Editor's note: The story was updated to correct the first name of Rep. Will Metcalf.

The Texas Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs advanced a version of House Bill 1540 to the full Senate on May 12 without the amendment proposed by Rep. Will Metcalf that would have directed the board of the San Jacinto River Authority to replace its general manager, Jace Houston.

How we got here
  • The SJRA monitors water quality in the San Jacinto basin, provides water to municipal utility districts and other entities, and operates the Lake Conroe Dam. Its board members are appointed by the governor, and the board selects a general manager. The SJRA is not funded by the state.
  • HB 1540 was originally proposed as a bill to bring the SJRA in line with recommendations made by the Sunset Advisory Commission for four river authorities in 2022.
  • Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, added an amendment to the version passed to the Senate requiring the SJRA board of trustees to replace the general manager.
  • A substituted version of the bill without the amendment was put up for vote May 12 in the legislative committee.
What they're saying
  • Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock: “This is a heavily litigated issue. ... It’s related to partly personalities involved ... contract issues ... misinformation on both sides, a lot of hard feelings and emotions. ... States are never going to be a free mediation service.”
  • Jim Spigener, president of the board of directors of Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, speaking against the removal of the Metcalf amendment: "We ... are concerned about Montgomery County's ability to have enough water to support the growth and affordbale water for our citizens. ... The reason we're here is, we believe we're roadblocked until we get new leadership."
  • Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, regarding the amendment: "We’re resorting to statute to resolve an internal employment dispute. ... If we were to take a step like this, we might be taking half our time next session intervening in disputes of local governments.”
  • Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham: "As we move forward, I think the structure of how we do river authorities has always been a bit different. ... That gives us an opportunity to talk about the structure of a subgovernment that we cannot control because we do not have their budgets."
What's next

According to the vote and discussion May 12, the bill will be sent to the Senate floor, where further discussion could take place.

The last day of the regular session is May 29.