CITY-RELATED BILLS FILED

H.B. 700 (Zerwas) – Property Tax: would reduce the annual property tax appraisal cap from ten percent to five percent. (Note: please see H.J.R. 42, below.)

H.B. 701 (Zerwas) – Property Tax: would authorize a new city sales tax for property tax relief with the following features: (1) the additional sales tax authorized by the bill would not count as part of the two-percent cap on the local sales tax rate; (2) both a city and the county may adopt the additional sales tax for property tax relief; (3) the rate of the sales tax would be one-half of one percent; (4) the tax must be adopted by an election of the citizens; (5) such election of the citizens may be called by the governing body of the city or county; (6) an election must be called by the governing body of a city or county upon receipt of a petition signed by at least five percent of the registered voters of the respective entity; (7) the governing body, or the citizens by petition, may call an election to abolish an already established additional sales tax for property tax relief; and (8) revenue from the additional sales tax shall be used to reduce the property tax rate. The bill would also provide that a property may qualify for a residential homestead exemption at any time during a tax year and receive the benefit of the exemption retroactive to January 1 of that year, and that the ten-percent appraisal cap under current law applies to all real property, not just to residential homesteads. (Note: please see H.J.R. 43, below.)

H.B. 707 (Rose) – Purchasing: would provide that a city with a population of less than 250,000 may use the five-percent local bidder preference for contracts for or purchases of: (1) real property; (2) personal property that is not affixed to real property; (3) services; or (4) construction of a building, road, street, bridge, utility, or storm drainage facility.

H.B. 711 (Rose) – Property Tax: would reduce the annual property tax appraisal cap from ten percent to five percent. (Note: please see H.J.R. 44, below.)

H.B. 722 (D. Howard) – Water Utilities: would: (1) require a regional water authority, when building a facility within a city, to comply with the zoning and permitting requirements of the city; (2) require city council approval for any regional water authority facility; and (3) prohibit a city from approving such a facility if the council determines that residents’ health, safety or welfare will be negatively affected, or if the facility does not comply with land use and zoning regulations or the city’s land use and development plan.

H.B. 725 (Veasey) – Utilities: would: (1) require a utility, upon the request of an elderly or disabled individual, to delay without penalty the payment date of a bill until the 25th day after the date the bill is issued; and (2) allow a utility, upon written request by an elderly or disabled individual, to allow payment of the individual's bill to be deferred for not more than three months and to allow the individual to pay the delinquent amount in equal installments over at least three billing cycles.

H.B. 730 (Miklos) – Traffic Offenses: would increase the maximum fine for a traffic violation from $200 to $500.

H.B. 733 (Fletcher) – Police Vehicles: would permit privately owned vehicles to qualify as city police vehicles for certain purposes, provided the vehicle is: (1) owned by a peace officer; and (2) the police chief has approved the use. (Companion bill is S.B. 389 by Patrick.)

H.B. 736 (Quintanilla) – County Nuisance Authority: would provide, among other things, that: (1) the commissioners court of a county by order may, in the unincorporated areas of the county, abate and remove a nuisance and punish by fine the person responsible for the nuisance, define and declare what constitutes a nuisance and authorize and direct the summary abatement of the nuisance, and abate in any manner the commissioners court considers expedient any nuisance that may injure or affect the public health or comfort; and (2) if an order adopted by a commissioners court conflicts with an ordinance of a city, the city ordinance prevails within the city's jurisdiction to the extent of the conflict.

H.B. 737 (Quintanilla) – Hazardous Pipelines: would: (1) require a person who is an officer or employee of a local governmental entity, on acquiring knowledge of a proposed pipeline project that may transport a hazardous liquid in or through the entity's boundaries or jurisdiction, to promptly inform the entity of the existence of the proposed pipeline project; and (2) provide that a local governmental entity that acquires knowledge from any source regarding a proposed pipeline project that may transport a hazardous liquid in or through the entity's boundaries or jurisdiction shall promptly give written notice to any other local governmental entity whose boundaries or jurisdiction may reasonably be expected to be affected by the proposed pipeline project.

