Significant Committee Actions

H.B. 2720 (Ritter), relating to the applicability of the law governing emergency authorizations by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for the use of state water to certain emergency orders concerning water rights issued by the executive director of the commission.  Reported from the House Committee on Natural Resources.  As reported from committee, the bill relates to emergency orders made during a period of drought or other emergency shortage of water and would provide that: (1) the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality may temporarily adjust the diversions of water by water rights holders only to address an imminent hazard to public health, safety, or welfare; and (2) a diversion may not be granted until a method for calculating and remitting the compensation due to the water rights holder who is subject to the diversion has been agreed on by the holder of the water right.

H.B. 258 (Simmons), relating to the regulation of electioneering at a polling location.  Reported from the House Committee on Elections. As reported from committee, the bill would: (1) prohibit a city that owns a building used as a polling place from prohibiting electioneering – including posting, use, or distribution of political signs or literature – on the building’s premises outside the prescribed limits within which electioneering is prohibited during early voting and on election day; but (2) authorize the city to enact reasonable regulations concerning the time, place, and manner of electioneering.

H.B. 889 (Fallon), relating to the requirement that certain governmental bodies broadcast meetings on the Internet.  Reported from the House Committee on Technology. 

H.B. 928 (Krause), relating to the enforcement of certain federal laws regulating firearms, firearm accessories, and firearm ammunition within the State of Texas.  Reported from the House Select Committee on Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility.  (Note: this bill would place numerous restrictions on a city’s ability to enforce federal firearms laws.)

H.B. 970 (Rodriguez), relating to regulation of cottage food products and cottage food production operations.  Reported from the House Committee on Public Health.

H.B. 1250 (Frank), relating to the initial use of certain properties acquired for a public use.  Reported from the House Committee on Land and Resource Management.

H.B. 1600 (Cook), relating to the continuation and functions of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, to the transfer of certain functions from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the Public Utility Commission of Texas, to the rates for water service, and to the functions of the Office of Public Utility Counsel.  Reported from the Senate Business and Commerce Committee.  This is the Public Utility Commission (PUC) Sunset bill.  Of particular interest to cities, the bill as reported from committee would continue the functions of the PUC until 2023 and would: (1) increase the PUC’s oversight of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; (2) on September 1, 2014, transfer to the PUC the powers, duties, functions, programs, and activities of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) relating to the economic regulation of water and sewer service, including the issuance and transfer of certificates of convenience and necessity, the determination of rates, and the administration of hearings and proceedings involving those matters; (3) divide investor owned water utilities in three classes as follows: (a)  “Class A utility” means a public utility that provides retail water or sewer utility service through 10,000 or more taps or connections; (b)  “Class B utility” means a public utility that provides retail water or sewer utility service through 500 or more taps or connections but fewer than 10,000 taps or connections; and (c)  “Class C utility” means a public utility that provides retail water or sewer utility service through fewer than 500 taps or connections; (4) make various changes relating to the water rate process for each class of utility; (5) provide that, by August 1, 2014, the TCEQ and the PUC shall enter into a memorandum of understanding that governs the transition; and (6) authorize the Office of Public Utility Counsel to represent the interests of residential and small commercial water consumers.

H.B. 1858 (Workman), relating to a property owner’s right to remove a tree or vegetation that the owner believes poses a fire risk.  Reported from the House Committee on Business and Industry.  As reported from committee, the bill would: (1) provide that a city, county, or other political subdivision may not enact or enforce any ordinance, rule, or other regulation that restricts the ability of a property owner to remove a tree or vegetation on the owner’s property that the owner believes poses a risk of fire to a structure on the property or adjacent property; (2) exempt the City of San Antonio from the bill; and (3) exempt from the bill: (a) regulations relating to property being developed under a municipal permit; (b) regulations governing certain large trees; and (c) regulations designed to mitigate tree-borne diseases as recommended by the Texas A&M Forest Service.

H.B. 2172 (Bohac), relating to the content of photographic traffic monitoring system signs.  Reported from the House Committee on Transportation.

H.B. 3857 (Lucio), relating to periodic rate adjustments by water and sewer utilities.  Reported from the House Committee on Natural Resources.

H.J.R. 87 (Munoz), proposing a constitutional amendment authorizing a home rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 24 months or less.  Reported from the House Committee on Urban Affairs.

S.B. 837 (Ellis), relating to the authority of a municipality to require owners of real property to keep the property free of certain conditions.  Reported from the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.

S.B. 1364 (Schwertner), relating to the computation of an electric utility’s income taxes.  Reported from the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.

S.B. 1419 (West), relating to funding for juvenile case managers through certain court costs and to the establishment of the truancy prevention and diversion fund. Reported from the Senate Jurisprudence Committee.  As reported, the bill would: (1) require the clerk of a municipal court to collect a $2 state court cost from all persons convicted of an offense, other than an offense relating to a pedestrian or the parking of a motor vehicle, for the truancy prevention and diversion fund; and (2) allow the city to retain 50 percent of the funds collected for the purpose of operating or establishing a juvenile case manager program. 

S.B. 1510 (Hinojosa), relating to the public notice required to be provided by certain taxing units before adopting an ad valorem tax rate.  Reported from the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations. As reported, the bill would: (1) provide a new and simplified method of publishing notice of property tax rates to replace the method in current law, except that a taxing unit with a low tax levy as defined by the Tax Code may continue to use the current method of providing notice of a proposed tax rate; (2) require that the notice to be provided by a city that does not adopt a property tax rate that exceeds the lower of the effective tax rate or the rollback rate contain specific language  relating to: (a) the proposed rate, preceding year’s rate, and effective tax rate; (b) the amount of taxes owed by each individual taxpayer; and (c) contact information for the tax assessor-collector; (3) require that the notice to be provided by a city that adopts a property tax rate that exceeds the lower of the effective tax rate or the rollback rate contain specific language relating to: (a) the proposed rate, preceding tax year’s rate, effective tax rate, and rollback rate; (b) the amount of taxes owed by each individual taxpayer; (c) contact information for the tax assessor-collector; and (d) notice of two public hearings on the tax rate; (4) require a city to publish notice under (2) or (3), above, not later than September 1 in a newspaper having general circulation in the county in which the city is located that may not be smaller than one-quarter page of a standard-size or tabloid-size newspaper with a headline that must be in 24-point or larger type; (5) require a city to post notice under (2) or (3), above, on the Internet website of the city, if applicable, beginning not later than September 1 and continuing until the city adopts a tax rate; and (6) require a city to provide certain tax rate information required by the Tax Code upon request.

S.B. 1596 (Zaffirini), relating to the annexation by a municipality of territory of an emergency services district.  Reported from the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.  As reported from committee, the bill relates to a city’s removal of territory from an emergency services district and would provide that a city’s annexation service plan may not: (1) provide services in the area in a manner that would have the effect of reducing by more than a negligible amount the level of fire and police protection and emergency medical services provided within the area before annexation; or (2) cause a reduction in fire and police protection and emergency medical services within the area to be annexed below that of areas within the corporate boundaries of the municipality with similar topography, land use, and population density.

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