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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.
HB 1290, 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.
HB 1290 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
For the purposes of transparency and full disclosure, we note up front that we supported the Senate version of this bill when it was before that body on second reading. However, upon further review of both bills we noticed a couple provisions that are troubling. While there are some aspects of both of these bills that we believe are good for limited government, there are other provisions that work in the opposite direction. For these reasons we are withdrawing our support of SB 523 and remaining neutral on HB 1290.
We appreciate that HB 1290 would make some 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.
However, we note that this bill would actually delay the Brazos River Authority's sunset review to 2023 as opposed to 2017 as originally proposed in the filed version of the Senate legislation. This is a perplexing shift because the review dates were originally organized in alphabetical order.
Furthermore, and more importantly, both HB 1290 and SB 523 would prevent the highly controversial Sulphur River Basin Authority (SRBA) from expiring in 2017 as currently scheduled. Allowing the SRBA to expire would move in the direction of limited government. Placing it under sunset review with the provision that it can not be abolished goes in the opposite direction.
Balancing the fact that SB 523 and HB 1290 both contain provisions that would add government transparency while also containing other provisions that seem to diminish government transparency and prevent a government entity with eminent domain authority from being abolished, we are neutral on both of these bills.