SIGNIFICANT COMMITTEE ACTIONS

H.B. 300 (Isett), relating to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT). Reported from the House Transportation Committee. This is the TXDoT sunset bill. As reported, it makes multiple changes to the agency’s governance and operations. Of particular interest to cities is a section relating to billboards: if outdoor advertising located in a city or the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction must be removed because of the widening, construction, or reconstruction of a road, and if relocation of the outdoor advertising would be allowed under department rules but is prohibited by charter, ordinance, or a decision of the city, the city shall pay just compensation: (a) to the owner for the right, title leasehold, and interest in the outdoor advertising; and (b) to the owner or, if appropriate, the lessee of the real property on which the outdoor advertising is located, for the right to erect and maintain the outdoor advertising. The bill also provides that “the rights associated with an off-premise sign that is lawfully in existence but no longer complies with current applicable laws and regulations…vest in the owner of the off-premise sign.”

H.B. 387 (Pena), exempting volunteer fire departments from the payment of state motor fuel taxes. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee.

H.B. 637 (Guillen), relating to residential homestead exemptions. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. As reported, this bill would make the following changes to the local-option, residential homestead exemption: (1) permit a city to grant an exemption of a percentage of appraisal value, as current law allows, or alternatively to exempt a specific dollar amount, similar to the senior homestead exemption; (2) provide that if the city chooses to exempt a specific dollar amount, the amount exempted must be between $5,000 and $30,000; and (3) provide that the city may not grant both types of homestead exemption. (Note: please see H.J.R. 40, below.)

H.B. 818 (Eiland), relating to indemnification provisions in construction contracts. Reported from the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. (Companion bill is S.B. 555 by Duncan, which has passed the Senate.)

H.B. 1046 (Homer), relating to cruelly treated animals. Reported from the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence. As reported, this bill would repeal the stipulation that the animal owner from whom ownership is divested may not further appeal a decision made by a county court or county court-at-law to which an initial appeal from municipal court has been made.

H.B. 1344 (Menendez), relating to the Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS). Reported from the House Committee on Pensions, Investments and Financial Services. As reported, this bill would require the TMRS Board to establish a nine-member advisory committee. (Note: TMRS has had an advisory committee for many years. This bill would establish the committee in state law.) The advisory committee would include representatives from police and fire associations, TML, and other groups.

H.B. 1389 (Y. Davis), relating to eminent domain authority. Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee. (Note: while this bill has been reported from a committee, it is generally accepted at this time that the eminent domain legislation with the most momentum is S.B. 18. Please see “Significant Floor Actions,” below, and see “Eminent Domain: Senate Bill 18 May be the Omnibus Reform Bill” in the April 30, 2009, edition of the TML Legislative Update.)

H.B. 1392 (Leibowitz), relating to health benefit plans. Reported from the House Public Health Committee. As reported, this bill would generally prohibit health benefit plans, including plans issued by an intergovernmental risk pool, from disseminating information that ranks, classifies, compares, or rates a physician’s performance, efficiency, or quality of practice.

H.B. 1801 (Bohac), exempting certain backpacks and school supplies from the sales tax during the annual “back-to-school” sales tax holiday. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. (Note: the bill’s fiscal note estimates the annual cost to cities statewide will be roughly $1.5 million.)

H.B. 1988 (McReynolds), relating to DWI. Reported from the House Public Safety Committee. As reported, this bill would require a peace officer to make and attach a photocopy of a driver’s license to a temporary driving permit issued to a person suspected of an intoxication offense.

H.B. 2298 (Y. Davis), relating to the Texas Commission on Fire Protection (TCFP). Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) authorize the TCFP to establish minimum educational and training standards for volunteer firefighters; (2) allow the TCFP to enter a default order if a fire department fails to take action to correct a violation found by the TCFP during an inspection; and much more. (Note: fire chiefs should review this bill thoroughly. See also H.B. 3390, below. Also see the lead article in this update.)

H.B. 2524 (Anchia), relating to elections. Reported from the House Elections Committee. As reported, this bill would require the general custodian of election records, upon the receipt of an electronic voting system from a vendor, to: (1) verify that the system is certified by the secretary of state; (2) perform a hardware diagnostic test on the system; (3) perform a public test of logic and accuracy on the system, as well as any additional test required by the secretary of state; (4) create a pre-election security procedure; (5) secure access control keys or passwords to voting system equipment; and (6) create a contingency plan for addressing the failure of an electronic voting machine.

