CITY-RELATED BILLS FILED
H.B. 1045 (Otto) – Property Tax: would eliminate the requirement that appraisal value notices must include estimated tax liability based on an application of last year’s tax rates to this year’s appraised value.
H.B. 1047 (Deshotel) – Transportation Funding: would provide that: (1) the state highway fund may no longer be used to finance the Texas Department of Public Safety; and (2) money in the state highway fund or loans from the state infrastructure bank may be used only to improve the state highway system. (Companion bill is S.B. 746 by Wentworth.)
H.B. 1053 (Mallory Caraway) – Electric Utility Billing: would provide that a provider of electric service to a retail customer, including a municipally-owned electric utility, may not disconnect service or pursue any other collections options for nonpayment of a balance due before the 30th day after the date on which the statement was issued.
H.B. 1054 (Mallory Caraway) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) prohibit a peace officer from stopping or detaining the operator of a motor vehicle for the sole purpose of determining whether the driver has insurance; and (2) provide that a vehicle operator need not be identified by name in a statutorily-prescribed document in order to establish financial responsibility for a vehicle.
H.B. 1057 (McClendon) – Employee Leave: would require an employer to: (1) allow an employee to use two weeks of accrued sick or vacation paid leave to care for the birth, adoption, or placement of a foster child; (2) allow an employee to receive two weeks of paid unemployment benefits if the employee does not have paid leave with the employer; (3) post a notice of employees' rights under this law; and (4) reinstate an employee who takes leave under this law. The bill would also provide a civil penalty for an employer who willfully violates this law and provide a cause of action for wages and other employee benefits to an employee whose rights under this law have been violated. (Companion bill is S.B. 692 by Van De Putte.)
H.B. 1059 (Ortiz) – Mandatory Health Benefits: would require a health benefit plan to cover prenatal care and childbirth expenses.
H.B. 1063 (Farias) – Gated Communities: would provide that the commissioners court of a county by order may require that each electric gate to a gated community or multiunit housing project be equipped with a gate-operating device that: (1) is approved by the county fire marshal; and (2) will activate the electric gate on the sounding of an emergency vehicle siren.
H.B. 1079 (Kolkhorst) – Community Development Block Grants: would provide that an applicant for a grant, loan, or award under a Texas Office of Rural Community Affairs (TDHCA) community development block grant program may appeal a decision of the TDHCA executive director by filing an appeal with the TDHCA board.
H.B. 1087 (Pena) – Criminal Trespass: would create a defense to a criminal trespass prosecution for: (1) a firefighter or emergency medical services employee discharging an official duty under exigent circumstances; and (2) a person employed or acting as an agent for an entity, including an electric or gas utility, who has or is reasonably believed to have consent to enter a property and is performing a duty within the scope of that employment.
H.B. 1092 (Parker) – Property Tax: would permit a number of persons equal to ten percent of county voters who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election to petition to call an election to permit an owner of non-agriculturally appraised property to require that city and county property taxes (but not school taxes) be assessed on the basis of a five-year average of the property's taxable value. (Note: the bill would also seem to permit the county commissioners court to call such an election, but that authority does not appear to be authorized by the enabling amendment, H.J.R. 55, below.) The bill would also: (1) permit each property owner to make an election for the alternative tax assessment by filing a request with the chief appraiser by June 15 of a tax year; (2) provide that if an election is made, the assessed value for city and county purposes for the current tax year and for each of the subsequent four tax years is the average taxable value of the property over the five-year period ending with the tax year for which the taxes are imposed (this section of the bill is confusing, and seems to suggest that the benefit ends after four years); and (3) permit a property owner to opt out of the five-year rolling average assessed value in any given year if the property owner pays five years of limited back taxes. (Note: please see H.J.R. 55, below.)
H.B. 1103 (Guillen) – Elections: would require the secretary of state to conduct a study to evaluate the feasibility of eliminating the May uniform election date by 2013.
H.B. 1104 (Guillen) – Municipal Court: would: (1) require a municipal prosecutor to provide, not later than the 30th day after a complaint is filed, any evidence pertaining to a criminal case to the defense attorney; (2) require the court to permit a defense attorney to make copies of the evidence; (3) permit a city to assert exceptions to required disclosure that is believed to be confidential by law; and (4) require a municipal prosecutor to supplement or amend this information as needed. (Companion bill is S.B. 661 by Carona.)
