PRE-FILING OF BILLS BEGINS

Bill filing for the 2010 legislative session began on Monday, November 8. Early bills address appraisal caps, eminent domain, immigration, and many other city-related issues. City-related bills are summarized below.

H.B. 16 (Riddle) – Elections: would: (1) require the voter registrar of each county and the secretary of state to provide notice of voter identification requirements and to educate voters about the requirements through certain programs by publishing notice on certain Web sites; (2) require a voter to present to an election officer at the polling place a voter registration certificate and an acceptable form of identification; (3) provide that, if a voter does not present acceptable identification, the voter shall be accepted for provisional voting only; (4) modify the types of acceptable voter identification documents; (5) provide that a voter who presents a voter registration certificate indicating that the voter is currently registered in the precinct, but whose name is not on the precinct list of registered voters, shall be accepted for voting if the voter’s identity can be verified from the proof presented; and (6) provide that a provisional ballot may be accepted only if: (a) the voter presents acceptable proof of identification at the time the ballot is cast; or (b) the voter submits a copy of the identification to the voter registrar by personal delivery or by mail for examination by the early voting ballot board not later than the fifth day after the date of the election.

H.B. 18 (Riddle) – Immigration: would 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.

H.B. 20 (Riddle) – Burglary of a Vehicle: would make burglary of a vehicle a state jail felony offense and provide that the amount of community service work ordered by a judge may not exceed 200 hours for a Class A misdemeanor offense or any other misdemeanor for which the maximum permissible confinement exceeds six months or the maximum permissible fine exceeds $4,000.

H.B. 21 Riddle) – Immigration: would require a state agency that distributes money (apparently including federal pass-through money) to a city to include in the agency’s accounting amounts spent by the city to provide services to non-citizens.

H.B. 23 (Riddle) – Property Tax: would allow a county commissioners court to call a county-wide election to reduce the property tax appraisal cap for all taxing units in the county from ten percent to some percentage between three and ten. (Note: please see H.J.R. 16, below.)

H.B. 26 (Guillen) – Property Tax: would establish eligibility criteria for the active duty military personnel tax freeze authorized by H.J.R. 17, below. Specifically, the bill would: (1) require that the property owner be on duty for at least six months at a distance of at least 60 miles from the homestead; (2) limit the freeze to property that also receives a homestead tax exemption; (3) allow increased taxes on improvements to the property; (4) permit the chief appraiser to require proof of ongoing eligibility for the freeze; (5) provide that the tax freeze expires when the land no longer receives a homestead exemption or when the owner no longer meets the active duty and distance criteria; (6) provide for the portability of the tax freeze from one homestead to another within the same taxing unit; and (7) provide rollback rate relief for value lost to the military tax freeze.

H.B. 30 (Guillen) – Electricity Billing: would prohibit an electric provider, including a municipally owned utility, from disconnecting service to a residential customer on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, federally-declared holiday, the day before the federally-declared holiday, or after 3:00 pm on any calendar day.

H.B. 37 (Menendez) – Cell Phone Ban: would: (1) define the term “school crossing zone” to be the same as that in the Transportation Code; (2) prohibit use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is in park, the vehicle’s brake is applied, or the device is used with a hands-free device; (3) provide an affirmative defense to prosecution if the device is used to make an emergency call to an emergency response service, a hospital, a fire department, a health clinic, a doctor’s office, an individual to administer first aid, or a law enforcement agency; (4) make an offense under the bill a misdemeanor; and (5) repeal current requirements to post signs at school crossing zones regarding use of wireless communication devices.

H.B. 38 (Menendez) - Graffiti: would increase the penalty for graffiti on a government building to a state jail felony, with an enhancement to the next higher category of offense if the person has been previously convicted for graffiti.

H.B. 40 (Menendez) – Collective Bargaining: would amend Chapter 174 of the Local Government Code to grant collective bargaining rights to all city firefighters and police officers without a popular vote. (Note: this bill anticipates the passage of federal legislation that would impose collective bargaining on all cities. The I has frequently reported on this proposed federal legislation, most recently in the August 26, 2010, edition.)

H.B. 43 (Menendez) – Fire/Police Civil Service: would amend Chapter 143 of the Local Government Code to limit the way in which a civil service 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 officer 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. 49 (Pena) – Synthetic Derivative of Marihuana: would make synthetic cannabinoids that are structurally and clinically similar to marihuana and their analogues and homologues subject to Penalty Group 2 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

H.B. 54 (Martinez Fischer) - Mental Health Transport: would, in specific border counties, create a prioritized list of persons a judge or magistrate may authorize to transport a person apprehended under an emergency detention order for mental health. The bill would require the judge or magistrate to consider four other options for transport before considering the use of police officers.

