HBA-JLV H.B. 3230 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 3230 By: Walker Agriculture & Livestock 3/29/2001 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE The weather modification program helps cities, counties, organizations, and individuals in the design and implementation of cloud-seeding programs and provides oversight of weather-modification research. Proper weather management strategies are vital for the success of agricultural activities in Texas, where agricultural commodities add about $14 billion to the state's economy, making agriculture the second largest industry in Texas. Currently, all aspects of the weather modification program are under the control of and administered by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC). House Bill 3230 establishes the Weather Modification Act and transfers the authority of the weather modification program from TNRCC to the Texas Department of Agriculture. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking authority is expressly delegated to the Texas Department of Agriculture in SECTION 1 (Section 20.011, 20.032, 20.041, and 20.124, Agriculture Code) and SECTION 8 of this bill. ANALYSIS House Bill 3230 amends the Agriculture Code to establish the Weather Modification Act and to transfer the authority of the weather modification program from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) to the Texas Department of Agriculture (department). The bill sets forth the powers and duties of the department and authorizes the department to adopt rules necessary to exercise the powers and duties under these provisions (Secs. 20.011-20.020). The bill sets forth permitting and licensing requirements relating to weather modification (Secs. 20.031-20.048). The bill sets forth procedures and criteria for handling violations and administrative, civil, and criminal penalties for such violations (Secs. 20.051-20.074, 20.081-20.89, and 20.041-20.105). The bill provides if a person can establish that an event that would otherwise be a violation of a statute within the department's jurisdiction or a rule adopted or order or permit issued under a statute was caused solely by an act of God, war, strike, riot, or other catastrophe, then the event is not a violation of that statute, rule, order, or permit (Sec. 20.111). The bill sets forth the procedures and criteria for the revocation and suspension of permits and licenses (Secs. 20.121-20.128). The bill provides for the immunity of the state, its officers, and employees from liability for all weather modification and control activities conducted by private persons and groups (Sec. 20.131). The bill provides that these provisions do not affect private legal relationships, except that an operation conducted under the license and permit requirements is not an ultra hazardous activity which makes the participants subject to liability without fault. The bill provides that the fact that a person holds a license or permit or that the person has complied with these provisions or regulations is not admissible as evidence in any legal proceedings brought against the person (Sec. 20.132). The bill amends the Water Code to remove provisions providing that TNRCC has jurisdiction over the state's weather modification program. The bill deletes references from the Water Code relating to weather modification programs and repeals the Weather Modification Act (Secs. 5.013, 7.052, 7.102, 7.302, 7.303, 7.144, and Chapter 18). The bill sets forth provisions regarding the transfer of authority over the Weather Modification Act from TNRCC to the department (SECTION 8). EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001.