Texas bill would improve ports of entry wait times

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/14/2019

One bill halfway through the Texas statehouse covers wait times for certain loads at ports of entry.

House lawmakers have voted to advance a bill that addresses the increase in trade traffic along the Texas-Mexico border. The bill is touted to aid perishable loads crossing into South Texas.

The bill, HB2155, now moves to the Senate.

If signed into law, the bill would reauthorize a grant program for nonprofits to reduce wait times for agricultural inspections at ports of entry along the Texas-Mexico border. A 2015 grant approved by the Texas Legislature provided $625,000 to help eliminate backups at ports of entry.

Specifically, this year’s legislation calls for allowing local governments to help pay for overtime and/or increased agricultural inspectors at international bridges during peak times. The total amount of grants awarded could not exceed $725,000 for the next two years.

The Texas Department of Agriculture would be responsible for monitoring and contracting the grant recipients to ensure compliance with state laws.

During a recent 12-month period more than 170,000 truckloads of produce crossed into Texas from Mexico. Advocates say the number will continue to grow as the Mazatlan-Matamoros superhighway transports more fresh produce from the western Mexico coast along the Texas border.

Due to staffing shortages at the state’s ports of entry, Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen, said trucks transporting produce experience long periods of delay or do not make it through the inspection process. As a result, the shelf life is lowered, which hurts the bottom line for Texas importers.

Guerra also said that investing in the produce import industry is imperative for Texas.

“I hope the Legislature acts soon to approve necessary grant funds, Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in prepared remarks.

If they get the (Texas Department of Agriculture) the money, we’ll get it where it needs to go, like border cities like McAllen and El Paso, to get this backlog cleared.”

The rule change would effect on Sept. 1.

The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

Oversize and overweight vehicles

One more bill to advance through the statehouse and now is headed to the governor’s desk is intended to improve safety on roadways.

The bill from Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, would require the state to include information about oversize and overweight vehicles in the curriculum of driver education and driving safety courses.

Specifically, HB105 calls for including methods of safely operating a vehicle near an oversize and overweight vehicle. Information would also be included about safe following distances and safe passing methods.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Texas, click here.

 

 

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