H.B. 66 (Martinez) – Public Information: would provide that information a city receives from a state legislator or the lieutenant governor that is composed exclusively of communications between the state official and a resident of this state is confidential and may be disclosed by the city only if the state official elects to disclose the information.

H.B. 68 (Martinez) – Personnel: would require a city employer who decides not to hire an applicant based on criminal history information to provide a written explanation of the reason for not hiring the applicant, including: (1) the specific incident that influenced the city employer’s hiring decision; and (2) the name of the entity from which the city received the criminal history information.

H.B. 82 (Flynn) – Gambling: would make various changes to the Penal Code provisions relating to gambling devices such as “eight liners.”

H.B. 87 (Cook) - Metal Recycling: would, among many new provisions regarding the sale of recyclable metals: (1) expand the definition of those "regulated materials" that a city may govern through ordinances regarding purchases by recyclers; (2) permit a city to require a fingerprint from a seller of regulated materials to a metal recycler; (c) require a seller of insulated regulated material which has been burned in whole or part to present documentation to the recycling entity from the fire department of a county, city, or other political subdivision that the material was salvaged from a fire in that political subdivision; and (d) create restrictions on payments for regulated materials brought for recycling and specifically prohibit a city from creating a more restrictive ordinance or policy regarding such payments.

H.B. 91 (Cook) – Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: would: (1) expand the ETJ of a city with 25,000 to 49,999 inhabitants to three miles; (2) apportion the ETJ between two cities with overlapping ETJ as a result of the expansion but prohibit splitting small tracts of land under one ownership between two cities without the owner’s consent; and (3) prohibit the expansion into any area in the existing ETJ of another city.

H.B. 93 (Cook) – Cell Phone Ban: would: (1) prohibit an operator from using a wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle; (2) provide an affirmative defense to prosecution if the device is permanently installed in the vehicle, is used while stopped, is used for a phone call, is used with a hands-free device, or is used to report a suspicious or criminal activity to law enforcement; and (3) make an offense a misdemeanor or felony depending on certain factors.

H.B. 95 (Fletcher) – Property Tax: would provide a complete residence homestead property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a totally disabled veteran who has not remarried since the death of the disabled veteran. (Note: please see H.J.R. 23, below.)

H.B. 97 (Paxton) – Health Care: would prohibit a city, insurance provider, or other governmental agency from penalizing an individual for not accepting health insurance coverage. (Note: H.J.R. 24 by Paxton proposes a constitutional amendment that mirrors the language of this bill. Multiple other bills and joint resolutions have been filed regarding this issue.)

H.B. 103 (Martinez Fischer) – Cell Phone Ban: would: (1) prohibit an operator from using a wireless communication device while operating a passenger bus with a minor on the bus except in case of emergency or if the bus is stopped; (2) prohibit an operator from using a wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped and make an offense punishable by fine of $2-$400 if the offense occurs while the vehicle is in a school crossing zone; and (3) except from the above prohibition an operator who is a peace officer or emergency response provider using the wireless device in connection with official duties.

H.B. 105 (Brown) – Cell Phone Ban: would prohibit use of a wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped, and make an offense a misdemeanor.

H.B. 108 (Brown) – Synthetic Derivative of Marihuana: would make a synthetic derivative of marihuana, 1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl) indole, subject to Penalty Group 2 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

H.B. 111 (V. Taylor) –Elections: would implement the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act by requiring the early voting clerk to make registration and absentee ballots available to overseas military voters in an election held in conjunction with an election involving a federal or statewide office. (Companion bill is S.B. 100 by Van de Putte, below.)

H.B. 112 (Harless) – Elections: would: (1) require the voter registrar of each county and the secretary of state to provide notice of voter identification requirements and to educate voters about the requirements through certain programs by publishing notice on certain websites; (2) require a voter to present to an election officer at the polling place a voter registration certificate and an acceptable form of identification; (3) provide that, if a voter does not present acceptable identification, the voter shall be accepted for provisional voting only; (4) modify the types of acceptable voter identification documents; (5) provide that a voter who presents a voter registration certificate indicating that the voter is currently registered in the precinct, but whose name is not on the precinct list of registered voters, shall be accepted for voting if the voter’s identity can be verified from the proof presented; and (6) provide that a provisional ballot may be accepted only if: (a) the voter presents acceptable proof of identification at the time the ballot is cast; or (b) the voter submits a copy of the identification to the voter registrar by personal delivery or by mail for examination by the early voting ballot board not later than the sixth business day after the date of the election.

H.B. 113 (Harless) – Immigration: would: (1) prohibit a city from adopting a policy under which the city’s police department or other city official 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; (3) provide for a civil penalty in the amount of $10,000 per day to be sought by the attorney general against a city that violates (1), above; and (4) 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. (Companion bill is S.B. 124 by Patrick.)

