SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE ACTIONS
H.B. 206 (J. Jackson), relating to the on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages. Reported from the House Licensing and Administrative Practices Committee.
H.B. 240 (Alonzo), requiring that an appointment to a municipal governing body be made with the intent to ensure that the governing body is representative of the constituency served by the governing body. Reported from the House County Affairs Committee.
H.B. 632 (S. Turner), relating to water and sewer utilities near the Gulf of Mexico. Reported from the House State Affairs Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) mandate that a retail public utility (including a municipally-owned utility), within 100 miles of the Gulf of Mexico must maintain (or have access to through a mutual aid program) auxiliary power generators capable of ensuring that, in the event of a local power outage, the retail public utility maintains the ability to provide water to the local distribution system with at least the minimum water pressure required under Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rules, and sewer services to all existing customers; (2) provide that the TCEQ by rule shall prescribe standards relating to the auxiliary power generators and create and implement an inspection schedule that ensures the inspection of each retail public utility for compliance with the new mandate at least once a year; and (3) authorize the TCEQ to impose an administrative penalty on a retail public utility that violates the new requirement or permit the commission to revoke the utility’s license to operate.
H.B. 1229 (C. Howard), requiring that appraisal review board members shall be appointed by the county commissioners court rather than by the appraisal district’s board of directors as current law provides. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee.
H.B. 1254 (Callegari), requiring any city with a red light camera system to attach a flashing caution light to the sign that indicates the presence of a red light camera. Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee.
H.B. 1648 (Menendez), relating to cities covered by Chapter 143 of the Local Government Code (fire/police civil service). Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee. As reported, this bill would enact, in Chapter 143 cities, a “police bill of rights.” Specifically, this bill would limit the way in which a covered city may investigate a complaint against a police officer or firefighter, including: (1) limiting the times at which a police officer or firefighter may be interrogated; (2) not allowing interrogation of a police office or firefighter at his/her home; (3) specifying the individuals who may perform the investigation; and (4) limiting the way in which an interrogation of a police officer or firefighter may be conducted.
H.B. 1932 (Thompson), relating to health benefit plan labeling. Reported from the House Insurance Committee. As reported, this bill would apply to most health benefit plans, including one issued by an intergovernmental risk pool. It would provide that certain documents issued by a health benefit plan must contain a “fact label” that includes the monthly premium, expenses paid in-network and out-of-network, annual out-of-pocket expenses, and much more.
H.B. 2000 (McCall), requiring health benefit plans to provide coverage for amino acid-based elemental baby formulas. Reported from the House Insurance Committee.
H.B. 2116 (Pickett), relating to the issuance of state general obligation bonds for highway improvement projects. Reported from the House Transportation Committee.
H.B. 2253 (Hancock), relating to political advertising. Reported from the House Elections Committee. As reported, this bill would change the statute relating to unlawful political advertising on measures as follows: (1) require that violations of the statute be knowing; (2) require the Texas Ethics Commission (the Commission) to adopt rules defining unlawful advocacy; (3) provide that a member of a city council whose only action in connection with a proposed communication describing a measure is to approve the spending of public funds for a communication that does not violate the statue does not commit an offense if, at the time the spending was approved, the proposed content does not advocate passage or defeat of the measure, but the content of the communication is later changed; (4) provide that a city officer or employee does not violate the statute based solely on the conduct of others; (5) provide that it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under the statute that a city official or employee relied on a written opinion of a court, the attorney general, the Commission, or the city attorney; (6) provide that a civil penalty for violation of the statute bars criminal prosecution for the same conduct; and (7) provide that a sworn complaint alleging violation of the statute may not proceed beyond a preliminary review hearing unless the Commission makes a finding that the complaint is not frivolous and states in writing the basis for that finding.