H.B. 1105 (Laubenberg) – Professional Services Procurement: would provide that, in procuring architectural, engineering, or land surveying services, a governmental entity shall: (1) base its choice on demonstrated competence, knowledge, and qualifications and on the reasonableness of the proposed fee for the services; and (2) if other considerations are equal, give preference to a provider of those services whose principal place of business is in this state or who will manage the contract wholly from an office in this state.
H.B. 1106 (Bohac) – Property Tax: would permit the city council of a city predominately located in Harris County to adopt a local-option reduction in the property tax appraisal cap from ten percent to five percent. (Note: please see H.J.R. 56, below.)
H.B. 1117 (Hochberg) – Elections: would require ballot instructions to clearly indicate to a voter the reasons that a vote may not count or may count in a different manner than intended, including: (1) language clarifying the effect of a straight party vote where the vote would not apply to all elections on the ballot; (2) the circumstances in which a vote for an individual candidate may override a straight party selection; (3) the impact of improperly marking a paper ballot; and (4) where practicable, a warning that would appear on the screen of an electronic voting system if a voter attempts to take an action that could lead to an unexpected result.
H.B. 1121 (Bolton) – Health Benefits: would provide that a group health benefit plan’s coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of a serious mental illness must be identical to that provided for other medical or surgical conditions.
H.B. 1132 (McReynolds) – Property Tax: would slightly alter the schedule of homestead property tax exemption amounts available to disabled veterans.
H.B. 1142 (Anchia) – Media Production Zones: would permit the creation of “media production development zones” in certain metropolitan areas containing a city with a population of more than 250,000, and would provide that the zone is approved by the Governor’s Music, Film, Television, and Multimedia Office, the sale of certain film and media equipment used for the building of sound stages within the zone is exempt from sales taxes.
H.B. 1144 (B. Brown) – Elections: would provide that any qualified voter may serve as a poll watcher.
H.B. 1155 (McReynolds) – Property Tax: would: (1) permit disabled veterans or their surviving spouses to transfer disabled veteran homestead property tax exemptions to a new property in the middle of a tax year; (2) permit such transferred exemptions to be back-dated to January 1 of the year of the transfer; and (3) prorate the exemption on the original homestead for the portion of the tax year before the exemption was transferred.
H.B. 1156 (Farabee) – Electric Rates: would provide, subject to some exceptions, that a municipally-owned electric utility shall discount charges for electric service provided to a public school district.
H.B. 1158 (Truitt) – Cell Phones: would double the fine for certain traffic violations in cases where the person who committed the offense was using a wireless communication device without the use of a hands-free device at the time of the offense.
H.B. 1159 (Kuempel) – Tax Increment Financing: would: (1) permit a city that creates a tax increment finance zone to extend the duration of the zone beyond its original termination date; and (2) give other taxing entities the option to continue to participate in zones which have had their duration extended. (Companion bill is S.B. 313 by Wentworth.)
H.B. 1161 (Geren) – Alcohol Regulation: would permit any school district (not just districts located in cities over 900,000 in population as current law provides) to petition a city to establish a 1000-foot distance requirement between schools and certain establishments where alcohol is sold.
H.B. 1168 (Dutton) – Municipal Court: would: (1) require a municipal prosecutor, upon request by a defendant and subject to certain exceptions and existing rules of evidence, to make available to the defendant multiple types of discovery records related to the case; (2) require the same of the defendant; (3) create sanctions for violations; (4) apply the requirements created to pro se defendants only as required by the court; and (5) give the release requirement precedence over the Texas Public Information Act. (Note: this bill is identical to H.B. 301, also by Dutton.)
H.B. 1172 (Martinez) – Property Tax: would grant a partially disabled veteran a residential homestead property tax exemption at a percentage equal to the veteran’s disability rating. (Note: please see H.J.R. 59, below.)