H.B. 125 (Legler) – TCEQ Rulemakings: would require that any rule proposed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) under the authority of the Texas Water Code include a draft impact analysis that, at a minimum, meets the requirements of an analysis required under the Texas Government Code for any major environmental rule, including an analysis of costs that the agency anticipates state agencies, local governments, the public, and the regulated community would experience after implementation of the rule.

H.B. 138 (Callegari) – Eminent Domain: would provide that:

  1. the term "blighted area" means an tract of real property that presents four or more of the following conditions for one year after a property owner receives notice of the condition: (a) the property contains uninhabitable, unsafe, or abandoned structures; (b) the property has inadequate provisions for sanitation; (c) there exists on the property an imminent harm to life or other property caused by fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, storm, or other natural catastrophe declared to be a disaster; (d) the property has been identified by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site or as environmentally contaminated to an extent that the property requires remedial investigation or a feasibility study; (e) the property has been the location of substantiated and repeated illegal activity of which the property owner knew or should have known; (f) the maintenance of the property is below county or municipal standards; (g) the property is abandoned and contains a structure that is not fit for its intended use because the utilities, sewerage, plumbing, heating, or a similar service or facility of the structure has been disconnected, destroyed, removed, or rendered ineffective; or (h) the property presents an economic liability to the immediate area because of deteriorating structures or hazardous conditions;
  2. the current statutory provisions relating to urban renewal eminent domain apply only to a tract of blighted property (as opposed to "slum" areas);
  3. a municipal governing body must determine that each unit of property (as opposed to an “area,” as is current law) be designated as blighted, and make corresponding procedural changes to urban renewal laws;
  4. notwithstanding any other law, an area may not be considered a blighted area on the basis of a condition described in number (1) above unless the city has given notice in writing to the property owner regarding the imminent harm to life or other property caused by the condition of the property, and the property owner fails to take reasonable measures to remedy the harm caused by the property;
  5. an area may not be considered blighted solely for aesthetic reasons;
  6. the special commissioners in a condemnation hearing shall admit evidence on the injury to the property owner, including the financial damages associated with the cost of relocating from the condemned property, if the property was habitable, to another property that allows the property owner to have a standard of living comparable to the property owner's standard of living before the condemnation of the property; and
  7. the provisions of the bill shall supercede broad eminent domain powers relative to tax increment financing.

H.B. 159 (Raymond) – Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS): would require TMRS to change the way a reemployed member of TMRS is paid their retirement by requiring TMRS to pay an amount from the city accumulation fund to a member’s individual account if a reemployed member chooses to be paid through a basic annuity.

H.B. 160 (Raymond) – Retaliatory Lawsuits: would: (1) govern certain suits filed by a person against a complainant who files a complaint with a governmental or quasi-governmental agency (a.k.a. Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit); (2) allow a complainant to recover damages, including exemplary damages, from a person who files suit under the above provision in bad faith; (3) require a court or trier of fact to refer the matter to the district attorney or federal authorities if a person commits a criminal act in the course of the proceedings in a SLAPP suit; and (4) not create or authorize a cause of action against a governmental or quasi-governmental agency.

H.B. 173 (Veasey) – Railroad Commission: would change the name of the Texas Railroad Commission to the Texas Oil and Gas Commission.

H.B. 177 (Jackson, J) – Immigration: would require that cities and other licensing authorities who license or permit individuals to engage a business, occupation, or profession to ensure that the applicant is eligible for employment in the United States before issuing the license.

H.B. 178 (Jackson) – Immigration: would require a city to: (1) participate in the federal government’s program for electronic verification of employee immigration status (“E-Verify”); and (2) immediately terminate an employee responsible for verifying the immigration status of other employees if the verifying employee fails to participate in E-Verify.

H.B. 179 (Alonzo) – Elections: would provide that a person who would be eligible to vote in an election, but who is not registered, shall be accepted for voting in the precinct of the person's residence if, on the day the person offers to vote, the person submits a voter registration application and presents proof of identification that establishes the person’s residence.

H.B. 181 (S. Miller) – Sales Tax: would create an August sales tax holiday for guns and ammunition.

H.B. 183 (Solomons) – Immigration: would provide that, not later than 48 hours after a person is arrested and before the person is released on bond, the law enforcement agency that arrested the person or that has custody of the person shall: (1) have the person's immigration status verified by a law enforcement officer who is authorized under federal law to verify a person's immigration status or a federal law enforcement officer; and (2) if United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not have the results of the immigration status of the person, notify ICE if the person is not a citizen or national of the United States and is unlawfully present in the United States.