H.B. 2291 (Gattis), relating to adoption of a property tax rate. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. As reported, this bill would provide that: (1) a city’s effective tax rate is the default tax rate for each tax year; (2) a city council must affirmatively vote to adopt a tax rate that is higher or lower than the effective tax rate; (3) the meeting to adopt a tax rate that differs from the effective rate must be an open meeting; and (4) a city must hold two hearings to adopt a rate that exceeds the effective tax rate. (To a great extent, this bill simply restates current law.)
H.B. 2535 (Creighton), relating to dam safety and increasing state penalties for certain dam-related violations. Reported from the House Natural Resources Committee.
H.B. 2639 (Isett), prohibiting cities from operating photographic traffic enforcement cameras. Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee.
H.B. 3244 (Riddle), relating to sex offenders. Reported from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) authorize a commissioners court is a county with a population greater than 100,000 to designate a city police chief’s office as the mandatory centralized sex offender registration site for the entire county; and (2) require a department thus appointed to register all sex offenders in the county, regardless of specific residency, and then report that information back to the other cities in the county. (Companion bill is S.B. 2048 by Williams.)
H.B. 3731 (Coleman), permitting a county commissioners court to adopt a county assistance district sales tax without an election of the residents of the county. Reported from the House County Affairs Committee. As reported, this bill would allow a city governing body to exempt the city (but not the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction) from the sales tax.
H.J.R. 17 (Guillen), relating to a property tax exemption. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. As reported, this legislation would amend the Texas Constitution to: (1) permit a city to adopt a tax freeze (ceiling on total taxes paid) on the homesteads of active duty military personnel; (2) provide that the military tax freeze may be adopted by action of the city council; (3) provide that the freeze may also be adopted by popular election, which must be called by the city council upon receipt of a petition of five percent of the registered voters of the city; and (4) permit the legislature to statutorily define eligibility for the military tax freeze.
S.B. 18 (Estes), relating to eminent domain. Reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee. (Please see the separate article elsewhere in this update.)
S.B. 20 (Williams), relating to the property tax. Reported from the Senate Finance Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) permit two or more adjoining appraisal districts to consolidate certain appraisal operations; (2) provide that the appraised value of a residence homestead must be determined solely on the basis of its use as a residence homestead, regardless of the otherwise “highest and best use” of the property; (3) require that the comptroller’s property value study take place once every two years instead of yearly for districts that are currently in compliance; (4) expand the scope of the comptroller’s power to review appraisal district standards and operations; and (5) establish a pilot program for the appeal of certain property disputes to an administrative law judge in Bexar, El Paso, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis Counties.
S.B. 700 (Patrick), requiring a city to automatically conduct a property tax rate ratification election any time the city wishes to adopt a tax rate that exceeds the rollback rate. Officially reported from the Senate Finance Committee. (Note: this bill was the subject of the lead article in the April 23, 2009, TML Legislative Update. City officials who oppose this legislation should contact their senator(s).)
S.B. 815 (Watson), relating to health benefit plan labeling. Reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee. (Note: this bill is the same as H.B. 1932, above, except that it does not apply to intergovernmental risk pools.)
S.B. 1068 (Wentworth), allowing a governmental body to redact certain personal information under the public information law without requesting an attorney general decision. Reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee.
S.B. 1202 (Deuell), generally giving priority for the intrastate sourcing of city sales tax to the location at which a retailer first accepts payment for goods. Reported from the Senate Finance Committee.
S.B. 1358 (Seliger), relating to the Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS). Reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee. As reported, this bill would allow a TMRS member city to calculate the amount of a retiree’s cost of living adjustment (COLA) annually as an increase in the current benefit only.
S.B. 2048 (Williams), relating to sex offenders. Reported from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. (Note: this bill is the same as H.B. 3244, above.)
S.B. 2242 (Zaffirini), relating to ethics reports. Reported from the Senate State Affairs Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) permit, but not require, a city or a candidate for city office to use Texas Ethics Commission software and other resources to file certain campaign reports; and (2) permit the commission to assist local governments in adopting their own software for managing campaign disclosures.