H.B. 738 (Quintanilla) – Traffic Offenses: would increase the minimum and maximum fines for traffic violations if, during the traffic violation, the driver is using a phone or other communications device, grooming, reading, interacting with others in the vehicle, or engaging in another activity that prevents the driver from safely operating the vehicle.

H.B. 742 (Flores) – Property Tax: would give a complete homestead property tax exemption to totally disabled veterans. (Companion bill is S.B. 469 by Carona.)

H.B. 747 (Gattis) – Law Enforcement: would require a blood or breath test if the person arrested: (1) was in an accident where a victim suffered bodily injury and required transportation to a hospital; (2) is suspected of driving while intoxicated with a child under the age of fifteen in the car; or (3) is suspected by the arresting officer, based on reliable information from a credible source, of having been previously arrested for certain intoxication offenses. (Companion bill is S.B. 261 by Deuell.)

H.B. 758 (Martinez Fischer) – Cell Phone Ban: would prohibit a driver from using a cell phone to read, write, or send a text message while driving, except for uses in connection with the official duties of emergency response personnel and police.

H.B. 759 (Martinez Fischer) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) create a 24-hour hotline for reports of impaired driving; and (2) require that tips from the hotline be forwarded as soon as practicable to the city police department or sheriff’s office with jurisdiction over the matter.

H.B. 761 (Creighton) – Property Crimes: would increase the punishment level for certain property crimes, including graffiti, if committed during a declared disaster.

H.B. 767 (Guillen) – Municipal Court: would require a municipal court that finds a child guilty of a fine-only offense, including a traffic offense, to do the following: (1) enter an order requiring the parent and child to provide the court with evidence that the child is in compliance with compulsory school attendance requirements; and (2) if the child is not in compliance, include in the court’s judgment an order to comply and provide evidence to the court of compliance and order the Texas Department of Public Safety to suspend the child’s driver’s license or deny the issuance of a license for a certain period of time.

H.B. 770 (D. Howard) – Property Tax: would allow the continuance of residential homestead property tax exemptions on property that is temporarily uninhabitable because of mold or water damage.

H.B. 773 (Oliveira) – Tax Abatements: would extend the authority of taxing units, including cities, to grant tax abatements until September 1, 2021. (Note: under current law, the authority to grant tax abatements is set to expire on September 1, 2009.)

H.B. 774 (T. Smith) – Zoning: would provide that: (1) a protest to a zoning regulation or boundary must be written and signed by the owners of at least 20 percent of either: (a) the area of the lots or land covered by the proposed change; or (b) the area of the lots or land within the incorporated territory of the city and immediately adjoining the area covered by the proposed change and extending 200 feet from that area; and (2) if the property within 200 feet of the property for which a zoning change is proposed is located in territory included on the most recently approved tax roll of an adjacent city, the written notice shall be sent to the governing body of the adjacent city.

H.B. 790 (Burnam) – Elections: would provide that for a provisional ballot cast outside the precinct in which a voter resides, if the voter was a person registered to vote in this state, the early voting ballot board shall accept the ballot but count only a vote cast for: (1) an office or proposition stating a measure for which a statewide election was held; and (2) an office or proposition stating a measure in a territorial unit of which the voter was entitled to vote at the voter’s registered address.

H.B. 791 (Burnam) – Sales Tax Holiday: would create a second sales tax holiday in July for the purchase of certain energy-efficient products. (The current sales tax holiday for energy-efficient products is Memorial Day weekend only.)

H.B. 793 (P. King) – Volunteer Fire Departments: would provide that a volunteer fire department or a city that contracts with a volunteer fire department may charge a reasonable fee for emergency services performed by the department.

H.B. 794 (P. King) – Volunteer Fire Departments: would exempt volunteer fire departments from the payment of state motor fuel taxes. (This bill is identical to H.B. 387 by Pena and H.B. 606 by Farabee, and its companion bill is S.B. 254 by Estes.)