H.B. 186 (Perry) – Elections: would: (1) require the voter registrar of each county and the secretary of state to provide notice of voter identification requirements and to educate voters about the requirements through certain programs by mailed notice and publishing notice on certain websites; (2) require a voter to present to an election officer at the polling place a voter registration certificate and an acceptable form of identification; (3) provide that, if a voter does not present acceptable identification, the voter shall be accepted for provisional voting only; (4) modify the types of acceptable voter identification documents; (5) provide that a voter who presents a voter registration certificate indicating that the voter is currently registered in the precinct, but whose name is not on the precinct list of registered voters, shall be accepted for voting if the voter’s identity can be verified from the proof presented; and (6) provide that a provisional ballot may be accepted only if: (a) the voter presents acceptable proof of identification at the time the ballot is cast; or (b) the voter submits a copy of the identification to the voter registrar by personal delivery or by mail for examination by the early voting ballot board not later than the sixth business day after the date of the election.

H.B. 188 (Sheffield) – Eminent Domain: would provide that a governmental or private entity may not take private property through the use of eminent domain if the taking is not necessary for a public use.

H.B. 199 (Parker) – Sales Tax: would change the date of the sales tax holiday from the third weekend in August to the first weekend in August.

H.B. 204 (Pickett) – Transportation Reinvestment Zones: would amend the law relating to transportation reinvestment zones (TRZs) to provide that: (1) a TRZ may be used to facilitate the improvement, development, or redevelopment of property or to enhance a local entity's ability to sponsor a transportation project funded by pass-through tolls; (2) an ordinance designating an area as a TRZ must, among other things, designate the base year for purposes of establishing the tax increment base of the municipality and contain findings that promotion of the transportation project will cultivate the improvement, development, or redevelopment of the zone; (3) from taxes collected on property in a TRZ, the city shall pay into the tax increment account the tax increment produced by the city, less any amount allocated under previous agreements; (4) all, or the portion specified by the city, of the money deposited to a tax increment account must be used to fund the transportation project for which the TRZ was designated, and any remaining money deposited to the tax increment account may be used for other transportation projects or for improvements in the TRZ; (5) the governing body of a city may contract with a public or private entity to develop, redevelop, or improve a transportation project in a TRZ and may pledge and assign all or a specified amount of money in the tax increment account to that entity; (6) to accommodate changes in the scope of the project for which a TRZ was designated, the boundaries of a zone may be amended, with certain exceptions; and (7) county TRZ authority is expanded.

H.B. 209 (Alonzo) – Library Computers: would require that a public library, that receives state or federal funding, with a service area of more than 50,000 residents shall provide computers with high-speed Internet access for use by the public.

H.B. 210 (Alonzo) – Mandated Health Benefit: would: (1) require a health benefit carrier to allow an enrollee to choose a physician other than her primary care provider to receive a mammography; but (2) allow the health benefit carrier to have criteria for physicians and providers who provide these services.

H.B. 215 (Gallego) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) require local law enforcement agencies that use live and photograph lineups to adopt a detailed written policy regarding lineup identification procedures; and (2) direct the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas to develop a model policy and associated training materials to assist law enforcement agencies with compliance.

H.B. 219 (Gallego) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) require a law enforcement agency to, in many cases, make an electronic recording of a custodial interrogation; and (2) create guidelines for the creation, retention, and later use of the recording as evidence. (Companion bill is S.B. 123 by Ellis, below.)

H.B. 221 (Fletcher) – Burglary of a Vehicle: would make burglary of a vehicle a state jail felony except in cases where the individual: (1) is younger 21 years of ager; (2) has not been previously convicted of a class B misdemeanor or higher; and (3) submits a request for community supervision.

H.B. 234 (Otto) – Property Tax: would provide that back taxes assessed on an improvement to real property do not incur interest if: (1) the property on which the improvement is located did not escape taxation in the year the improvement escaped taxation; (2) the appraisal district had actual or constructive notice of the presence of the improvement the year the improvement escaped taxation (constructive notice can be acquired if building permit is issued for an improvement); and (3) the property owner pays all back taxes on the improvement within 120 days of when the tax bill for back taxes on improvement is sent to property owner.

H.B. 239 (Parker) – Elections: would provide that an individual commits a Class A misdemeanor if the individual compensates another person, or receives compensation, based on the number of voter registrations that the individual facilitates.

H.B. 241 (Parker) – Property Tax: would repeal the requirement that interest is due on “rollback” taxes when land loses an agricultural appraisal.

H.B. 243 (Craddick) – Cell Phone Ban: would prohibit an operator from using a wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle is stopped, and would define text-based communication to include a text message, instant message, and electronic mail.

H.B. 247 (Solomons) – Immigration: 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) allow the attorney general to file suit to compel a governmental entity to fully enforce immigration laws; and (3) allow the attorney general to recover reasonable expenses incurred enforcing this law.

