Conroe, January 24 – The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) Board of Directors again considered the hiring of a lobbyist to represent the district in the 86th Legislative Session. After several citizens appeared before the Board in opposition to the proposal, the matter died for lack of a motion.
Board member Jonathan Prykryl, who represents Commissioners Precinct 4 (East Montgomery County), began the discussion. “Let me go on record as opposing this. I believe we have staff members who are effective and capable of monitoring this as well. We’re a member of the Texas Association of Groundwater Districts and as such we have access to people who monitor bills on their behalf,” Prykryl said at the meeting.
Two prominent citizens also spoke during the meeting. Ginger Russell, a Republican Precinct Chair from Magnolia and leading conservative Republican activist, told the Board, “A group of us worked very hard to put conservatives in office. When we do that, we elect them to work to limit the size and scope of government along with its spending…Is it the most conservative option? No, it’s not.”
Montgomery County Republican Party Vice Chairman Reagan Reed also provided a citizen comment. “I don’t think hiring a tax-funded lobbyist is the way to go,” Reed said. “There is no guarantee that investment will stay pay off…I would hate to see our district spend tax dollars and not get a return on it.”
Reed also reminded the Board members that “The Republican Party has taken a strong stand against this and it’s a legislative priority. I’m here as the Vice Chairman of the Party and that’s the stance of the Party…You guys are seen as an example of how reformers can take over a board and make some changes and set an example for the whole state.”
“You guys are seen as an example of how reformers can take over a board and make some changes and set an example for the whole state.” – Montgomery County Republican Party Vice Chairman Reagan Reed speaking to the LSGCD Board urging them not to hire a taxpayer-funded lobbyist, January 22, 2019.
The LSGCD Board had voted to send out a request for proposal from potential lobbyists at the January 8, 2019, Board meeting. Board member Larry Rogers (representing the Woodlands Township) made the motion and Jon Bouche (representing Commissioner Precinct 3) seconded the motion, which passed unanimously that day.
Less than a week later, however, conservative activist Kelli Cook noticed the item on the agenda for the January 15, 2019, Board meeting and began to organize opposition to the proposal.
At the January 22 Board meeting, several citizens appeared to oppose the proposal while Reed and Russell represented the sentiments in their speeches to the Board.
In other action, the Board of Directors voted to finalize the settlement of the lawsuit between LSGCD on the one hand and the City of Conroe, the City of Magnolia, and large groundwater producers on the other hand. The vote was unanimous.
Senior District Judge Lamar McCorkle, sitting for the 284th District Court of Montgomery County, had ruled in late September, 2018, that, as a matter of law, the core groundwater regulation, which LSGCD has imposed on large groundwater producers, is outside of LSGCD’s authority under the Texas Water Code and is not valid. Judge McCorkle’s ruling was a major setback for the aggressive regulatory district which has attempted to impose highly restrictive groundwater usage regulations on private property owners.
Specifically, Judge McCorkle’s Order declared invalid the regulations that require large volume groundwater users to reduce their permitted production by 30% by January 1, 2016, and to seek “alternative water sources” for water demand beginning in 2016. The imposition of the regulations forced many water utility providers such as the City of Conroe, and private utility companies to enter into extraordinarily expensive contracts with the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) to meet their customers’ water needs.
LSGCD had begun an appeal of Judge McCorkle’s ruling in the Beaumont Court of Appeals.
LSGCD Vice President Harry Hardman said in an exclusive interview with The Golden Hammer, “The big news out of our Board meeting was that we unanimously voted to settle the lawsuit, with this ending the unnecessary expenditure of almost $1.8 million in legal and expert fees, and more if you live in the City of Conroe, so that the District Court try to defend an indefensible rule.”
Hardman explained that the settlement is subject to the approval by the Conroe City Council at its meeting today (January 24).