Senate committee bulks up tree bill to better fit Abbott’s vision

Senate committee bulks up tree bill to better fit Abbott’s vision

By Elizabeth Findell – American-Statesman Staff

A Texas Senate committee on Tuesday moved forward with a bulked-up version of a bill restricting local tree removal fees, with the sponsor trying to craft “a workable tree bill” that will appeal to Gov. Greg Abbott.

The new version of House Bill 7, which the Business and Commerce Committee approved in a 5-3 vote, is “largely based on” its original intent of allowing property owners to plant trees instead of paying removal fees, said sponsor Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

But it adds that localities may not prohibit the removal of trees less than 24 inches in diameter, sets a maximum removal fee of $400 and stipulates that a city can’t regulate trees that are outside its city limits but within its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Those changes are an attempt to bridge the gap between a bill Abbott vetoed this year and bills the governor requested that are stalled in committees.

“It is my hope that these changes will satisfy some of the stakeholders — the governor — and, working with people who oppose it, we’ll try to find that fine line,” Kolkhorst said. “I’m trying to get a workable tree bill here.”

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