H.B. 248 (Chisum) – Elections: would: (1) require the voter registrar of each county and the secretary of state to provide notice of voter identification requirements and to educate voters about the requirements through certain programs by publishing notice on certain websites; (2) require a voter to present to an election officer at the polling place a voter registration certificate and an acceptable form of identification; (3) provide that, if a voter does not present acceptable identification, the voter shall be accepted for provisional voting only; (4) require an election officer to inform a voter not accepted for voting of rights to cast a provisional ballot and provide voter with written information regarding information; (5) require an election officer to distribute written notice of identification requirements to each voter who would present an insufficient form of identification(4) modify the types of acceptable voter identification documents; (5) provide that a voter who presents a voter registration certificate indicating that the voter is currently registered in the precinct, but whose name is not on the precinct list of registered voters, shall be accepted for voting if the voter’s identity can be verified from the proof presented; and (6) provide that a provisional ballot may be accepted only if: (a) the voter presents acceptable proof of identification at the time the ballot is cast; or (b) the voter submits a copy of the identification to the voter registrar by personal delivery or by mail for examination by the early voting ballot board not later than the sixth day after the date of the election. (Companion bill is S.B. 178 by Fraser, below.)

H.B. 278 (Alonzo) – Municipal Court: would require a municipal court to set a pre-trial hearing upon the request of either party and would require the court to hold the hearing not later than 30 days before the trial begins.

H.J.R. 16 (Riddle) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to allow a county commissioners court to call a county-wide election to reduce the property tax appraisal cap for all taxing units in the county from ten percent to some percentage between three and ten. (Note: please see H.B. 23, above.)

H.J.R. 17 (Guillen) – Property Tax: 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. (Note: please see H.B. 26, above.)

H.J.R. 23 (Fletcher) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to provide a complete residence homestead property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a totally disabled veteran that has not remarried since the death of the disabled veteran. (Note: please see H.B. 95, above.)

H.J.R. 26 (Legler) – Insurance Associations: would amend the Texas Constitution to prohibit the legislature from enacting a law that appropriates or diverts any part of the assets of an association established for the purpose of providing adequate windstorm, hail, and fire insurance in designated regions of the state, except for certain specified purposes.

H.J.R. 36 (Raymond) – Sales Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to provide that the legislature may not enact a general law that would impose a new, prospective state tax on the sale or use of: (1) food or a drink; (2) medicine; or (3) child-care service.

S.B. 44 (Zaffirini) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) give a peace officer who takes a person into custody without a warrant because the officer believes the person is mentally ill and may harm himself the option of transporting the person to a medical or other facility that the local mental health authority deems suitable; (2) establish that a jail or facility used to detain persons charged with crimes is not a facility suitable for a person believed to be mentally ill or held under a protective custody order unless other suitable facilities are unavailable or more than 75 miles away; (3) allow the detention of a person believed to be mentally ill or held under a protective order in a jail for no longer than 12 hours and require the officer responsible for the jail to document when the detention begins, how long it lasts, the reason for detention, and the time a representative of a local mental health authority arrives at the facility; (4) prohibit detaining a person believed to be mentally ill or person held under protective custody order with a person charged or convicted of a crime; and (5) allow restraint of a detained or committed patient only during apprehension, detention, or transport of the patient and require that the patient be able to sit in an upright position without undue difficulty.

S.B. 46 (Zaffirini) – Cell Phone Ban: would prohibit the operator of a motor vehicle from using a wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle is stopped, and would define text-based communication to include text messages, instant messages, and electronic mail.

S.B. 52 (Zaffirini) – Sales Tax: would exempt college text books from sales taxes during two, two-week periods, one in August and one in January.

S.B. 59 (Zaffirini) – Ethics: would: (1) permit, but not require, a city, an officeholder, or 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.

S.B. 61 (Zaffirini) – Juvenile Case Managers: would require the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission to create for juvenile case managers: (1) minimum training requirements; (2) minimum education requirements; and (3) an ethics code, all of which would be similar to current rules for juvenile probation officers.

S.B. 64 (Zaffirini) – Employee Leave: would require an employer, including a city, to: (1) allow an employee paid leave to attend court proceedings related to the crime of which the employee was a victim; (2) not deduct such paid leave from the employee’s vacation time, compensatory time off, or personal leave, unless required by a collective bargaining agreement; and (3) not discriminate, suspend, or terminate an employee based on use of such paid leave.

S.B. 84 (Nelson) – Immigration: would require a city to: (1) participate in the federal immigration verification program (“e-verify”); (2) verify that each new employee is eligible for employment; (3) terminate an employee who is responsible for e-verify if the employee fails to comply with the bill; and (4) verify that any city contractor participates in e-verify.

S.B. 86 (Nelson) – Traffic Fines: would authorize a general law city to enter into a contract with the county tax assessor-collector to provide information regarding the nonpayment of traffic fines or the failure to appear in municipal court for traffic offenses, thus authorizing the assessor-collector to refuse to register or re-register the vehicle of the person in question.