H.B. 1174 (Hartnett) – Sanitary Sewer Overflows: would provide that a city may pay damages arising from the backup of the city's sanitary sewer system regardless of whether the city would be liable for the damages under the Texas Tort Claims Act.
H.B. 1177 (Guillen) – Legislative Leave: would broaden the applicability of Subchapter A of Chapter 614 of the Government Code, relating to required legislative leave for peace officers and fire fighters, from cities of 200,000 or more in population to cities of 50,000 or more in population.
H.B. 1179 (Chavez) – Cell Phone Ban: would prohibit a driver from using a cell phone to read, write, or send a text message while operating a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle is stopped.
H.J.R. 54 (Deshotel) – Transportation Funding: would amend the Texas Constitution to provide that, subject to legislative allocation, appropriation, and direction, three-fourths of the net revenue from the motor fuels tax shall be used for the sole purpose of constructing and maintaining public highways, and one-fourth of the net revenue shall be allocated to school funding. (Companion bill is S.J.R. 22 by Wentworth.)
H.J.R. 55 (Parker) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to authorize the legislature to permit ten percent of the number of county voters who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election to petition to call an election to permit an owner of non-agriculturally appraised property to require that city and county property taxes (but not school taxes) be assessed on the basis of a five-year average of the property's taxable value. (Note: please see H.B. 1092, above.)
H.J.R. 56 (Bohac) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to allow the city council of a city predominately located in Harris County to adopt a local-option reduction in the property tax appraisal cap from ten percent to five percent. (Note: please see H.B. 1106, above.)
H.J.R. 59 (Martinez) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to authorize the legislature to grant a partially disabled veteran a residential homestead property tax exemption at a percentage equal to the veteran’s disability rating. (Note: please see H.B. 1172, above.)
H.J.R. 60 (Leibowitz) – Parks Funding: would amend the Texas Constitution to require that all revenue from sales taxes on sporting goods be appropriated to the Parks and Wildlife Department.
S.B. 18 (Estes) – Eminent Domain: would: (1) provide that "public use," with respect to the use of eminent domain authority, means a use of property, including a use described as “public” by current law, that allows the state, a political subdivision of the state, or the general public of the state to possess, occupy, and enjoy the property; (2) provide that a governmental or private entity may not take private property through the use of eminent domain if the taking is not for a public use; (3) provide that any common carrier pipeline may use the power of eminent domain; (4) require a record vote with specific wording to take each parcel of land through the use of eminent domain; (5) require an entity that wants to acquire real property for a public use to make a “bona fide offer” to acquire the property voluntarily, and provide consequences for failure to do so; (6) require an entity that is not subject to the Public Information Act (such as a common carrier pipeline) and that has the power of eminent domain to disclose certain information to a landowner during an eminent domain proceeding; (7) change the standard for determining market value to mean the price a property will bring when offered for sale by a person who desires to sell the property, but is not obliged to sell the property, and is bought by a person who desires to buy the property, but is not under a necessity to buy the property; (8) provide that the special commissioners shall, subject to the Texas Rules of Evidence, admit evidence on the market value (before the condemnation) of the property being condemned, the net change to the market value of the property owner's remaining property considering both injury and benefit to the property owner, and the use of the property for the purpose of the condemnation; (9) for individuals or entities displaced by eminent domain, require a city to provide a relocation advisory service that is compatible with the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Advisory Program; (10) require a city, as a cost of acquiring real property, to pay moving expenses and rental supplements, make relocation payments, provide financial assistance to acquire replacement housing, and compensate for expenses incidental to the transfer of the property if an individual, a family, the personal property of a business, a farming or ranching operation, or a nonprofit organization is displaced in connection with the acquisition; (11) modify the current-law provisions that allow a property owner to repurchase the property if it isn’t used by the condemnor within ten years of the condemnation by providing that the repurchase price is the price paid to the condemnee at the time the property was condemned, and provide that the right is activated if the condemnor fails to begin the operation or construction of the project in the ten-year period; (12) limit the authority of a water and sewer utility (not including a municipal water and sewer utility) to use eminent domain only to acquire property necessary to, among other things, comply with federal and state regulations relating to sanitation; (13) add additional court costs in a condemnation proceeding; (14) provide that a person whose property is taken by eminent domain for an easement may construct streets or roads up to 40 feet wide over the easement; (15) provide that, for property condemned for the state highway system or a county toll project, the special commissioners shall consider any diminished access to the highway and to or from the remaining property to the extent that it affects the present market value of the real property; and (16) include specific additional reforms that apply solely to common carriers.
