The conclusion of the first primary run has ushered in the initial set of Interim Hearings in both the House and Senate. That coupled with the first Sunset review hearings promises a busy rest of April and May. There are still several run-offs that need to be concluded (May 24) but not enough to derail the start of these hearings.
As of today, Texas is currently experiencing Severe Drought or worse (per the U.S. Drought Monitor). Almost the entire state is at least Abnormally Dry, and 53% is at the Extreme Drought level. Unless the state has an extremely wet April/May we will have a good chance of repeating the drought of 2011. How this will impact citizens, industry, and ag businesses remains to be seen, but it won’t be good. We have not done much to fix the problems identified during the 2011 drought except we have more people. In 2021 Texas grew by approximately 810 people per day, or more than 310,000 people for the year. That is the equilivant of a new city larger than Plano coming online every year. With all statewide offices, Senate, and House seats up for election, now would be a good time to ask these potential future office holders how they might want to address these issues.
On February 28, Roxanne Myers, John Esler, Vijay and Akhil Reddy, and myself met with Chairman Dwayne Burns at his district office in Cleburne. On the whole I found it to be a very productive meeting. The meeting lasted about an hour, and the chairman was very engaged and asked a variety of questions. Although no specific commitments were made, he did agree that the problem needs to be addressed and he felt it should be considered from a “property rights” point of view. We will continue to work with his staff and provide whatever grist the mill requires to develop realistic options to address this problem. We are in the process of scheduling a similar meeting with Senator Perry, Chairman of the Senate Water, Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee, hopefully sometime in June. We look forward to reporting the results of that visit in our next legislative report.
The Interim charges in both the House and Senate have been released and the hearings have begun. Although there were no charges dealing specifically with alcohol or grape growing, there were several issues still of interest to the industry. Water availability, rural employment, workforce education, and the ever-present review of property taxes are all of interest to folks in our industry. We will monitor these hearings and report anything of interest in the future.
We met with the Comptroller senior staff recently to discuss an upcoming wine tasting with staff but to also discuss taxes and the expected budget surplus. While they were fairly close-mouthed on the exact amount of surplus that is expected, they did reveal that the surplus will be exceptionally large. How decision makers will deal with this influx of surplus funds remains to be seen. I think it is a given that the term “spending like drunken sailors” may be appropriate when all is said and done.
This week I again have the opportunity to attend Newsom Grape Days in Plains, Texas. If you have never been, you should go. Not only will you learn something, but also it is great to see the growth and interest in grape growing in Texas. I will make a presentation on behalf of TWGGA President Glena Yates and also talk about VineRoots and how and why folks should get involved.
I look forward to seeing everyone on the High Plains.
—Kyle Frazier, TWGGA Legislative Advocate