S.B. 93 (Lucio) – Workers’ Compensation: would, among other things, provide that: (1) in a trial initiated by a workers’ compensation carrier, at the request of the claimant the court shall appoint an attorney to represent the claimant; and (2) the carrier is liable for the attorney's reasonable and necessary fees as determined by the trier of fact in the case.

S.B. 100 (Van de Putte) – Elections: this bill is the same as H.B. 111, above.

S.B. 103 (Davis) – Gas Wells/Wastewater Pipelines: would provide, among other things, that a gas well operator or similar entity is entitled to lay, maintain, and operate a wastewater pipeline in connection with well operations through, under, along, or across a controlled access state highway only if: (1) the pipeline complies with any safety regulations adopted by the Texas Railroad Commission and any applicable federal regulations; (2) the pipeline complies with all applicable state rules and all applicable federal regulations on the accommodation of utility facilities on the highway or right-of-way, including rules and regulations relating to the horizontal and vertical location of the pipeline; and (3) the highway and associated facilities are promptly restored to their former condition of usefulness after the installation or maintenance of the pipeline, as applicable, is complete. The bill also provides that a city, county, or the Texas Transportation Commission may require a well operator to relocate a facility at the cost of the operator to accommodate construction or expansion of a highway or for any other public work unless the operator has a property interest in the land occupied by the facility to be relocated. The bill may not be construed to limit the authority of a well operator to use a public right-of-way under any other law, and the bill may not be construed to affect the authority of a city to regulate the use of a public right-of-way under any other law or to require payment of any applicable franchise fee.

S.B. 104 (Davis) - Natural Gas Release Prevention: would, for gas wells on the Barnett Shale: (1) create several requirements for natural gas wells to minimize the risk of release of gas and other associated vapors; (2) require the Texas Railroad Commission to implement rules to enforce those requirements; and (3) allow a city to create an ordinance to implement the requirements.

S.B. 106 (Davis) – Gas Wells/Eminent Domain: would provide that: (1) a pipeline operator with eminent domain authority that wants to acquire an easement on real property owned by a city shall provide notice to the city of the city’s right to consent to the pipeline placement or suggest a feasible alternative placement for the pipeline based on the city's consideration of several factors; (2) a city's proposal for alternative placement must not unreasonably prevent a pipeline operator from accomplishing the purpose for which the pipeline operator seeks to acquire the property; and (3) if a pipeline operator and a city are unable to agree on the placement of a pipeline, the pipeline operator may file a condemnation petition, and the city may move that the court determine whether the suggested placement is reasonable. The bill would also provide that a city by ordinance may regulate the placement, inspection, and maintenance of and construction materials used for, the following items used by a gas pipeline operator: (1) gas pipelines used as gathering lines; (2) pumps; (3) compressors; (4) separators; (5) dehydration units; and (6) tank batteries.

S.B. 107 (Davis) - Gas Distribution Leaks: would: (1) require a "prompt response" to any gas leak, gas odor, or damage to a city's gas distribution pipelines; (2) require, in response to a major leak, that a "person with training, experience, and knowledge in the field of leak classification and investigation" determine if the leak rises to the level of a Grade 1 leak; and (3) create requirements for operator response in case of a Grade 1 leak, including several enumerated on-site actions and biannual reporting of any such leaks.

S.B. 119 (Uresti) – Cell Phone Ban: would prohibit an operator from using a wireless communication device to read, write, or send a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.

S.B. 121 (Ellis) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) require a police department, with officers who conduct photograph or live lineup identification procedures in the routine performance of their duties, to adopt a detailed written model policy, or a policy that conforms to a model policy, regarding photograph and live lineup identification procedures; (2) require the Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas to develop the model policy and associated training materials; (3) require the model policy be based on certain research, policies, and guidelines and address specific topics; (4) require the Institute to conduct an annual review of the model policy and training materials; and (5) make evidence regarding compliance or noncompliance with the policy adopted by the police department relevant and admissible in a criminal case but not prohibit eyewitness testimony if substantial compliance with the policy is not achieved.

S.B. 123 (Ellis) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) require a police department to make an audio or audiovisual electronic recording of custodial interrogations of persons suspected of or charged with certain offenses; (2) set out good cause reasons that make electronic recording infeasible; (3) require preservation of the electronic recording for a specified time; (4) require a prosecutor to provide a defendant with a copy of the recording; (5) exempt the electronic recording from release under the Texas Public Information Act except when it must be released under the law enforcement exception; and (6) make evidence regarding compliance or noncompliance with the recording requirement relevant and admissible evidence before a trier of fact.

S.B. 124 (Patrick) – Immigration: this bill is the same as H.B. 113, above.