S.B. 496 (Wentworth) – “Qui Tam” Lawsuits: would authorize a private individual to sue a city on behalf of the State of Texas, alleging that the city defrauded the state by making a false claim for state funds or property.
S.B. 673 (Hegar) – Coastal Erosion: would require a coastal city to formulate a plan to reduce public funds spent on erosion and storm damage losses.
S.B. 681 (Ogden) – Electric Utilities: would provide that: (1) the Public Utility Commission (PUC) shall conduct a study to evaluate whether there is a need in this state for electric utilities to improve their ability to restore electric service to customers after a major power outage that is expected to last for more than 24 hours; and (2) on a determination that there is a need in this state for a particular electric utility to improve its ability to restore electric service to customers after a major power outage, the PUC may require the electric utility to maintain: (a) an additional physical interconnection with another electric utility, regardless of whether the electric utilities operate within the same power region; (b) an emergency electricity supply agreement with at least one other electric utility; or (c) a joint restoration procedure with at least one other electric utility.
S.B. 684 (Lucio) – Rural Economic Development: would: (1) create the “Texas Rural Development Fund” as an account in the state’s general revenue fund; and (2) provide that money in the account may be spent in rural areas of the state on entrepreneurship programs, regional planning, rural leadership enhancement, and rural youth corps programs.
S.B. 688 (Wentworth) – Residential Development: would, among other things: (1) authorize a school district to mitigate the effects of certain residential development by allowing the Texas Education Commissioner to purchase, for fair market value, a percentage of the real property acreage within the residential development site if the commissioner determines that the development is likely to significantly increase elementary school student enrollment in a school district and that the increase in enrollment warrants the construction of a new elementary school facility to accommodate the increased elementary school population; and (2) provide that a city may not grant final approval of a plat or replat of a residential development or issue permits required for a residential development unless the developer presents evidence of having complied with the mitigating measures.
S.B. 690 (Wentworth) – Charter Amendments: would require a city’s governing body to submit a proposed charter amendment to election upon receipt of a petition signed by ten percent of the registered voters in the city. (Note: current law sets the threshold at five percent of qualified voters.)
S.B. 692 (Van De Putte) – Employee Leave: this bill is the same as H.B. 1057 by McClendon, above.
S.B. 700 (Patrick) – Property Tax: would do the following: (1) provide that homestead exemptions are effective on January 1 of the tax year in which the person qualifies for the exemption; (2) extend from one year to five years the deadline for filing certain late homestead exemptions; (3) limit property tax appraisals to an amount based on the current use of the property rather than the potential “highest and best use” use of the property; (4) require appraisal notices to include additional comparative information based on the past five years of appraisal history; (5) lower the property tax rollback rate from eight percent to five percent; (6) provide that a city must hold a ratification election to adopt a tax rate that exceeds the five-percent rollback rate (as opposed to current law, which requires an election only if a petition is received from the citizens); (7) permit the electronic filing of certain appraisal protests; (8) permit appeals of appraisals to small claims court, instead of district court, if the amount in dispute is within the jurisdictional amount of the small claims court; and (9) provide that decisions on appraisal appeals to small claims court are not further appealable.
S.B. 712 (Hegar) – Law Enforcement: would, in cases of certain sexual assault charges: (1) authorize the court or a victim to request an HIV test of a defendant within 48 hours after indictment or waiver of indictment ; and (2) delay the beginning of the 48-hour period if a law enforcement agency cannot locate the defendant at the time of the indictment or waiver of indictment.
