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"Buy American" iron and steel bill gets legislative approval

On Saturday, both chambers approved a "Buy American" iron and steel bill that will expand a provision already in effect for the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Water Development Board. The measure now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

A construction site in Austin's Warehouse District on May 2, 2017.

Both the House and Senate approved a "Buy American" iron and steel bill on Saturday that will expand a provision already in effect for the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Water Development Board. The measure now only requires a signature from Gov. Greg Abbott

Senate Bill 1289 by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would require large state projects — such as buildings, roads and bridges — to purchase iron and steel from an American supplier if the cost doesn’t exceed 20 percent more than the price of cheaper, foreign imports. Under the bill, any country's iron and steel can be used if American suppliers aren't prepared to supply a project or there is a compelling state interest.

“Our intentions are to make sure foreign governments like China and Turkey can’t create a foreign steel market that would gut the American market,” Creighton has previously said. “We stand firm for Texas jobs and manufacturers and against communist China flooding the market to hurt those stakeholders.”

Both chamber's approval of the legislation comes after a conference committee voted to delay the "Buy American" provisions for water projects until May 2019 — meaning that up until then, water infrastructure projects wouldn’t be required to use American-made iron and steel. A study would be conducted during the interim to assess how using American metal would affect the cost of these projects.

Among the bill's opponents is the Canadian steel industry. Three representatives of the Canadian government wrote earlier this month they were “deeply concerned” with how the bill would affect Texas-Canada trade relations. The letter notes that Canada is the top export destination for U.S. steel products, representing roughly $9.7 billion in trade last year.

The conference committee denied the exemption request.

The bill's House sponsor, state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, said President Donald Trump’s recent “Buy American, Hire American” executive order may help garner momentum for the measure. Last session, a similar measure died in a House committee.

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Politics 85th Legislative Session