HB 931 graphicThe Texas Legislature this year considered more than 6,600 bills. Of those, more than 5,800 died quiet deaths.

Among the improbable survivors, however, was a bill our coalition supported — House Bill 931 — that we believe will lead to more hike-and-bike trails statewide.

Sponsored by state Rep. Rick Miller and state Sen. Lois Kolkorst, House Bill 931 lifts some of the legal hurdles that can discourage public utilities from partnering with cities to develop trail networks. This means that cities should be able to create trails along utility corridors — but at virtually no cost to taxpayers for the underlying land.

Given that land for inner-city trails can cost millions, HB 931 represents a big step forward for our cities. That’s why our coalition, the Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor, joined with other city groups to support this bill.

HB 931 was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott on May 30th for his signature. We appreciate the hard work of Sen. Kolkorst and Rep. Miller on the legislation, and we encourage Gov. Abbott to sign it promptly. [Update: Gov. Abbott signed House Bill 931 on June 15.]

“This is great news for outdoor enthusiasts and Texas taxpayers,” said Thomas Brocato, an Austin-based attorney who represents various city groups. “HB 931 will encourage public-private partnerships for the purpose of creating additional recreational spaces in Texas. We see this as a victory for our cities and our taxpayers.”

House Bill 931 is modeled after an earlier bill, House Bill 200, adopted during the 2013 legislative session. HB 200 received support from city leaders, editorial writers and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. But the earlier legislation was restricted in effect only to Houston, while the reach of HB 931 is statewide.

Other organizations supporting House Bill 931 include the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, the Texas Coalition of Cities For Utility Issues and the Gulf Coast Coalition of Cities.

— R.A. Dyer