S.B. 718 (Nichols) – Certificates of Convenience and Necessity: would: (1) require an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to provide water or sewer service to include a list of the owners of each tract of land that is at least ten acres in size and is wholly or partially located within the proposed service area; (2) provide that the TCEQ shall require notice to be mailed to each such landowner; (3) provide that a landowner of a tract of at least ten acres of land, any part of which is located in the proposed service area, must consent to the inclusion of the property in the proposed service area before the TCEQ may issue a CCN or an amendment to a CCN for an area that includes that property; and (4) provide that the consent required from the landowner does not apply if the proposed service area is located within the boundaries or extraterritorial jurisdiction of a city with a population of more than 500,000 and the city or a utility owned by the city is the applicant (however, in such a case the landowner is entitled to contest the inclusion of the landowner's property in the proposed service area at a hearing held by the TCEQ regarding the application).
S.B. 719 (Nichols) – Water and Sewer Ratemaking: would: (1) remove the ability of a party appealing a ratemaking decision by a city’s governing body, including an investor-owned water utility and utility customers in the ETJ, to request interim rates during a ratemaking appeal to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ); and (2) permit the executive director of the TCEQ to establish interim rates during a ratemaking appeal.
S.B. 720 (Nichols) – Water and Sewer Utilities: would prohibit a city’s governing body or other regulatory authority from considering legal expenses incurred by a non-municipal water or sewer utility in a contested ratemaking case.
S.B. 721 (Hegar) – Property Tax: would provide that the appraised value of a residential homestead that is the beneficiary of a successful appraisal review board protest (or final appeal from such a protest) may not exceed the reduced value until the second tax year following the protest.
S.B. 728 (Carona) – Eminent Domain: would provide that: (1) a condemnation petition filed by a private entity must state that the use for which the property is sought is a public use; (2) with the property owner's consent, a private entity that condemns an easement may, as an alternative to paying damages, agree to give the owner an intangible legal right to receive a percentage of the entity's profits associated with the use of the easement; (3) a private entity that seeks an easement through the use of eminent domain must seek a route for the easement that is the least burdensome to the land; and (4) the use of an existing easement that is suitable for the purpose for which the easement is sought is presumed to be the least burdensome route.
S.B. 730 (Hegar) – Firearms: would: (a) preclude an employer from prohibiting an employee who has a concealed handgun license from transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition in a locked, privately-owned vehicle in a parking lot, garage, or parking area provided for employees; but (b) provide that the bill’s restrictions on an employer do not apply to a vehicle owned or leased by the employer and used by the employee, unless the employee is required to transport or store a firearm in the course and scope of duty.
S.B. 738 (Watson) – State Agency Fees: would require a state agency, as part of its strategic plan, to: (1) review all agency functions currently funded by general revenue and determine if they could be funded by fees or other revenue sources; (2) review agency functions currently funded by other sources, including fees, and determine whether these sources of revenue could be increased; (3) recommend new or increased fees; and (4) change the way fees are calculated.
S.B. 744 (Wentworth) – Property Tax: would: (1) permit certain limited partnerships to qualify for community housing development corporation (CHDO) property tax exemptions; and (2) delete the current-law requirement that housing projects must be built after December 1, 2001 in order to qualify for a CHDO exemption. S.B. 746 (Wentworth) – Transportation Funding: this bill is the same as H.B. 1047 by Deshotel, above.
S.B. 752 (David) – Disposal Wells: would allow a city to protest to the proper state agency the application for an oil or gas disposal well.
S.B. 769 (Williams) – Electric Utilities: would allow an electric utility to include in a base rate proceeding the utility’s “system restoration costs” and “self-insurance reserves” following weather-related events or natural disasters.
S.B. 770 (Wentworth) – Property Tax: would provide that, once granted, a Super-Freeport property tax exemption is continuous and need not be applied for each year.
S.B. 771 (Williams) – Property Tax: would provide that: (1) all available information that is specific to a particular property must be taken into account when appraising the property; (2) after successful appeal of a property’s appraised value, the appraisal of the property may not increase in the next tax year by more than the preceding five-year average of appraisal increases; and (3) provide that a comparable sale for use by an appraiser must have occurred within six months of the date of the appraisal.
S.B. 772 (Williams) – Cell Phones Bans: would prohibit drivers under the age of eighteen from using a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.
S.J.R. 22 (Wentworth) – Transportation Funding: this bill is the same as H.J.R. 54 by Deshotel, above.