Senate Bill 2186 Shows Port of Corpus Christi Instance To Further Their Developer Focused Legislative Agenda
Port of Corpus Christi officials were able to gain a little more ground on their legislative agenda this week with a single late afternoon strategic bill filing in Austin.
Texas Senate bill 2186 was filed by State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa on Thursday. The bill specifically pertains to the powers and duties of the Port of Corpus Christi Authority of Nueces County, Texas.
The Hinojosa bill would allow the Port of Corpus Christi to develop, construct, improve, maintain, equip, and furnish buildings, equipment, make improvements to and further develop the property owned by the Port of Corpus Christi.
According to an outline of the bill, the Port of Corpus Christi would also be allowed to lease property owned by the authority to private developers—in essence turning the port into their owner land holding and development company. Port CEO Sean Strawbridge has been an avid supporter of the idea and so has Nueces County Democratic leadership, including County Judge Barbara Canales. The idea of the Port becoming a land developer has been an issue that is near and dear to their hearts for some time now and Senate Bill 2186 would provide a vehicle to do just that, should it pass through committee and the chambers.
The exact wording of the bill says that “The authority may contract with another person for assistance in accomplishing the purposes of this section on terms
the port commission considers appropriate, desirable, and in the authority’s best interests.”
While some might believe that the Port’s best interest translates to the best interest of the public, many others disagree—especially in a time when trust in the Port and local government is questionable at best.
Another noticeable point to the bill is how it changes the definition of “naval property” within the language and context of the bill. The word “naval,” according to the bill would have referred to 576 acres of submerged land in San Patricio County. Instead, the bill encompasses “all land” and includes land as far inland as Robstown—giving the Port Authority room to develop more property beyond traditional waterways.
Should the bill pass the Port would be allowed to lease land to private developers for their own gain without consideration for the public. Almost any developer would be allowed to enter into a long term lease agreement with the Port and that is why this bill remains so much in question.
Friends and close allies of Port Commissioners, Port management, influential political donors and established political friendships could fully benefit with the Port’s newly found development authority. It could, and most likely would, be done without much consideration to the will of the public. Opponents feel as if the Port’s legislative agenda is overreaching and doing nothing more than advancing the “good old boy” system that is so heavily rooted in Nueces County and within the Port. Proponents argue that the bill and the Port’s legislative agenda is necessary for future development and economic stabilization of the region. However, the Port has yet to establish a clear pathway forward while benefiting the community.
SB 2186 still has a long way to go before it comes to reality. The next step is for the bill to be heard by the Senate Select Committee on Ports which is chaired by Senator Brandon Creighton and includes Senators Hinojosa and Kolkhorst, who represents Aransas county and parts of Nueces county.
This story will be updated throughout. Originally published April 3, 2021.