Legislative Session Round-Up for Affiliates
On May 27th, the Texas Legislature's 86th session concluded. Out of the 8,753 bills filed for the session, 1429 were passed, a few of these of interest to KTB affiliates. These include allocations of funds to parks in the state budget and a bill concerning the recycling industry.
One interesting bill passed this session was Senate Bill 649, which concerns the recycling industry in Texas. This bill was proposed partly in response to news in recent years that China and India will dramatically decrease their buying of American recycled goods in the future. The US has previously relied on these countries heavily for the handling of US recycled goods, which put the country in a bit of a lurch when our recycling materials were refused. Senate Bill 649 was passed to ensure Texas is adequately prepared to deal with this problem. The law has several different parts. The bill requires the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office to create a plan for increasing the use of recycled goods as raw materials in the processing and manufacturing industry. The plan is to include an analysis of the current state of the use of recycled materials in these industries and an estimation of the economic benefits, both current and potential, of using recycled materials in these industries. It also calls for those making the plan to recommend methods and processes that could be applied by both state and local governments to increase the use of these recycled materials. The bill also calls for the creation of a public education program that highlights the economic benefits of recycling with details like job creation, economic impact, percent of waste recycled, and taxes/fees paid by the recycling industry. The education program is required to spotlight manufacturers who are using recycled materials and provide information on the negative effects of recycling incorrectly.The report is supposed to be finished and made available to the public by September of 2021. This legislation is good news as it ensures Texas will be better prepared for the recycling landscape of the future.
There was also good news for parks this legislative session. First, a constitutional amendment passed which included some additional funding for state parks and historic sites. Pending voter approval in November, all funds received from the state sales tax on sporting goods will be sent to Texas Parks and the Texas Historical Commission. Of these funds, Texas Parks and Wildlife will receive 93% of them while the Historical Commission will receive 7%. No information has been provided by TPW on how it will use its additional funding, but it is thought that this money will likely be used to improve old and failing park roads, bathrooms, and other infrastructure. A senate bill detailing how this new money will be given out has also been passed. Additionally, the state appropriations bill included an allotment of $12.5 million for the development of Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, which will be near Strawn, TX. No opening date has been set yet, as the park still needs to secure funding (about $8-10 million) beyond what the Texas legislature granted. Check back at the Texas Parks and Wildlife page for the park to see any available updates on a projected opening date. Hopefully, the park will be able to secure this additional funding quickly and the park will be able to open sometime soon. These funding allotments will help guarantee Texan's have beautiful places to visit and admire for years to come.
As illustrated, several important steps were taken by this year's legislature concerning the environment. Although these bills look promising, it is too early to determine exactly how large their effects will be. Hopefully, any problems with these bills will be apparent by the time the 87th legislature convenes in 2021 when they can be improved upon if needed and more good legislation can be passed. Check out the KTB website for more resources on the past legislative session.
Blog Post Written By Kate Cox, Programs Intern.