Perry Wants to Save Water, Keep the Railroad Commission Unreformed

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Water conservation bills got this signature, but a bill on the Railroad Commission so did not.
After all of the hubbub that surrounded the passing of the state water plan, Gov. Rick Perry signed some water conservation legislation into law last Friday with nary a ripple in the political waters.

Water companies will have to audit water lines to check for leaks that could be losing water, and they'll also have to kick in some aid money to actually fix those leaking lines -- with 95 percent of the state in drought, as it was last week, it feels like a good time to be concerned over every drop. So those bills got signed into law with relative ease.

The same can't be said for the Ethics Commission sunset bill recommendations for the Railroad Commission. The RRC, despite that misleading name, is charged with overseeing oil and gas goings-on in Texas. This being Texas, the commissioners have a lot of political clout to wield and some may use their position to swing themselves up the political ladder. Right now, for example, RRC Chairman Barry Smitherman is pondering his political future and some kind of announcement -- possibly a bid to become state attorney general -- is expected this week, according to the Texas Tribune.

In a review of the RRC, the Ethics Commission advised a few changes, namely Senate Bill 219, which would require RRC members to resign from the commission before running for office, according to StateImpact Texas.

Other bills on the RRC -- one preventing commissioners from accepting campaign donations from those who have contested cases before the regulatory agency, and another changing the RRC's name to the less confusing Texas Energy Resources Commission - died long before they ever got anywhere near Perry's desk. However, the bill on having commissioners resign before running for other office easily cleared both the state House of Representatives and the Senate. So when Perry vetoed the bill, he was straight up going against the 83rd Legislature, which seems like something worth noting.

On the upside, while there is no reform in sight for the RRC, Perry definitely seems to be pro-water conservation. And it seems his bill-signing penmanship is lovely when he cares to use it.



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