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Legislative Report...

published: June 14th 2019

The usual issue topped the list of activities for the Texas Legislature. This, of course, was the passage of Senate Bill 1- the state budget for the next two years. The total budget amount for the next two year period totaled $250.7 billion. Keep in mind that this amount is the sum-total of state revenue and includes a large amount of federal funds. The amount was certified as a balanced budget by State Compt-roller of Public Accounts, Glenn Hegar. A couple of unusual things occurred during this budget cycle. First , there was only one NO VOTE, as the Texas House of Representatives approved the new state budget. Secondly, Govern-or Abbott signed and passed the budget into law without using his authority to veto a single line item within the budget. If my memory serves me correctly, this is a first in recent years.
    The other major em-phasis issues, as stated by the Governor - Lt. Govern-or and Speaker of the House were addressed in the following:
    Senate Bill 3. It provides new and additional funding for Texas Public education. This legislation was tightly affixed to Senate Bill 2. Supposedly this provides for property tax relief for state property owners. The Teacher Retirement Sys-tem (TRS) is to be provided additional funding, which hopefully provides badly needed state funding required to keep this all important area of public education afloat.
    These two pieces of legislation are far too complex and involved to get into the in-depth details in this report. There is still little consensus as to “how” teacher pay raises are to be dealt with by the local school district.
    This was also a very interesting and challenging session in areas other than property tax reduction and education funding. We, who represent agricultural organizations and rural issues, saw the beginning of a new era. We saw more trespass, animal rights activities and issues dealing with social media being used to present misleading information and challenges to our state’s agricultural wellbeing. My prediction is that we will see these issues becoming more prevalent in subsequent legislative sessions. We introduced legislation dealing with misleading and false labeling of meat products with fake meat being portrayed as an animal product. This legislation was strongly opposed by vegan and anti-animal agriculture groups. It might surprise you to learn that some of our regular meat packers are also involved in the production and sales of “fake meat” products. A great case of lighting the candle at both ends, if and when potential profits are involved. We also introduced legislation making trespass laws, as related to agricultural facilities and operations, more stringent. This would have raised the levels of offense for agricultural trespass. We are now having numerous incidents over the state involving extremist animal rights groups entering private facilities and operations. This legislation was also bitterly opposed by those associations and groups, as you would imagine. Social media is being widely used by these groups in their effort to discredit our usual agricultural practices. Let me also note that individual state’s “Right To Farm” laws are being challenged in courts at all levels.
    The major issues we ag guys and gals dealt with were: Eminent domain, protecting our private property rights, false labeling of meat products and animal rights groups entering private agricultural facilities. Eminent domain faced the same challenges we faced in the previous legislative sessions. Proper-ty owners are outmanned, out lobbied and far out financed. Agricultural as-sociations and organizations have expended tremendous political effort during the last two sessions on this critical issue with minimal return on investment.
    Overall, his was a milder/quieter legislative session. More genuine issues were dealt with and less push for less meaningful issues. The three state leaders demonstrated a genuine effort to work for common and “real” goals.

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