North Texas Daily

Reject Rep. King’s House Bill 539

Reject Rep. King’s House Bill 539

Reject Rep. King’s House Bill 539
January 27
00:06 2015

The Editorial Board

Denton’s ban on hydraulic fracturing faces opposition from state agencies and politicians. Texas lawmakers should not allow House Bill 539 to take effect, because the language of the bill is ambiguous, and leads to an unpredictable matter.

The bill would legally force any municipality to pay for the damages to the state as a result of an “oil or gas measure,” like Denton’s fracking ban. Abstractly, the bill says go ahead and ban fracking. You’ll just have to pay for the state’s loss in tax revenues, personal royalties, licenses and education funding. The bill calls for the municipality to reimburse the state for a five-year period upon the ordinance’s inception.

State Representative Phil King would have a municipality request that the Legislative Budget Board prepare a fiscal note, or a price tag associated with a bill or measure, and an education funding impact statement (how much money school districts would lose).

The argument is porous from the beginning. In line 18 of page two, the bill would allow the director of the Legislative Budget Board to consider “information or data supplied by any person, agency, organization, or governmental unit” when determining the amount of money the city owes. This effectively means any firm, activist or industry could provide data. See a problem here?  King would leave the credibility of the data to the discretion of the Legislative Budget Board. That keeps the decision-making in the hands of elected officials.

A look at King’s list of contributing Political Action Committees provided by the Texas Ethics Commission will show just how concerning the bill appears. In the finance report filed 30 days prior to the 2014 midterm elections, King reported donations from Atmos Energy Corporation PAC, Exxon Mobil PAC, Marathon Oil Company PAC, Koch Industries, Inc. PAC and BP North America Employees PAC. In the latest report, filed Jan. 15, King added Devon Energy Corporation PAC to the list of energy PACs contributing to his politics.

It seems difficult for politicians to detach from the demands of the industries that fund them, but if this act prevails, Texans should examine who favored it and why. Head on over to the Texas Ethics Commission’s website and see for yourself who contributed to whom.

Furthermore, HB 539 would have the city pay the losses to affected school districts. This portion of the bill is reasonable, because schools should not lose revenue due to a city’s choice in ordinances. Why should students who are not of voting age be subjected to a rule that could potentially strain their education?

If this bill succeeds, it will show Texas oil and gas needs outweigh the environmental concerns of local citizens. Notice how Texas’ conservatism calls for a small government approach until now, when a liberal policy (the fracking ban) is established. The precedence this bill sets could lead us to a path of even more lawmaking influenced by lobbyists (remember the PACs).

While there is merit in holding a municipality accountable for lost revenue, the premise here isn’t focused on equity, rather the heavy lobbying efforts of corporations aforementioned influenced the authorship of this bill. We predict this because of the industry lobbying effort just before Denton’s fracking ban vote in the midterm election. Finance reports show $1.1 million was spent in opposition to the ban.

Grassroots political efforts are unique to this great state. The fracking ban in Denton was a grassroots political effort, and politicians — especially those without representative relevancy to the area — should not combat such efforts.

The constitutionality of Denton’s fracking ban is soon to be determined, and the two cases against the ban are necessary to complete the movement. But political retribution should not underscore this issue.


30 Days prior to election

Jan. 15, 2015

Featured Image: The Texas House of Representatives chamber at the Capitol in Austin. The 84th Texas Legislature began on Jan 13th. Photo by Dalton LaFerney – Views/Digital Editor

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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