AUSTIN, Texas – In a lively discussion on the House floor of legislation that would kill off Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3, state Rep. Terry Canales said SB 2185 should be renamed The Othal Brand, Jr., Act.

Senate Bill 2185 is authored by state Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen. The bill would dissolve HCWID No. 3 and transfer the district’s assets and liabilities to the City of McAllen.

The legislation was heard on second reading by the Texas House of Representatives on Sunday evening. Defending the legislation was the House sponsor, state Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg. Questioning the bill was state Rep. Tracy King of Batesville.

Canales did not say why the legislation should be called The Othal Brand, Jr., Act. Othal Brand, Jr., is the longtime general manager and president of the water district. If Canales was saying it because Brand is really the target of the legislation, he did not make clear. Perhaps it could have been a little irony or even sarcasm. 

“This has to do with a bunch of homeowners that are getting gouged by one person who has drawn water out of the river from something that was created in the 1920s for farmers. This is all homeowners now. So somebody is lining their pockets at the cost of taxpayers,” Canales said, in his back and forth with King.

Canales did not mention Brand by name when he spoke of “a bunch of homeowners that are getting gouged by one person” and “somebody lining their pockets.” However, when King brought up a point of order, Canales said: “Mr. Speaker, I would ask that at the time this Point of Order is overruled, that we call this The Othal Brand Act.”

Hinojosa has carried similar bills three times in the past. On two occasions the legislation died in the House. On another it passed the Legislature but was vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

King pointed this out on the House floor. He said the bill has been brought before the legislature three or four times in the past. Each time it has failed, he noted, once through a governor’s veto. King said he was opposing SB 2185 because members of the Texas Vegetable Growers Association had asked him to. 

“I would like to raise a Point of Order,” King said. “By the way I am going to do this with total affection and sadness and humility for my friend, Terry Canales. And my very, very good friend, Chuy Hinojosa. But I raise a Point of Order on further consideration of Senate Bill 2185. The bill uses an artificial limiting device in violation of the Texas Constitution and the House Rules.”

There was then a pause of just over 16 minutes while the Point of Order was discussed by numerous Houses members huddled around the Speaker’s desk. King then withdrew his Point of Order so that the bill could be postponed.

Then, Canales was recognized for a motion.

“Mr. Speaker, I move to postpone further consideration of SB 2185, the Othal Brand, Jr., Act, until high noon on Monday, May 24,” Canales said.

Here is the full exchange between Canales and King:


Mr. Canales:

Yes, Thank you Mr. Speaker, members. This allows the City of McAllen to dissolve the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3 and take over its operation. I move passage.

Mr. King:

Would the gentleman yield for some questions?

Mr. Canales:

Absolutely, Chairman.

Mr. King:

Thank you. Thank you Mr. Canales. Um, can you tell me how many times this bill has been before this legislative body?

Mr. Canales:

I’m not advised.

Mr. King:

Well I am going to say that it has been… would you be surprised to know it’s probably been before this legislative body three or four times, when it failed to pass or get out of committee. Then it did pass once, in 2011, and the governor vetoed it. And then Mr. Kino Flores tried to pass this bill several times before that.

Mr. Canales:

Well, it is before this body again, Mr. King. I appreciate your support.

Mr. King:

Thank you. So, can you tell us what this bill actually does?

Mr. Canales:

So let’s talk about what this bill does. It dissolves a water district that in the 1920s was for farming. At this time there is almost little or no farming left and what is going on right now is that 95- to 90-plus percent of that water is drawn from the river for this water district and sold to the City of McAllen at a premium and then it is resold to residential homes. So, the purpose of it was for farmers but (what) this bill actually does is protect the farmers that still are there but actually now dissolves a piece of duplicative government and dissolving government is a good thing.

Hollers from members

Mr. King:

So this bill… I’m interested in this bill because I received a letter as did every member of this House from the Texas Vegetable Growers Association and a number of those are in my district and they have asked me to oppose this bill. So that is the reason I am up here. We have irrigation districts at home…

Mr. Canales:

Well that is in your district. This is in my district, Representative.

Mr. King:

I’m sorry. I couldn’t tell. It was noisy on the floor.

Mr. Canales:

I said, that is in your district. Those vegetable growers are in your district. This area is in my district.

Mr. King:

Yeah.

