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The bill would make no appropriation but could provide the legal basis for an appropriation of funds to implement the provisions of the bill. The following fiscal analysis is from the Legislative Budget Board.
SB 523, if passed, would modify the Government Code by placing river authorities under a sort of limited review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. The rationale is that river authorities need to be made more accountable and that a sunset process will afford greater transparency and efficiency in the management of water resources.
The sunset process proposed would be much like the sunset review for other state agencies with the major difference being that river authorities would not be under threat of abolishment. The reports would be designed to provide information which would be used in improving the river authorities in question. Specifically, the reports would examine governance, management, operating structure, and compliance with the requirements set forth by the legislature.
A schedule would be put in place with the river authorities in question to be reviewed on a staggered schedule between 2017 and 2023 and then every twelve years thereafter.
SB 523 also requires that the river authorities pay the cost of the review. This cost is to be determined by the Sunset Advisory Commission. (Currently this cost is estimated as $454,426 in the 2016-2017 biennium and $1,698,350 for the next five years thereafter.) It also provides that if a sunset review is conducted the river authority in question would not be required to submit to a management audit under the Texas Administrative Code (Chapter 292, Title 30) for the next five years. The rationale here is that a limited sunset review serves roughly the same purpose and another audit would be of limited utility.
The river authorities which would be subject to this review are as follows:
1- Angelina and Neches River Authority
2- Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District
3- Brazos River Authority
4- Central Colorado River Authority
5- Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority
6- Lavaca-Navidad River Authority
7- Lower Colorado River Authority
8- Lower Neches Valley Authority
9- Nueces River Authority
10- Palo Duro River Authority
11- Red River Authority of Texas
12- Sabine River Authority of Texas
13- San Antonio River Authority
14- San Jacinto River Authority
15- Sulphur River Basin Authority
16- Trinity River Authority of Texas
17- Upper Colorado River Authority
18- Upper Guadalupe River Authority
The House committee substitute version makes some changes to sunset dates. We remain supportive of SB 523 in its second chamber.
First chamber recommendation:
SB 523 would make river authorities more accountable and transparent. By placing these authorities under review of the Sunset Advisory Commission (and having them bear the cost of the review) one will have a good measure of their management and financial health. That the authorities would not be under threat of abolishment is also helpful in maintaining transparency. This process would also be handled by existing government agencies and would not significantly expand the size of government. For these reasons, particularly the increase in transparency, we support SB 523.