SB 523

84(R) - 2015
Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs
Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs
Energy & Environment
Sunset Act

Companion Bill

HB 1290

Vote Recommendation

  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Positive
  • Neutral


Brian Birdwell

Bill Caption

Relating to the sunset review of river authorities.

Fiscal Notes

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.

Fiscal Analysis:

The bill makes 18 Texas river authorities subject to review by the Sunset Advisory Commission (Commission), but not abolishment, from fiscal years 2017 to 2023, and every 12 years thereafter.; The bill establishes a schedule for reviewing all of the authorities over the next four biennia. The bill requires each river authority to pay the cost of the review as determined by the Commission, and requires the agency to review each authority's governance, management, operating structure, and compliance with legislative requirements.

The bill would take effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all members elected to each house. If the bill does not receive the votes required to pass, the bill would take effect September 1, 2015.


The requirement for the Commission to conduct a limited review of river authorities on the schedule established by the bill would result in costs to the Commission of $454,426 during the FY 2016-2017 biennium, and $1,698,350 over the next five fiscal years. All of these costs would be reimbursed by the river authorities; Each river authority would continue to pay similar costs every 12 years for subsequent Sunset reviews as long as the bill is in effect.

According to the Commission, the review would cost approximately $11,075 per analyst assigned to a team, per month. Estimated costs for each review assumes 90 percent of the time required to conduct the review would be needed in even-numbered fiscal years, as this is when the Commission's workload is more intensive, and that all travel would occur during even-numbered years.  The analysis assumes river authority reviews are in addition to the Commission's body of work assigned for each of the next four biennia, and would result in the need for additional staff to conduct these reviews, including three additional full-time staff in the 2016-17 biennium.

Local Government Impact:

There would be a cost to river authorities for reimbursing the Commission for their services. For river authorities scheduled for evaluation in the 2016-17 biennium, estimated costs would be $93,600 for the Angelina and Neches River Authority, $95,100 for the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District, $93,600 for the Central Colorado River Authority and $172,126 for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority. River authorities may also experience additional internal costs to comply with provisions of the bill.

Bill Analysis

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

Vote Recommendation Notes

5/21/15 update:

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.

Organizations Supporting

Texas Farm Bureau
Texas Public Policy Foundation
The Sierra Club