The Texas Legislature is officially underway!
We caught up with Amarillo Rep. John Smithee to get his thoughts on the Session and some of the topics lawmakers will be addressing. Those questions and his unedited responses are below.
AM: What is the number one issue facing the State, and what kind of legislation might be filed to address it?
JS: There does not appear to be one dominant issue but there will be a number of important issues. One will be the adequacy of our electric grid. Of course, this issue does not directly affect the Amarillo area because our electric provider, Southwestern Public Service, is part of the Southwest Power Pool rather than in ERCOT. Even so, maintaining an adequate electric energy capability throughout the State is important for all of us. We also have statewide water issues that need to be addressed sooner than later. We will also be considering whether to renew the so-called Chapter 313 incentives for industrial development. Our area has benefitted from these incentives over the years, but legislation authorizing those incentives has now expired. I think it is important to keep incentives available for wind energy development in our area.
AM: What do you think is the best way to invest the historic $32.7 billion budget surplus?
JS: Some of the surplus will be necessary to raise salaries of many of our State employees just to keep up with inflation. I am hoping a large share can go to property tax relief. We are also needing to devote some portion to improvement of our State infrastructure.
AM: Are there any bills you'll be filing that you personally think are important to issues relating to Amarillo and West Texas?
JS: We are working on legislation to more clearly define property rights when wind energy is developed on a landowner’s property. Good legislation in this area would be helpful to both landowners and wind energy developers. We are also working to obtain a much-needed State mental hospital in Amarillo. We are also working on some projects for Palo Duro Canyon and our local higher education institutions.
The legislature continues through May 29.