Written by Michelle McEuen Category POLICY

On Feb 26th 2015, members of the USGBC Statewide advocacy committee organized at the Texas State Capitol to communicate our message of green building to our state policy-makers and their staffs. This has been a regular event for the USGBC in the State of Texas and the 84th legislative session provided a unique opportunity for dynamic change in Texas. Advocacy Day was only part of our efforts at the capitol as we continued to be involved throughout the session into May.

Legwork is an important part of advocacy and the USGBC in Texas is fortunate to have many fine contributors from each chapter from around the State. Key roles were played by membership from the Houston, Dallas, El Paso, and Austin areas. With volunteers from across the state ranging from students to licensed professionals, seasoned advocates and new faces alike communicated our message of green buildings being essential to a triple bottom line approach toward sustainability.

Our legislative focus this session included legislation that addressed market-based energy efficiency, water conservation, green materials, building energy performance standards, and the greening of building codes, a primary advocacy campaign.
We worked with a myriad of allies including SPEER (the South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource), Sierra Club, the Energy Efficient Texas Coalition, and the Texas Society of Architects to help inform several pieces of legislation that we believe will have an impact on public policy for the better in the State of Texas.

A short synopsis of each bill follows:

HB 1736 – This bill was signed by the Governor and will improve residential building code statewide. Municipalities will have to option to adopt more stringent building codes but we will see the 2015 code being implemented statewide in the State of Texas. We saw this as an important opportunity improve the quality of Texas’ new residential building stock and we invested a considerable amount of time and energy to help guide the process toward a bill that would improve residential construction from an energy efficiency standpoint. We worked closely with our allies and were able to take a central role in the stakeholder’s meetings between the author of the bill and the home builder’s representatives. Using excellent messaging and a critical, timely letter authored by a key volunteer that encapsulated our position, we were able to leverage the excellent reputation of the USGBC to inform this bill for the better.

SB 1679 - This bill related to procedures for a certain municipalities to adopt or amend a national model building code. It would have taken an already rigorous code adoption procedure and made it more cumbersome, creating obstacles for better code adoption. Strong and timely advocacy work with Alvarado's office helped to inform the shortcomings of this bill, ultimately leading it to stall this bill in the House Urban Affairs committee. We successfully advocated for this bill not to make it out of the House Urban Affairs committee

HB 1902 – This new law creates standards for additional domestic uses and reuses of greywater and addresses safety - expand use to AC condensate, swimming pool backwash, storm water, reverse osmosis. It has no fiscal note and we worked with Howard's office to help it pass along to the Governor’s desk to be signed. It is effective immediately.

HB 1184 – This new law relates to authorizing certain utility cost savings and alternative fuel programs as eligible for local government energy savings performance contracts. We worked with Rep. Paddie’s office on this which added a subsection to an existing law. It was signed by the Governor.

HB 2392 - also known as WHEEL, this bill is one that our advocates spoke about all throughout the session. This is a residential green financing program and has a precedent in the State of Tennessee. Although it did not make it over the final hurdle in the Senate, we anticipate that we will have the momentum to continue the conversation on greening the residential buildings in the future. We would like to give a special thank you to Mr. Jeffrey Trucksess for preparing us on the details of this legislation.

HB 2919 - Relating to an energy efficiency pilot program for state-owned buildings operated by the Texas Facilities Commission. Advocacy work on this bill picked up momentum toward the end of the session. Despite being referred to a favorable committee this bill was left pending in committee. This bill could be one to revive in the next session.

HB 1007 – This bill would have required state projects to use iron, steel and other goods as manufactured in the US. Despite a good effort it stalled in the House.
In addition to our committee work, we also had the pleasure of hosting Roger Platt, the USGBC national President to Austin on April 19th. During his visit, we conducted several office visits with the national president by visiting with the Lt. Governor’s office, Rep. Lozano, and Rep. Anchia’s office.

As the dust settles from an eventful session, we would like to thank all the participants in our state advocacy campaign during the 84th legislative session. Thank you for all of the hard work by our outstanding team of advocates. Bravo!
As we look to the future of green building in Texas, our advocacy work will include local efforts around PACE adoption in Texas counties, advocating for better building codes, and building momentum for green building initiatives that will likely come from the Clean Power Plan.


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