State Rep. Erin Zwiener files legislation on TCEQ enforcement, climate change, voting access, more

Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) of House District 45 has filed 19 pieces of legislation during the 87th Legislative Session. The bills cover subjects such as TCEQ enforcement, climate change, voting access,  bodily autonomy education, landowner rights, billboards, and less-lethal ammunition.

“This is common sense legislation that will improve Texans’ lives,” Rep. Zwiener said in a statement. “These bills will protect clean air and water, get Texas on track to address the challenges of climate change, modernize the vote-by-mail process, and teach Texas children healthy boundaries.”

Here is a summary of legislation filed this session by Rep. Zwiener:

Filed Bills

HB 1820 Enhanced Pollution Protection Act: This legislation would strengthen the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s enforcement capabilities. Specifically, the bill would increase maximum penalties and tie penalties to inflation, raise penalties when first responders are injured responding to an emergency event, allow TCEQ to add penalty surcharges for permittees with a history of violations, eliminate loopholes that allow violators to avoid paying fines, and create a toxic alert system. This legislation comes in response to the series of fires and explosions in southeast Texas, including the Arkema explosion, the ITC fire, the TPC fire, and the KMCO explosion where one individual was killed, as well as statewide concerns about polluters slipping through the cracks.

HB 1821 Climate Forward Act: This legislation would require the state climatologist to coordinate with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to prepare a report on the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for reduction. It also requires an assessment of how climate change will impact the state including, emergency preparedness, agriculture, water supply, and human health. Given that the state does not monitor greenhouse gas emissions, this would be an important first step for the State of Texas to begin tackling climate change.

HB 1822 Modernizing Vote-by-Mail: This legislation would improve security, transparency, and access for individuals who are currently eligible to vote by mail. This bill would allow eligible voters to drop off their ballots in-person at early polling locations as well as at their county election office during the early voting period. This legislation would also require the Texas Secretary of State to establish an online tracking system so that voters can track the status of their mail-in ballot. This both ensures that every voter knows if their vote is counted and if someone has requested a ballot in their name.

HB 1823 Bodily Autonomy Education: This legislation would incorporate evidence-based curriculum on bodily autonomy into health education. Students would learn, in an age-appropriate manner, about the importance of respecting one another’s personal space and how to advocate for themselves if someone else is violating theirs. This will help students have healthier interpersonal relationships and provide another layer of protection from sexual abuse.

HB 1506 Quick Takes : Provides for up to a 180-day pause during the eminent domain process before a condemning private entity can take possession of a property after the monetary award is determined by a Special Commissioners’ hearing. This will encourage condemning entities to negotiate an agreeable settlement and allow time for any planned litigation, ensuring that individuals whose property is being condemned have a greater voice and ample opportunity to negotiate a fair deal.

HB 1512 Billboards: Grants authority to the Hays County Commissioners, instead of Texas Department of Transportation, to handle permitting for billboards in unincorporated areas along Farm to Market and Ranch to Market roads. This will allow Hays County to determine where billboards make sense and where they don’t, following a number of billboards appearing along rural roads in areas of Hays County that depend on scenic tourism.

HB 1513 Less Lethal Ammunition: Bans law enforcement from using less-lethal ammunition that causes blunt force trauma as a means for crowd control. Less-lethal munitions were not designed for crowd control and do not have the same precision as standard bullets. Their use during the protests following the death of George Floyd resulted in two individuals from House District being severely injured after being struck in the head. One individual suffered a fractured skull, the other a fractured jaw.

HCR 12: Designating Kyle as the official Pie Capital of Texas for a 10-year period beginning in 2021.

HCR 13: Designating San Marcos as the official Mermaid Capital of Texas for a 10-year period beginning in 2021.

HJR 17: Proposing a constitutional amendment to authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation the portion of the assessed value of a person’s property that is attributable to the installation in or on the property of a rainwater harvesting or graywater system.

HB 37 Pipeline: This legislation would establish a public routing process for oil and gas pipelines, which would require these companies to go through the same processes that governmental entities must follow for things like roads and powerlines. In HD 45, the Kinder Morgan pipeline came through and exercised this power. A public routing process would provide landowners with a greater voice and help ensure that the process is fair for all parties.

HB 48 Sexual Harassment : This bill would add sexual harassment protections for employees in businesses with fewer than 15 people, which does not currently exist.

HB 160 Voting: This bill would add student IDs issued by Texas public universities and other institutions of higher learning to the list of acceptable forms of voter ID. Currently you can vote using your driver’s license, passport, handgun license, military ID, citizenship certificate, personal ID, or election ID.

HB 176 Container Ban: This bill would give local governments the authority to ban containers
should they choose. I filed this legislation, because it’s a particular interest to the City of San
Marcos where individuals float the river and often litter with aluminum cans.

HB 186 Conservation Tax Incentives: This bill would provide an ad valorem tax exemption for
homeowners who install rainwater or graywater systems. This would encourage water
conservation efforts, which is so crucial in parts of the state where water is scarce. We already
provide ad valorem tax exemptions for individuals who install solar panels on their homes.

HB 242 Edwards Aquifer: This legislation would require oil gas companies operating in the
Edwards Aquifer recharge zone to submit a water pollution abatement plan. I filed this
legislation in response to the Kinder Morgan Permian Highway Pipeline that comes through the
heart of the Hill Country and the Edwards. When protections for the Edwards Aquifer were first
established, I believe oil and gas pipelines weren’t considered because a new one pipeline
hadn’t come through the region in decades. Requiring oil and gas companies to submit a water
pollution abatement plan would at least require companies to give some forethought on planning
for dangerous leaks or accidents.

HB 298 Dark Skies: As a part of the Hill Country, preserving dark skies is important for some of the communities in the district, several of which are International Dark Sky Communities. This legislation would allow cities to extend dark sky ordinances to their extraterritorial jurisdiction. We are also working on some other dark sky legislation for a couple of communities in the district.

HB 348 TCEQ Permits: This bill would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to publish permit applications online, which would help increase transparency at the agency and would allow interested individuals and groups to track potential projects in their region.

HB 441 Marijuana Decriminalization : The bill uses existing legal procedures so that possession of a personal use amount of marijuana could only result in a ticket and a small fine, without an arrest or lasting criminal consequences.