In A Session Packed With Headline-Grabbing Issues, These ‘Sleeper’ Bills Could Still Mean Big Changes

This legislative session, public radio stations across Texas are letting you choose some of the stories we cover and questions we answer. It’s a project we’re calling Texas Decides. Bills that could change city annexation rules, study the impact of driverless cars, and protect Texas water conservation districts are all on this session’s legislative agenda.

By Laura RiceMarch 27, 2017 2:29 pm, , , ,

Today, with all the talk of bathroom bill this and school vouchers that, one question that comes up a lot is… What aren’t we hearing about?  Many other bills are under consideration, too. If passed, they could have a serious impact on Texans. Several of these bills have remained largely under the radar.

One of the ‘sleeper bills’ that could have a major impact on communities across the state focuses on land annexation. Senator Donna Campbell filed Senate Bill 715, also known as the Texas Annexation Reform Act, to protect property owners from involuntary annexation. As it stands, cities can annex unincorporated areas that are receiving city services without informing residents.

“There’s been some concern that cities are going in and gobbling up these [areas],” says Ryan Poppe, the Capitol reporter for Texas Public Radio. “There’s a lot of unincorporated areas that want to remain unincorporated.”

The bill would require cities to inform residents that their area is under consideration for annexation and to get consent from a majority of the area’s property owners before moving forward.

The bill has received quite a bit of support so far, says Poppe, especially from residents of San Antonio, which has several unincorporated areas. The city’s mayor has put existing annexation plans on hold while state lawmakers decide the bill’s fate.

Another sleeper bill concerns driverless cars. Rep. Charlie Geren filed House Bill 3475 to study how autonomous vehicles fit into cities’ existing transportation plans, so Texas will be ready when these cars come on the market. State law doesn’t specifically address this technology.

Although Geren’s bill would not create new regulations, it would lay the groundwork for future rules that could make the state attractive to companies like Google that are pioneering these technologies.

“[The bill] also looks at whether or not Texas could be a hub for manufacturing these cars,” Poppe says. The Texas Automobile Dealers Association will likely be a major opponent of this legislation.

A final bill, filed by Rep. Lyle Larson would protect water conservation districts in the state. These districts, including those in East Texas, save water to transport to areas of the state, including West Texas,that face water shortages.

“He wants to make sure those rural communities between West Texas and East Texas don’t get missed, that they have a seat at the table if their water needs fall short but they don’t have the buying power that a major city like San Angelo or somewhere else might have,” Poppe says.


Written by Molly Smith.