S.B. 126 (Patrick) – Immigration: would provide that: (1) a peace officer shall inquire into the lawful presence of any person who is lawfully stopped, detained, or arrested on other grounds if the officer has a reasonable suspicion to believe the person has violated a criminal provision of the federal immigration laws; (2) if a peace officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed a violation, the officer may arrest the person and shall identify and report the person to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement after any arrest made; (3) a local ordinance, regulation, or policy that interferes with the ability of a peace officer to carry out a duty related to the bill is void; and (4) a governmental entity and a peace officer or other employee of the entity are immune from suit and liability for any cause of action, claim, or damages arising from the performance of an action authorized or a duty mandated under the bill.

S.B. 129 (Patrick) – Property Tax: would reduce the property tax appraisal cap on homesteads from ten to five percent. (Note: please see S.J.R. 7, below.)

S.B. 135 (Wentworth) – Transportation Funding: would provide that: (2) the state highway fund may no longer be used to finance with 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.

S.B. 136 (Wentworth) – County Development Authority: would: (1) grant counties additional authority over transportation planning through the subdivision process; and (2) in a subdivision that is not served by fire hydrants as part of a centralized water system certified by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as meeting minimum standards for water utility service, allow a commissioners court to require a developer to construct a limited fire suppression system for certain subdivisions.

S.B. 137 (Wentworth) – County Development Authority: would provide that: (1) the commissioners court of a county may call an election to authorize certain land use regulations in the unincorporated area of the county; (2) if the election results are favorable, the commissioners court may regulate, by order, land development in the unincorporated area of the county by: (a) requiring a limited fire suppression system that necessitates a developer to construct a certain amount of water storage; (b) requiring a buffer zone between certain land uses and residential areas; and (c) requiring a developer, before the county approves a plat filed by the developer, to determine the need for and construct certain roadway improvements attributable and roughly proportionate to the subdivision’s impact, if necessary; (3) a county may not zone property; and (4) certain uses would be exempt from regulations adopted under the bill.

S.B. 138 (Wentworth) – Cell Phone Ban: would: (1) prohibit use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle; (2) provide an affirmative defense to prosecution if the device is used to make an emergency call to an emergency response service, a hospital, a fire department, a health clinic, a doctor’s office, an individual to administer first aid, or a law enforcement agency; (3) except from the prohibition an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle or a person licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to operate a radio frequency device or wireless communication device; and (4) repeal current requirements to post signs at school crossing zones regarding use of wireless communication devices.

S.B. 154 (Huffman) – Fines: would require that fines relating to offenses arising out of the same criminal action run consecutively.

S.B. 161 (Shapiro) – Transportation Funding: would provide that, among other things: (1) the Texas Transportation commission shall adopt rules creating funding formulas for highway projects that consider the input of planning organizations, transportation officials, and local government officials; and (2) the Texas Department of Transportation shall develop criteria to determine the feasibility of highway projects to be included in local transportation improvement plans and the statewide transportation improvement plan.

S.B. 168 (West) – Felony Forfeiture: would permit a law enforcement agency to set aside up to ten percent of felony forfeiture funds for scholarships for the children of local officers killed in the line of duty.

S.B. 172 (West) – Licensing/Dwellings: would prohibit a city from requiring an individual to acquire a license or permit issued by the city as a condition for occupying or leasing a dwelling.

S.B. 173 (West) – Substandard Buildings: would provide that: (1) a city may bring a civil action in rem (against the property) for, among other things, the enforcement of a building standards ordinance (Note: the effect of an in rem action is a judgment against the structure as well as a judgment against the defendant, which can aid in enforcement against subsequent purchasers); (2) a home rule city may bring an action in district court against an owner of property that is not in substantial compliance with municipal ordinances regarding: (a) the materials or methods used to construct a building or other structure or improvement; (b) the preservation of public health or the fire safety of a building or other structure or improvement; (c) dangerously damaged or deteriorated structures or improvements; (d) conditions caused by accumulations of refuse, vegetation, or other matter that creates breeding and living places for insects and rodents; or (e) point source effluent; and (3) with some exceptions, a court may appoint as a receiver for substandard property a nonprofit organization or an individual with a demonstrated record of rehabilitating properties if the court makes certain findings.

S.B. 174 (Nichols) – Eminent Domain: would: (1) prohibit a state agency, political subdivision, or a corporation created by a governmental entity from taking private property through the use of eminent domain if the taking is for a recreational purpose, including a parks and recreation system or a specific park, greenbelt, or trail; and (2) provide that the determination by the entity proposing to take the property that the taking does not involve an act or circumstance prohibited by the bill does not create a presumption with respect to whether the taking involves that act or circumstance.

S.B. 175 (Nichols) – Property Tax: would: (1) reduce the property tax appraisal cap on homesteads from ten percent to five percent; (2) authorize a county commissioners court to call an election to increase the homestead appraisal cap for all taxing jurisdictions in the county back to some percentage between six and ten; and (3) prohibit a subsequent election from occurring for ten years after such an election is held. (Note: please see S.J.R. 11, below.)