H.B. 799 (Lucio) – Sales Tax: would exempt from sales taxes certain renewable energy devices.

H.J.R. 42 (Zerwas) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to reduce the property tax appraisal cap from ten percent to five percent. (Note: please see H.B. 700, above.)

H.J.R. 43 (Zerwas) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to provide that the ten-percent appraisal cap under current law applies to all real property, not just to residential homesteads. (Note: please see H.B. 701, above.)

H.J.R. 44 (Rose) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to reduce the property tax appraisal cap from ten percent to five percent. (Note: please see H.B. 711, above.)

S.B. 505 (Ogden) – Transportation Funding: would provide that: (1) the Texas Transportation Commission may designate as a “transportation finance zone” an area that is adjacent to the right-of-way of an existing or proposed state highway project and within two miles on either side of the center line of the state highway; (2) the area designated as a transportation finance zone may extend more than two miles on either side of the center line of a state highway if necessary to avoid the splitting of a location in which the sale, storage, use, or other consumption of a taxable item would be consummated; (3) the designation of a transportation finance zone is not effective until the legislature has reviewed and approved the designation and boundaries of the zone; (4) proceeds from the collection of state sales taxes in a transportation finance zone shall be deposited to the credit of a separate account to be used only for the purpose of paying the principal of and interest on obligations issued in connection with the state highway project located in the transportation finance zone in which the taxes were collected; and (5) in any state fiscal year, the comptroller may not deposit more than $250 million to the credit of the fund. (Note: please see S.J.R. 18, below.)

S.B. 508 (Eltife) – Purchasing: would provide that, for purposes of the five-percent local bidder preference for a city with a population of less than 250,000, a local bidder means a bidder whose principal place of business is in the city or the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

S.B. 533 (Duncan) – Eminent Domain: would make various changes to eminent domain laws. Specifically, the bill would:

  1. require a record vote with specific wording to take each parcel of land through the use of eminent domain;
  2. require that any entity, including a private entity, authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain must submit to the state comptroller, by December 31, 2010, a letter stating that the entity is authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain and identifying the provision or provisions of law that grant the entity that authority, and would provide that the entity’s authority to use eminent domain will expire if the letter is not sent by the deadline;
  3. provide that any entity with eminent domain authority that wants to acquire real property for a public use shall, at the time an offer to purchase or lease the property is made, disclose to the property owner any and all appraisal reports produced or acquired by the entity that relate to the owner's property and were used in determining the final valuation offer;
  4. provide that a property owner shall disclose to the entity seeking to acquire the property any and all current appraisal reports produced or acquired by the property owner relating specifically to the owner's property and used in determining the owner's opinion of value;
  5. mandate that the initial offer to purchase made by an entity must also include: (a) a copy of provisions of law relating to various disclosures of value; (b) a written estimate of the fair market value of the property and the amount of damages to the property owner's remaining property, if any, that will result from the acquisition; and (c) a statement that the property owner has a right to make a written request to the entity for certain valuation evidence regarding the property and adjacent properties;
  6. provide for deadlines and procedures under which an entity must provide the information requested by a property owner under (5)(c), above;
  7. mandate that an entity that wants to acquire real property for a public use shall provide to a property owner at least two written offers proposing a purchase or lease of the property, as the entity determines in good faith is appropriate, and that the last offer the entity intends to make shall be in writing and be designated on its face as such;
  8. provide that after a property owner receives an offer from an entity proposing to acquire the owner's property for a public use, the property owner may request that the entity procure an appraisal report about the property by an independent and certified appraiser chosen by the property owner;
  9. require an entity to negotiate in good faith to acquire the property through a voluntary purchase or lease agreement, with good faith being defined as compliance with the bill’s requirements;
  10. provide that a condemnation petition must state with specificity the public purpose for which the entity intends to use the property;
  11. provide that the judge of a court in which a condemnation petition is filed shall provide each party a reasonable period to strike one of the three special commissioners appointed by the judge, with the court appointing a replacement;
  12. require an entity to disclose in writing to the property owner, at the time of acquisition of the property through eminent domain, that: (a) the owner or the owner's heirs, successors, or assigns may be entitled to repurchase the property or request from the entity certain information relating to the use of the property and any actual progress made toward that use; and (b) that the repurchase price is the price paid to the owner by the entity at the time the entity acquired the property through eminent domain;
  13. provide that, if a court finds that the condemnor did not negotiate in good faith to acquire the property, the condemnor shall pay costs and attorney’s fees;
  14. modify the current provisions that allow a property owner to repurchase the property by providing for repurchase if: (a) the public use for which the property was acquired through eminent domain is canceled; (b) no actual progress is made toward the public use for which the property was acquired between the date of acquisition and the tenth anniversary of that date; or (c) the property becomes unnecessary for the public use for which the property was acquired;
  15. define the term “actual progress” as being the completion of two or more items in a list of expressly enumerated actions;
  16. mandate that, not later than the 180th day after the date an entity that acquired a real property interest through eminent domain determines that the former property owner is entitled to repurchase the property, the entity shall send a notice to the property owner of that fact;
  17. provide that, on or after the tenth anniversary of the date on which property was acquired by an entity, a property owner or the owner's heirs, successors, or assigns may request that the condemning entity make a determination and provide a statement and other relevant information regarding whether the property will be used for its intended purpose, among other information; and
  18. make all common carrier pipelines subject to the restrictions in current law regarding the use of eminent domain for economic development.

