House Agrees to Lucio Amendments
Historic Water and Wastewater Bill sent to Governor's Desk
AUSTIN, TX--The Texas House of Representatives agreed this legislative session to adopt major revisions to House Bill 467, relating to the Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP), sending the amended bill to Gov. Rick Perry for final approval.
Originally, HB 467 sought to allow Harris and Fort Bend counties to participate in EDAP. Working with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston), and Rep. Kevin Bailey (D-Houston), Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., (D-Brownsville) substituted HB 467 completely into legislation that includes the exact language from his Senate Bill 964, strengthening the EDAP program by taking it statewide.
"The provisions found in SB 964 added to HB 467 were derived from two interim study charges that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst made to the Senate Committee on International Relations and Trade (IRT) pertaining to the water and wastewater needs of distressed areas in Texas (Charges 1 and 4)," said Sen. Lucio, Chairman of IRT.
"I am thankful for the leadership shown by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, as well as by Sen. Gallegos and Rep. Bailey, which afforded me the opportunity to completely substitute the language of the reforms that the IRT Committee recommended in our Interim Report to strengthen the EDAP program," noted Chairman Lucio. "Through my floor amendment, Texas will allow all distressed regions of the state the chance to participate in this successful state initiative."
Since the corresponding Constitutional Amendment (Senate Joint Resolution 27) to the EDAP initiative died in the Texas House because it was placed late on the House Calendar and time ran out to deliberate the Resolution, there still exists a need to provide the Texas Water Development Board increased bonding authority.
As part of Sen. Lucio's amendment to HB 467, Texas would allow for a statewide EDAP II initiative with enough room and flexibility for a future constitutional amendment to increase funding for the program.
"When hundreds of thousands of low-income working Texas families live without water and sewer, this a problem not only for them, but it is also a health and safety time bomb for our state," said Co-Director of the Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service John Henneberger. "We call on Governor Perry to address this issue by including in the call for a special session, if one is called, the provision of bonding authority to address these basic human needs."
Sen. Lucio also said that "now that we have established a statewide EDAP II initiative and have cut through much of the red tape, I strongly urge Gov. Perry in his deliberations concerning a possible special session to consider addressing the corresponding bonding authority needed to support the expanded water and wastewater initiative."
As amended, HB 467:
- Addresses the water and wastewater needs of Texas' distressed communities by opening and expanding EDAP statewide through streamlining the eligibility and application process.
- Defines an affected county as a county that has an economically distressed area which has a median household income that is not greater than 75 percent of the median state household income.
- Embodies the fiscal safeguards that the Senate developed by conservatively limiting the amount of bonds which can be issued by the Water Development Board, prior to receiving further issuance authority, to $50 million per year.
- Retains the safeguards that prevent the state from subsidizing the unscrupulous development and expansion of substandard housing (i.e., colonia-like developments) as part of the EDAP eligibility participation requirement.
- Provides the needed planning and capacity infrastructure support for additional communities to participate in EDAP.
NOTE: IRT Committee Director Dan Esparza handles these issues for Sen. Lucio, and he can be reached at 512-463-0385.