Mr. Canales:

And in my district this has nothing to do with vegetable growers. This has to do with a bunch of homeowners that are getting gouged by one person who has drawn water out of the river from something that was created in the 1920s for farmers. This is all homeowners now. So somebody is lining their pockets at the cost of taxpayers. And so it you want to stand here and support this. It has nothing to do with farmers. This has to do with dissolving duplicative government. And I am surprised you would stand for that.

Mr. King:

I do get it. And I understand where you are coming from because I have heard the discussion on this bill many, many, many times in the Natural Resources Committee. So… now this bill… the caption of this bill, have you read the caption?

Mr. Canales:

Of course I have read the bill. I am carrying it, Representative.

Mr. King:

It says relating to procedures for the dissolution of the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3.

Mr. Canales:

Is that a question, Representative? I have told you, I have read the bill.

Mr. King:

Is that what the caption says? I am not trying to argue. I thought we’d have a quiet discussion.

Mr. Canales:

We can have a discussion but what you are asking me… you started off, Representative, respectfully asking me if I had read my own bill.

Mr. King:

I don’t mean it that way. You interrupted me before I got to it. What I meant to say was could you read the caption to us?

Mr. Canales:

I have read the caption.

Mr. Canales:

I will read it for you.

Mr. Canales:

Relating to the procedures of the dissolution of the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District.

Mr. King:

Is that what the bill does?

Mr. Canales:

It dissolves the district. Yes.

Mr King:

And what else does it do?

Mr. Canales:

It would allow the City of McAllen to take over that water district.

Mr. King:

The caption does not say anything about that, does it?

Mr. Canales:

Well, it is inherent in the bill.

Mr. King:

Excuse me. The body of the bill says that but the caption doesn’t. Is that what you are saying?

Mr. Canales:

It’s… the dissolution of the bill… the dissolution of the water district. And so, because the water district is dissolved the city naturally… it becomes part of the city system. Which it already is.

Mr. King:

So if a resident from the City of McAllen or anybody in the State of Texas read the caption on this bill, would they understand that the City of McAllen was going to take over $100 million worth of assets?

Mr. Canales:

Well as many times as you said this has been heard I would imagine everybody knows what it does.

Mr. King:

So I have another question. So this bill applies to which city?

Mr. Canales:

I don’t understand the question.

Mr. King:

Which city does this bill authorize to take over the city… the water district?

Mr. Canales:

Well, have you read the bill?

Mr. King:

Well, I have read the bill.

Mr. Canales:

It says a municipality that has a population greater than 100,000 and contained on April 1, 2021, within its corporate boundaries and extra territorial jurisdiction more than half the district’s territory. That’s the parameters of the bill.

Mr. King:

How many cities are there like that? How many cities are there like that now in the State of Texas?

Mr. Canales:

I am not advised, Representative.

Mr. King:

Well, there is only one.

Mr. Canales:

I don’t know if that is a question. Or you’re telling me.

Mr. King:

Well, there is only one and you know what, if the date is April 1, 2021, how could there ever be another one in the State of Texas?

Mr. Canales:

Well, Representative. I don’t know what you are getting at but I have already explained what the parameters of the city are. You are asking me a question and I have answered it.

Mr. King:

Well, I will explain to you what I am getting at here in a minute. Mr. Speaker.

Speaker Phelan:

Mr. King, for what purpose.

Mr. King:

I would like to raise a Point of Order… by the way I am going to do this with total affection and sadness and humility for my friend, Terry Canales. And my very, very good friend, Chuy Hinojosa. But I raise a Point of Order on further consideration of Senate Bill 2185. The bill uses an artificial limiting device in violation of the Texas Constitution and the House Rules.

Mr. Canales:

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that at the time this Point of Order is overruled, that we call this the Othal Brand Act.

Speaker Phelan:

Please bring your Point of Order down front.

There was then a pause of just over 16 minutes while the Point of Order was discussed by numerous members at the Speaker’s desk. Chairman King then withdrew his Point of Order so that the bill could be postponed. Chairman Canales was then recognized for a motion.

Mr. Canales:

Mr. Speaker, I move to postpone further consideration of SB 2185, the Othal Brand, Jr., Act until high noon on Monday, May 24.


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Editor’s Note: The author of this article had a brief business relationship in the past with the Water District. In exchange for providing 24/7 “eyes and ears” security for WD facilities at a heavily-trafficked border crossing, I was provided temporary housing.


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