Being a resident of New Braunfels, I thought Rep. Kuempel would have some sympathy for folks in adjoining Comal County, but I had it wrong! Rep. Kuempel voted FOR a House Bill (HB 3114) that takes away citizens’ rights by removing the SOAH (State Office of Administrative Hearings) independent hearing process and takes all appeals back into the very agency whose orders citizens are appealing. This is the Fox guarding the hen house personified!
This legislation, if enacted, will do nothing but increase litigation in the district courts as aggrieved citizens will always seek an impartial hearing and not be content to accept outcomes which are at best highly suspect and at worse rigged as the lawyers employed by TCEQ will naturally be seen as gravitating toward a TCEQ preferred outcome. Our district courts are already heavily stretched and the SOAH remedy under present law was specifically designed to help alleviate the legal quagmire and provide an air of true independence to the citizens of Texas. To enact this will only exacerbate the legal logjam.
This bill, as drafted, is unconscionable in that it would destroy the independence afforded under the current system under which an impartial Administrative Law Judge makes a determination after a full and proper SOAH hearing is conducted. To do otherwise makes a mockery of the very idea that such a hearing is truly independent and outside the auspices of the TCEQ.
If the TCEQ were allowed to hire (their own select counsel) to conduct what is currently legislatively mandated to be a truly independent hearing, then all pretense of impartiality is lost. TCEQ has already lost the faith and trust of the majority of the citizenry of the state of Texas and to add this is truly not only an insult, but an open agenda dictated solely by the aggregate industry in this State and is a sham that is blatant beyond belief.
To gut the State Office of Administrative Hearings despite their well known cost savings to the state is unconscionable.
Please consider voting this bill down as it deserves a quick death!
Richard Keady, New Braunfels