manager of the authority. The board of directors may not appoint or reappoint an individual as general manager if the individual was appointed or employed by the authority as general manager during the six months preceding the effective date of this Act."
There are several online sources that provide additional details. I will include links at the end of the note. What is critical is that you know who the key players are:
- State Representative Will Metcalf (District 16) - Author of the amendment to HB 1540 and leading the legislative effort to remove Jace.
- State Senator Brandon Creighton (SD - 4) - Texas Senator for our area and key contact for getting the Senate to reject Rep. Metcalf's amendment.
- State Representative Tracy King (District 80) Chair of the House Natural Resource Committee which moved HB 1540 to the House in its original form without the amendment by Rep. Metcalf.
Let me touch on some of the issues with the last-minute amendment to HB 1540 on the House floor.
- Jace is a true professional and public servant. Folks can have honest disagreements over policy, but no one should ever question Jace's commitment to do what is in the best interest of those impacted by the SJRA. Attacking Jace in this round-about fashion is wrong.
- The SJRA has a board of directors appointed by the governor. That board has responsibility for staffing the SJRA General Manager position. The Legislature should not engage in micromanaging state agencies with direct action to change general managers. This amendment is a significant legislative overreach of powers into the executive branch.
- Bills are typically amended as part of the discussion within the appropriate committee. Rep. Metcalf did not introduce his amendment while the bill was in committee but rather waited until the bill was on the House floor. I suspect Rep. Metcalf avoided action in the Natural Resources Committee, which he sits on and is chaired by Rep. King, because he understood his proposed amendment was out of order and would have been rejected by the Committee.
- This attempt to remove Jace via the legislative process is another example of the misuse of government to achieve an action harmful to the general population, but beneficial to a smaller group.
You Can Take immediate Action
You can take immediate action by contacting these elected officials immediately and expressing your opposition to Rep. Metcalf's amendment to HB 1540. Make sure to state that your comments are "for the record." You can ask that the House drop their amended version and endorse the content of SB 2586. Here are the details for the suggested calls. Making calls is really needed to ensure those in Austin understand there is a significant portion of Montgomery County that rejects Rep. Metcalf's amendment.
- State Senator Brandon Creighton (SD - 4). Phone (512) 463-0104. Rep. Metcalf has attempted to frame his amendment as a "local" issue with himself speaking for the local community. Senator Creighton also represents the area. We need Sen. Creighton to understand we do not support Rep. Metcalf's amendment to HB 1540. Specifically, ask Sen. Creighton to reject the current version of HB 1540 due to the amendment.
- State Representative Will Metcalf (District 16). Phone (512) 463-0726. Call Rep. Metcalf to voice your opposition to his amendment to HB 1540. Request Rep. Metcalf to reconsider the direction he proposed and encourage him to seek other approaches to resolve any issues he has with the SJRA.
- State Senator Charles Perry (SD - 28). Phone (512 463-0128). Call Senator Perry and ask him to reject Metcalf's amendment to HB 1540. He is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture & Rural affairs, which HB 1540 would have to pass through.
- Governor Greg Abbott. Phone (512) 463-1782. We need Gov. Abbott to engage while the measure is still being considered by the House and Senate. Ask Gov. Abbott to oppose HB 1540 as amended. The HB directly conflicts with the authority of his appointed board of directors to staff the general manager position at the SJRA. Gov. Abbott needs to defend his executive authority as currently legislated and oppose this overreach by the Texas House.
- If you do not live in Rep. Metcalf's district, please also call your Texas House Representative. If HB 1540 is re-introduced to the House as part of a reconciliation with the Senate, voice your opposition to Rep. Metcalf's amendment. Other representatives for our area include: Rep. Cecil Bell, District 3, phone (512) 463-0650; Rep. Steve Toth, District 15, phone (512) 463-0797; Rep. Ernest Bailes, District 18, phone (512) 463-0570.
- If you do not live in Sen. Creighton's district, please also call your senator. Ask them to reject the current version of HB 1540 due to the amendment. Some local senators to call who may take a stand on this matter include Sen. Robert Nichols (SD - 3) phone: (512)-463-0103, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (SD - 18) phone: (512)-463-0118, and Sen. Paul Bettencourt (SD - 7) phone: (512)-463-0107.
Links to additional online information:
Background and status information:
Online resources for information on legislation. You can use this to research and track progress on specific bills. Remember to specify HB or SB, e.g. HB 1540 and SB 2586, when looking up bills.
Contact details for House Members:
Contact details for Senate Members:
Montgomery County Elections site to confirm your elected officials. Enter your voter information to identify your Texas House Representative.
This is an important opportunity to take a stand for righteousness and truth in our society. What is being attempted to remove Jace is wrong. Not only do we need to support Jace in this challenging time, we also need to hold our elected officials responsible for acting in a transparent fashion. We need to stop the legislature from improperly interfering with the SJRA. Please feel free to share this request with others. We need as many phone calls as possible to ensure those in Austin understand the broad opposition to Rep. Metcalf's amendment to HB 1540.
Thank you for taking your time to be informed and to act.