HBA-JRA H.B. 2599 76(R)BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2599 By: McReynolds Agriculture & Livestock 7/22/1999 Enrolled BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Currently, a landowner in Texas has the right to use prescribed burning as a land management tool. This practice is used as a means to reduce vegetative fuels, which, if not managed, can cause flareups that can lead to wildfires. Landowners may be hesitant to use this method for fear of liability for accidents. Wildfires pose a serious threat to the state, particularly to suburban areas. H.B. 2599 creates a prescribed burning board to establish a curriculum and standards for a prescribed burning certification program, and limits the liability of a landowner who uses a certified prescribed burn manager. H.B. 2599 does not affect a landowner's right to burn and does not modify the landowner's liability for a burn not conducted according to the standards of the prescribed burning board. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Amends Title 6, Natural Resources Code, by adding Chapter 153, as follows: CHAPTER 153. PRESCRIBED BURNING SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS Sec. 153.001. DEFINITION. Defines "board" as the Prescribed Burning Board. Sec. 153.002. LANDOWNER'S RIGHT TO CONDUCT BURNS NOT LIMITED. Provides that this chapter does not limit a landowner's right to conduct burns on the landowner's property. Sec. 153.003. LIABILITY. Provides that this chapter does not modify a landowner's liability for property damage, personal injury, or death resulting from a burn that is not conducted as provided by this chapter. SUBCHAPTER B. PRESCRIBED BURNING BOARD Sec. 153.041. ESTABLISHMENT. (a) Establishes the Prescribed Burning Board (board) within the Department of Agriculture. Sets forth the composition of the board. (b) Provides that a board member serves a two-year term. (c) Requires the board, by majority vote, to elect a presiding officer from the members of the board. (d) Requires appointments to the board to be made without regard to the race, creed, sex, disability, age, religion, or national origin of the appointees. (e) Sets forth grounds for removal from the board. (f) Provides that the validity of an action of the board is not affected by the fact that it was taken when a ground for removal of a member of the board existed. Sec. 153.042. INFORMATION RELATING TO STANDARDS OF CONDUCT. Requires the presiding officer of the board or the presiding officer's designee to provide to members of the board, as often as necessary, information regarding their qualification for office under this chapter and their responsibilities under applicable laws relating to standards of conduct for state officers. Sec. 153.043. MEMBER TRAINING. Provides that an appointee to the board is not eligible for membership unless the appointee completes at least one training program that complies with this section. (b) Provides that the training program must provide information regarding this chapter, the programs operated by the board, the role and functions of the board, the requirements of Chapters 551 (Open Meetings), 552 (Public Information), and 2001 (Administrative Procedure), Government Code, the requirements of the conflict of interest laws and other laws relating to public officials, and any applicable ethics policies adopted by the board or the Texas Ethics Commission. (c) Entitles an appointee to the board to reimbursement for travel expenses incurred in attending the training program as if the person were a member of the board. Sec. 153.044. SUNSET PROVISION. Provides that the board is subject to the Texas Sunset Act and, unless continued in existence, is abolished and this chapter expires September 1, 2009. Sec. 153.045. ADVISORY BOARD. (a) Requires the board to establish an advisory board of members of the public, including individuals representing specific interests. (b) Requires the board to determine the number of persons and manner of selection of the advisory board. Sec. 153.046. DUTIES. Requires the board to establish standards for prescribed burning; develop a comprehensive training curriculum for prescribed burn managers; establish standards for certification, recertification, and training for prescribed burn managers; establish minimum education and professional requirements for instructors of the approved curriculum; and establish minimum insurance requirements for certified prescribed burn managers. Sec. 153.047. PRESCRIBED BURNING STANDARDS. Provides that minimum standards established by the board for prescribed burning must ensure that prescribed burning is the controlled application of fire to naturally occurring or naturalized vegetative fuels under specified environmental conditions in accordance with a written prescription plan; require at least one certified prescribed burn manager to be present on site during the burn; establish appropriate guidelines for sufficiently sized burning crews; include standards for notification to adjacent land owners, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, and local fire authorities; and include minimum insurance requirements for certified prescribed burn managers. Sec. 153.048. CERTIFICATION OF PRESCRIBED BURN MANAGERS. (a) Provides that minimum standards established by the board for certification as a prescribed burn manager must require the completion of the approved training curriculum taught by an approved instructor. (b) Requires the board to certify a person as a prescribed burn manager if the person applies to the board for certification, demonstrates completion of an approved training program by an approved instructor, and pays a fee to the board in an amount determined by the board. (c) Provides that the certification is for five years. (d) Authorizes a person to renew certification only by completing a continuing education program established by the board. (e) Requires the board to maintain a register of certified prescribed burn managers and the dates they completed initial and continuing training. SUBCHAPTER C. LIMITATIONS ON LIABILITY Sec. 153.081. LIMITATION OF OWNER LIABILITY. (a) Provides that, subject to Section 153.082, an owner, lessee, or occupant of agricultural land is not liable for property damage or for injury or death to persons caused by or resulting from prescribed burning conducted under the supervision of a certified prescribed burn manager. (b) Makes this section inapplicable to an owner, lessee, or occupant of agricultural land who is a certified prescribed burn manager and conducts a burn on that land. (c) Defines "agricultural land" in this section. Sec. 153.082. INSURANCE. Provides that the limitation on liability under Section 153.081 does not apply to an owner, lessee, or occupant of agricultural land unless the certified prescribed burn manager conducting a burn on the land has liability insurance coverage of at least $1 million for each single occurrence of bodily injury or death, or injury to or destruction of property. SECTION 2. Effective date: September 1, 1999. Makes application of this Act prospective. SECTION 3. Emergency clause.