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Sun Sets Again on Reforming Texas Railroad Commission
Changing the name of the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) to more accurately reflect its duties as lead regulator over the state’s oil and natural gas industry and to provide more oversight over the elected members proved more difficult than some had thought, and the legislation died Tuesday in a state House committee.
The state Senate earlier this month had advanced legislation (SB 212) by Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), which sought to reform the RRC and require commissioners to resign from office before seeking new elected posts (see Daily GPI, May 6). Nichols’ bill also limited commissioners to a 17-month window during which they could seek campaign contributions for re-election, and it prohibited them from receiving contributions from parties with contested cases before the RRC.
Commissioners are elected to six-year terms, and they may receive contributions while they serve.
A more industry-friendly bill (HB 2166) by state Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) was never advanced from the House.
The Texas Legislature won’t adjourn until the end of the month, but Nichols’ bill and other reform packages likely will have to wait for the next session in two years, a Nichols aide told NGI.
Under the state’s sunset review process, the legislature is required to review an agency or it is to be stripped of its duties. Lawmakers now plan to use a schedule bill, legislation that delays an agency review until a future session. The RRC could be added to Bonnen’s schedule bill now in the Senate, HB 1675, which would allow more time to consider reform.
Similar legislation was used to hold RRC’s review in the 2011 legislative session when lawmakers also failed to enact any reforms (see Daily GPI, May 27, 2011).
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