New groundwater conservation technologies and the possibility of cities providing broadband internet are two legislative items Buda city leaders could seek to advocate in 2019.
On Jan. 16, the Buda City Council approved its list of legislative priorities. The city has partnered with Texas Solutions Group (TSG), a government affairs, public relations and business development firm, to draft its priorities for the 86th Legislative session, which began earlier this month.
One item Buda is pushing for is easing restrictions on Aquifer Storage and Recovery. ASR is the method of transporting surface or groundwater from source and storing it in an aquifer during times of water abundance. The water stored can then be utilized during times of drought or slow recharge.
In 2017, House Bill 3333, authored by now former House District 45 State Rep. Jason Isaac, died prior to Sine Die. That bill would have allowed cities such as Buda to store surface water in underground aquifers, such as the Edwards Aquifer. The Hays Free Press reported that current rules from the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD), which oversees the northern portion of the Edwards Aquifer, stipulate water passing through the Edwards can only be comprised of untreated Edwards Aquifer water.
Jeff Heckler, a representative with TSG, said two separate bills from State Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) and recently elected House District 45 State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) increase the likelihood of bills making it to the Senate or House floors.
“New Braunfels will have their (ASR) bill, (Buda) will have ours,” Heckler said.
Buda officials are also advocating for lawmakers to craft a bill that would allow cities to potentially provide fiber internet to citizens as a utility.
Currently, cities cannot provide “telecommunications,” per the Texas Public Utilities Commission code. But according to TSG officials, the federal government is currently working to aid cities in their quest to provide internet to its citizens.
“(The code) also restricts a city from partnering with a company to give them an unfair advantage to the free market, basically,” said Scott Miller, a member of TSG. “Our hands are pretty well tied unless it’s in areas that aren’t served.”
Miller cited Mont Belvieu, located near Houston, which was able to provide fiber to its citizens because no internet provider serviced the area. This is typically the case in rural cities across the state where the access to the internet is limited.
Spectrum currently services the Buda area, which could hinder the city’s legislative efforts.
“Many utilities in Texas are deregulated. This allows a customer to select their own electric provider and gives consumers more choices to select a product or service that fits their needs,” said Micah Grau, Buda assistant city manager. “The city of Buda is not specifically looking to provide broadband services to its residents and businesses, but we are interested in expanding options.”
However. Grau said the city wants residents and businesses to have choices to meet their service needs.