2015 Texas Legislative Summary: Bills Impacting Agricultural Law

This article summarizes bills–those passed and not–impacting Texas Agriculture. The topics covered include water, oil and gas, eminent domain, ag liens, landowner liability, and more!

This article was first published on the Texas Agriculture Law Blog http://agrilife.org/texasaglaw.

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HB 3163. This bill provides protection for groundwater conservation district board members by
offering immunity from suit for votes and actions taken in their official capacity. The bill was
passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. [Bill text here.]

HB 2647. This bill was vetoed by Governor Abbott. the bill would have limited the ability of a
groundwater conservation district to curtail groundwater production from wells used for power
generation or mining used to fuel power generation. Specifically, the bill would have allowed
power generators or mining operations to protest and postpone any curtailments. [Bill text here.]

HB 1221. This bill was signed by the governor and now requires that when selling residential
real property, a seller’s disclosure must include whether any portion of the property is located in
a groundwater conservation district or subsidence district. [Bill text here.]

HB 200. This bill was signed by the governor and addresses the ability of a property owner to
challenge the “desired future conditions” developed by a groundwater conservation district if he
or she is concerned the DFC could unreasonably restrict the right to produce groundwater. These
challenges will be heard in the State Office of Administrative Hearings (rather than at the Texas
Water Development Board) and the bill sets forth the procedure that will be followed. [Bill
text here.]

Surface Water
HB 2892. This bill, which did not pass the House, would have imposed requirements for the
designation of a waterway as “navigable” under Texas law. Specifically, the bill would have
required the TCEQ to have performed a survey, provide notice to neighboring landowners, and
hold a public hearing on the matter before making ag written finding on navigability. [Bill
text here.]

HB 2031 and HB 30. These bills, both signed by Governor Abbott, deal with desalination of
seawater and/or brackish groundwater. The bills seek to streamline the process for such projects,
and require regional water planning groups to consider opportunities for such projects. [Bill
text for 2892 here and 30 here.]

HB 1665. This bill applies to property adjoining impoundments of water having a storage
capacity of over 5,000 feet. Under the new law, sellers must provide statutory notice language to
purchasers regarding the potential for water level fluctuation. Governor Abbott signed the
bill. [Bill text here.]

Oil and Gas
HB 40. This was perhaps one of the most widely covered bills in the Legislature this session and
was signed by Governor Abbott. The bill, dubbed “the ban on fracking bans” prevents local
governments from regulating oil and gas activity in their areas, although certain exceptions to
exist. To read my summary of the bill, click here. [Bill text here.]

HB 1972 and HB 2132. These bills never made it out of committee, but would have clarified
the Texas Water Code 36.117 exempt well provision for rig supply wells includes an exemption
for water wells drilled for use in the fracking process. Currently, groundwater conservation
districts are inconsistent in their interpretation of the exception and its application to wells drilled
for fracking. [Bill text here.]

HB 2901. This bill would have required the Texas Railroad Commission to adopt rules and
develop an online tracking system to allow landowners to look up complaints filed against
operators. The bill never made it out of the House Energy Resources Committee. [Bill
text here.]

For more bills of interest to mineral and royalty owners, read John McFarland’s blog post “Texas
Legislature – Bills of Interest to Mineral Owners.”

Eminent Domain
SB 1812. This bill was signed by the governor and requires the Comptroller to create a free
database of all public or private entities authorized to exercise eminent domain power. The
database will contain a host of information about each entity and will be updated annually. [Bill
text here.]

SB 474. This bill would have allowed landowners to recover attorney’s fees in certain eminent
domain proceedings. I wrote a previous summary of the bill and its importance here. The bill
died pending in the House Land & Resource Management Committee. [Bill text here.]

SB 479. This bill died in the House Business & Industry Committee, but if passed would have
strengthened the language in favor of landowners seeking to reacquire property taken by eminent
domain if the project does not go forward. Current law provides that if an condemning entity
does not make “actual progress” within 10 years of condemnation, the property owner may file
with the court to repurchase the property. This bill would have made the test for “actual
progress” more stringent. [Bill text here.]
Ag Liens
SB 1339. Governor Abbott signed this bill dealing with producers’ agricultural liens on
crops. If a producer is to receive payment for selling a crop grown, produced or harvested by the
producer has a lien on the amount owed under the contract or for the reasonable value on the date
of delivery if not contractual price was set. The lien is perfected when created and continues to
be so perfected for 90 days and thereafter if a financing statement is filed within those 90
days. The bill further gives the lien priority over a conflicting security interest other than a
cotton ginner’s lien. [Bill text here.]


Tax Issues (Property and Sales)
HB 1464. This bill, signed by Governor Abbott, requires additional effort be taken on the part of
an appraisal district if the district wants to make a change-of-use determination on agricultural
land owned by an landowner over the age of 65. [Bill text here.]

HB 1990. This bill died in the Senate Finance Committee. It was related to agricultural land
appraisal and would have required districts to distinguish between the degree of intensity
required for certain production methods such as organic, sustainable, pastured poultry, rotational
grazing, and other uncommon production methods. It also would have added fruit and vegetable
production in the definition of “agricultural use.” [Bill text here.]

SB 140. This bill was signed by Governor Abbott and allows a sales use tax exemption for
telecommunications services that are used for navigation in certain farm and ranch
equipment. Eligible equipment must be “exclusively provided for or used for the navigation or
equipment exclusively used or employed on a farm or ranch in the building or maintaining of
roads or water facilities or in the production of food for human consumption, grass, feed for
animal life, or other agricultural products to be sold in the regular course of business.” [Bill
text here.]

Landowner Liability
SB 610. This bill was signed by the Governor and relates to limited liability for agritourism
operations. Agritourism entities are not liable for injuries that occur arising out of participation
in an agritourism event if proper signage is posted (required language in the Act) or a written
agreement is obtained from the participant (required language in the Act). Several exceptions
exist that would allow agritourism operations to be held liable, including negligence evidencing
disregard for safety, dangerous conditions on the land, dangerous equipment, dangerous animals,
failure to train employees, or intentional acts. [Bill text here.]

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