HB 2748 failure offers chance for a better common carrier pipeline law
Statement by Texas Farm Bureau President Kenneth Dierschke on the failure of HB 2748
The failure of HB 2748 on a point of order in the Texas House, today, is a mixed blessing. Our organization believes a better process is needed at the Railroad Commission to determine if a pipeline is a common carrier with the power of eminent domain. Landowners directly affected by the pipeline must have an opportunity to participate. The process should not attempt to preempt a landowner's constitutional right during a condemnation hearing to contest whether their property is being taken for a truly public purpose. We all need to remember that it is not the landowner that sues the pipeline company, it is the pipeline company that sues the landowner to condemn their property. Farm Bureau will continue to insist on a fair process to determine common carrier status of a pipeline. We are hopeful that a future agreement would allow construction of pipelines and protection of private property rights.
May 29 primary election holds the key
By Billy Howe
State Legislative Director
On May 29, Republicans and Democrats will go to the polls to elect their party’s nominee for the general election in November. But, in reality, they are electing the person who will win the general election and be your next State Representative, State Senator or Congressman.
Political reality is that every 10 years the Texas Legislature redraws the districts for these offices in a fashion where the outcome of the general election is pre-determined. Congressional and state legislative districts are so weighted either Republican or Democrat that the general election is meaningless.
If you look at the voting history of our newly-drawn districts, this is what you will see. Of the 36 U.S. Congressional districts in Texas, only one district is competitive in the general election. In the Texas Senate, only three of the 31 districts are actually decided in November. And, out of the 150 districts in the Texas House, only nine are up for grabs in November.
What does this mean for you as a voter and member of Texas Farm Bureau? It depends on your political affiliation, but in general it means that if you want to make a difference where you live, you have to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary.
This is especially true if you consider yourself an Independent. Independents who wait for the general election simply aren’t influencing who represents them in the Texas Legislature or Congress.
This political reality means that an organization, such as ours with over 450,000 member-families, can have a big influence. The number of primary election voters in Texas is much less than the number of general election voters.
As a result, when Texas Farm Bureau members go vote in the May 29 primary election, our numbers can have a big impact. So, not only is it important for Texas Farm Bureau members to vote, it is critical that they vote in the primary election to truly make their vote count.
As May 29 approaches, remember that your greatest impact on who represents you in Congress or the Texas Legislature may be now, not in November.
Texas needs leaders in the Legislature
The 2010 elections will be remembered for the high turnover of incumbents, nationwide. In Texas, we certainly felt the effect with 35 new members of the Texas House—one of the highest turnover rates in a non-redistricting election in Texas history. Only the post-Sharpstown election resulted in a higher turnover.
The 2012 elections are already shaping up to follow the trend we see every 10 years after redistricting. Redistricting always results in a high turnover due to retirements, incumbents being drawn in to hostile districts because they are targeted for partisan or other reasons, and incumbents seeking other elected positions, often trying to move up the “food chain.”
Unfortunately, this may be yet another election where agriculture and rural Texas lose established leaders. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, agriculture and rural interests had a solid core of legislative leaders. While that core is still largely intact in the Texas Senate, it is on the verge of disappearing in the Texas House. When I use the term “leader,” it is not to describe someone that “votes with us.” Casting a vote takes minimal effort. Leadership means doing the “heavy lifting.” It means authoring legislation, rounding up votes for or against legislation, moving into leadership positions to help our industry and communities, and educating other legislators on our issues. There is no better “lobbyist” for our organization, industry, or communities than a legislator with the same passion for our values as our Farm Bureau leaders.
Since 2001, we have lost Pete Laney, Bob Turner, Rob Junell, Robby Cook, David Swinford, Warren Chisum, Rick Hardcastle, Jim McReynolds, and others who were the core of “our” leadership team. Fortunately, we have gained new members who are now proving to be leaders themselves. And, a few of the “old gang” are still in office. But, they certainly need more help after this last round of redistricting has continued the shift in political power to the urban areas. The answer to this dilemna is two-fold: one, find agricultural leaders to run in rural districts to replace our past leaders; and two, find agricultural leaders in urban districts.
Most people actively engaged in agriculture simply don’t take themselves seriously enough to believe that they can run for office. Farmers and ranchers are humble people. It is a quality that endears agricultural producers to others. However, the detrimental effect is that a lot of our local leaders don’t seriously consider themselves as potential candidates for state office, which, of course, shrinks the pool of agricultural candidates. Running for a state office takes time and planning. If we wait until someone like Rick Hardcastle decides to announce his retirement to look for someone to replace him, then our odds of being successful are very low. Agricultural producers have to start thinking about running for office, right now, even if opportunity to run won’t be until after the next redistricting in 2021.
The second point may sound far-fetched, but it isn’t. We all know that quality rural kids have moved to the urban areas for work. We also know that areas that were rural just 20 years ago are now suburban. Bottom line, is that there is agricultural leadership in the Texas suburbs. Glenn Hegar, Charlie Geren, Dan Gattis, Joe Crabb, Charlie Howard, Jimmie Don Aycock, and others all are solid agricultural people that now, or in the past, have served in suburban districts.
The bright spot for the 2012 elections is that there are a few quality agricultural candidates already announced. So, we do have an opportunity to build on our leadership team. But, our county leaders have to work hard to support them and get them elected. That is what Texas Farm Bureau is supposed to be built to do—make a difference at the grassroots level to benefit agriculture and rural communities.
Change will continue to come. Are we ready to deal with it?
New laws effective September 1, 2011
The 82nd Texas Legislature yielded several new laws that affect Texas agriculture, including stronger landowner rights during the eminent domain process, a potential producer-funded grain indemnity fund, specific groundwater ownership protection and registration to receive the state’s agriculture sales tax exemption. Click here to read more about the laws that took effect Sept. 1, 2011.