Legislature Passes Railroad Commission Sunset Bill

By Katie Carmichael, Alliance Public Relations & Government Relations Consultant
The Senate voted to reauthorize the Texas Railroad Commission this week, sending the agency’s Sunset Review bill to Governor Abbott’s desk for his signature. It was the third attempt in four legislative sessions to reauthorize the agency.
Most state agencies undergo Sunset Review once every 10 to 12 years. However, the Railroad Commission Sunset legislation has notoriously included controversial measures that failed to gain consensus and thus did not pass on two previous attempts.
This session, Rep. Larry Gonzales, who served as Chairman of the Sunset Committee and is the author of House Bill 1818 – the RRC Sunset bill – exhibited strong leadership early on in the process by pushing for a “clean bill” (i.e. a bill that does not include some of the divisive provisions that have prohibited its passage in years past). A committee substitute was voted out of the House Energy Resources Committee in mid-March, which included changes for which the Alliance’s government relations team and other industry associations advocated.
Primary provisions in HB 1818 include a pathway for the Commission to develop and implement an alternative dispute resolution policy; the development and dissemination of a monitoring and enforcement strategic plan by the RRC’s Oil and Gas Division; and the establishment of pipeline regulatory fees.
In late March, HB 1818 was introduced and voted off the House floor. Twenty five amendments were filed, many in an attempt to make political statements on irrelevant issues such as immigration and the so-called “bathroom bill.” However, only 11 of the 25 amendments filed were introduced on the floor, as the Speaker of the House Joe Straus ruled others non-germane. An amendment regarding E-Verify was successfully added onto the bill, which requires all contractors and subcontractors awarded a contract by the RRC to register and participate in the E-Verify program, ensuring workers are legally eligible for employment in the US.
After passing in the House, HB 1818 was received by the Senate and referred to the Senate Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee, where it was successfully voted out of on May 2. Eight amendments were presented in committee, making them eligible to be introduced on the Senate floor, however only one was introduced and it failed to pass.
On May 9, HB 1818 was successfully passed out of the Senate on a 29-2 vote and is heading to Governor Abbott’s desk for signature. The final version of the bill is available online here.