S.B. 178 (Fraser) – Elections: this bill is the same as H.B. 248, above.)

S.B. 180 (Estes) – Eminent Domain: would do the following:

  1. 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.”
  2. require a record vote with specific procedures and wording to take each parcel of land through the use of eminent domain.
  3. require that any entity authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain must submit to the state comptroller, by December 31, 2012, 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.
  4. provide, among other things, that an entity with eminent domain authority that wants to acquire real property shall disclose to the property owner any and all appraisal reports produced or acquired by the entity relating specifically to the owner’s property and prepared in the 10 years preceding the offer.
  5. provide that: (1) an entity seeking to acquire property may not include a confidentiality provision in an offer or agreement to acquire the property; and (2) the entity shall inform the owner of the property that the owner has the right to: (a) discuss any offer or agreement regarding the entity’s acquisition of the property with others; or (b) keep the offer or agreement confidential (subject to the requirements of the Texas Public Information Act).
  6. require an entity with eminent domain authority that wants to acquire real property for a public use to make a bona fide offer to acquire the property from the property owner voluntarily, and list specific criteria that must be met to meet the bona fide offer requirement.
  7. provide that a court that determines that a condemnor did not make a bona fide offer to acquire the property from the property owner voluntarily must abate the suit, order the condemnor to make a bona fide offer, and order the condemnor to pay costs and attorneys’ and other professionals’ fees.
  8. provide that a condemnation petition must state with specificity the public use for which the entity intends to acquire the property and that the city made a bona fide offer to acquire the property voluntarily.
  9. provide, among other things, that each party has a reasonable period to strike one of the three special commissioners appointed by the judge in the case, with the judge appointing a replacement.
  10. provide that the special commissioners shall consider an injury or benefit that is peculiar to the property owner and that relates to the property owner’s ownership, use, or enjoyment of the particular parcel of real property, including a material impairment of direct access on or off the remaining property that affects the market value of the remaining property, but they may not consider an injury or benefit that the property owner experiences in common with the general community, including circuity of travel and diversion of traffic.
  11. require a city, as a cost of acquiring real property, to: (a) provide a relocation advisory service for an individual, a family, a business concern, a farming or ranching operation, or a nonprofit organization that is compatible with the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act; and (b) 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.
  12. provide that an entity that is not subject to the Public Information Act, such a gas pipeline operator, must disclose certain information relating to its use of eminent domain upon request.
  13. modify the current provisions that allow a property owner to repurchase the property if it isn’t used by the condemnor within ten years of the date of acquisition.
  14. provide that a city council may adopt a development plan for a public use project at a public hearing to toll the 10-year right to repurchase.
  15. modify the standard for determination of the fair value of the state’s interest in access rights to a highway right-of-way to be the same legal standard that is applied by the Texas Transportation Commission according to the Texas Transportation Code, which may include the impairment of highway access to or from real property where the real property adjoins the highway.

S.B. 181 (Shapiro) – Water Conservation: would require the Texas Water Development Board and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to: (1) develop uniform methodology and guidance for calculating and reporting municipal water use and conservation; (2) develop guidance for water utilities for using service populations (municipal, commercial, power, etc.) when developing per-capita based calculations; and (3) incorporate the new methodology and guidance into the water conservation plans required for new water rights permittees receiving more than 1000 acre-feet per year, retail public utilities with 3,300 connections or more, and applicants to the Texas Water Assistance Program.

S.B. 201 (Uresti) – Property Tax: would establish a specific formula to calculate the tax due on a residence homestead of a totally disabled veteran when an individual terminates the exemption for one property and qualifies a different property for the exemption in the same year.

S.B. 202 (Shapiro) – Fiscal Notes: would require the Legislative Budget Board to attach to the fiscal note of each bill that authorizes the spending or diversion of state funds: (1) a statement of the purposes of the bill; and (2) a set of reasonable benchmarks that measure whether the bill’s purposes have been achieved that are to be used by the board and legislature to review statutes that do not meet the requisite benchmarks.

S.J.R. 7 (Patrick) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to authorize the legislature to reduce the property tax appraisal cap on homesteads from ten to five percent. (Note: please see S.B. 129, above.)

S.J.R. 8 (Wentworth) – 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 fuel 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. (Note: please see S.B. 135, above.)

S.J.R. 11 (Nichols) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to: (1) reduce the property tax appraisal cap on homesteads from ten percent to five percent; and (2) authorize a county commissioners court to call an election to increase the homestead appraisal cap for all taxing jurisdictions in the county back to some percentage between six and ten. (Note: please see S.B. 175, above.)

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose.
No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the
Texas Municipal League.

Back to Legislative Update Index