(Note: this bill is identical to H.B. 4 by Orr.)

S.B. 537 (Carona) – Wiretaps: would permit a peace officer to apply to any judge of competent jurisdiction—not just district or appellate judges as current law provides—to authorize a wiretap.

S.B. 539 (Estes) – Parks Funding: would reduce by 21 percent the amount of sporting goods sales taxes that are directed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for parks funding, sending the money instead to the General Land Office to assist with beach erosion. The result would likely be an equivalent 21-percent reduction in money that is allotted for local parks grants.

S.B. 544 (Ellis) – Statewide Smoking Ban: would: (1) prohibit smoking in most public places, in places of employment, in seating areas at outdoor events, or within 15 feet of an enclosed area in which smoking is prohibited; (2) provide that the bill’s provisions preempt and supersede a local ordinance, rule, or regulation that prohibits smoking to a lesser degree; (3) provide that a local ordinance, rule, or regulation that prohibits or restricts smoking to a greater degree than the bill is not preempted; (4) require the Texas Department of State Health Service to annually request other government agencies to establish local operating procedures to comply with the bill, including urging all federal, state, county, and municipal governments, as well as independent school districts to update existing smoking control regulations to be consistent with the current health findings regarding secondhand smoke; and (5) require any entity that grants business licenses, including a city, to provide notice of the state smoking law to each license applicant. (Companion bill is H.B. 5 by Crownover.)

S.B. 551 (Carona) – Street Gangs: would make a street gang or member of a street gang liable for: (1) damages arising from gang activity, including increased cost of governmental services and loss of property tax revenue due to decreased value of property; and (2) damages stemming from injury to a neighborhood or community injured by a public nuisance arising from the street gang’s activity.

S.J.R. 18 (Ogden) – Transportation Funding: would amend the Texas Constitution to: (1) allow the legislature to authorize the Texas Transportation Commission, with approval of the legislature, to designate as a transportation finance zone an area that is adjacent to the right-of-way of an existing or proposed state highway if the commission has issued and sold obligations or entered into credit agreements to finance the highway; and (2) provide that all proceeds from the state sales taxes collected in the zone may be deposited to the credit of a separate account to be used only for the purpose of paying the principal of and interest on obligations or a related credit agreement used to finance the project. (Note: please see S.B 505, above.)

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