H.B. 2705 (Gattis), relating to annexation. Reported from the House Land and Resource Management Committee. As reported, this bill would clarify current law regarding provision of services after annexation to provide that, if the annexed area had a level of services for maintaining and landscaping rights-of-way superior to the level of services provided within the corporate boundaries of the city before annexation, a service plan must provide annexed public rights-of-way with a level of maintenance and landscaping that is comparable to the level of maintenance and landscaping available to other public rights-of-way in the city.

H.B. 2828 (Menendez), relating to a property tax exemption. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) permit property owned by certain limited partnerships to claim a community housing development organization (CHDO) property tax exemption; (2) expand the application of special appraisals for low-income or moderate-income housing to include apartments and land owned by persons other than certain nonprofit organizations; and (3) alter the application of the income method of appraisal to low-income or moderate-income appraisals. The bill’s fiscal note states that the bill “could” impose costs on the state and on local governments. This bill is the same as H.B. 2980, below.

H.B. 2909 (Marquez), allowing a city to redact certain types of personal information under the Public Information Act without first requesting a decision from the attorney general. Reported from the House State Affairs Committee.

H.B. 2967 (Coleman), requiring certain health benefit plans to provide coverage for the treatment of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Reported from the House Insurance Committee.

H.B. 2980 (Hilderbran), relating to a property tax exemption. (Please see H.B. 2828, above.)

H.B. 3282 (Gattis), relating to cottage food production. Reported from the House Public Health Committee. As reported, this bill would, among other things, prohibit cities from regulating the production of food at a cottage food production operation, which is defined as “an individual, operating out of the individual’s home, who produces a baked good for sale.”

H.B. 3390 (Harper-Brown), relating to the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. Reported from the House Urban Affairs Committee. (Note: this bill is identical to H.B. 2298, above.)

H.J.R. 14 (Corte), proposing to amend the Texas Constitution to provide that no person’s property shall be taken by the state or a political subdivision unless the taking is necessary for the possession, occupation, and enjoyment of the property by a common carrier, a utility, the public at large, or by the state or a political subdivision. Reported from the House Land and Resource Management Committee.

H.J.R. 40 (Guillen), proposing to amend the Texas Constitution to authorize the governing body of a political subdivision to adopt a local-option, residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation of not less than $5,000 or more than $30,000. Reported from the House Ways and Means Committee. (Note: please see H.B. 637, above.)

S.B. 358 (Patrick), relating to immigration. Reported from the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) prohibit a city from adopting a policy under which the city’s police department or other city officials would not fully enforce state or federal laws relating to immigration; (2) penalize a city that adopts such a policy by taking away state grant funds; and (3) allow a citizen residing in a city that adopts such a policy or fails to enforce state or federal law to file a petition in a district court to compel compliance with this law.

S.B. 505 (Ogden), authorizing the designation of an area adjacent to a state highway project as a transportation finance zone and directing that the revenue from the state sales tax imposed in the zone be deposited in a revolving fund and used to repay financial assistance from the funds for highway projects. Reported from the Senate Finance Committee.

S.B. 1118 (Ellis), relating to certain drug possession offenses. Reported from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. As reported, this bill, among other things, would impose a $50 state fee on convictions of public intoxication and open container convictions in municipal court.

S.B. 1354 (Jackson), relating to the licensing and regulation of plumbers. Reported from the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) allow plumbing by someone who is not a licensed plumber in a city of less than 5,000 in a county of less than 50,000 if the city or county has authorized non-licensed plumbing; and (2) provide that a plumber who is required to have a local permit need not pay a local fee.

S.B. 1714 (Hegar), relating to groundwater control districts (GWCDs). Reported from the Senate Natural Resources Committee. As reported, this bill would: (1) prohibit water in a GWCD from being transferred outside the district for municipal use except in specific situations; and (2) require “evidence of beneficial use” before a well could be approved by a district.

S.B. 2568 (Patrick), relating to immigration. Reported from the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. (Please see the lead article in this update.)

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