H.B. 7 (Hilderbran) – Parks Funding: would: (1) lower from ten percent to five percent the amount of revenue credited to the large county and municipality parks account from state sporting goods sales taxes; and (2) send the remaining, diverted five percent to a newly created “special needs parks account,” from which some revenue would be used for matching grants to cities to fund parks for use by people with special needs (the elderly, disabled, and others).

H.B. 300 (Isett) – Texas Department of Transportation: this is the Texas Department of Transportation (department) sunset bill. The bill would make multiple changes to the governance and operations of the department. Of particular interest to cities, the bill would provide that:

  1. 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.
  2. The department shall develop, with public participation, a statewide transportation plan covering a period of 20 years and containing all modes of transportation.
  3. The department shall provide information regarding long-term planning and the status of projects in an easily obtainable format.
  4. To the extent practicable through the use of existing resources, the department shall facilitate the creation of rural planning organizations in cooperation with councils of governments, municipal and county governments, and other local transportation entities, and shall provide for the realignment of department districts if necessary.
  5. The department shall develop a system to respond to complaints filed with the department.

(Companion bill is S.B 1019 by Hegar.)

H.B. 2527 (Aycock) – Commercial Fertilizer: would: (1) require a person to hold a certificate of registration from the Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service in order to produce, store, transfer, or sell ammonium nitrate material; and (2) provide that this law supersedes any city ordinance relating to the regulation of commercial fertilizer. (Companion bill is S.B. 1309 by Hegar.)

H.B. 2942 (Dunnam) – Fiscal Accountability: would make various changes to state laws relating to fiscal accountability. Of particular interest to cities, the bill would provide that:

  1. Any person or entity receiving funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) may be audited in the same way the state auditor currently reviews state agencies.
  2. An officer or employee of this state or of an entity subject to audit or investigation by the state auditor commits a felony offense if the officer or employee refuses to allow the auditor access to information.
  3. An officer or employee who does not produce the documents or grant access to the property not later than 24 hours after a request for information is served by the state auditor is personally liable to the state for a civil penalty of $5,000 for each day the conduct continues if the audit or investigation is related to funds made available by or provided under the ARRA.
  4. Each entity that may be audited or investigated by the state auditor that maintains one or more Internet pages shall post on the home page a prominent link to the state auditor’s complaint Web page.
  5. Each state agency, political subdivision, and private entity receiving ARRA funds shall provide the Legislative Budget Board, Legislative Council, or Legislative Library Board any information requested to comply with the bill’s requirements.
  6. An officer or employee of an entity receiving ARRA funds commits a felony offense if the officer or employee refuses to allow one of the boards listed in number 5, above, access to information.
  7. The Legislative Library shall serve as the central depository for all ARRA publications, and each entity receiving ARRA funds shall provide the library with a copy of each ARRA publication.

H.B. 3071 (Geren) – Veterans: would: (1) exempt veterans who were discharged under honorable conditions from any fees to obtain a license to operate a business selling goods in the state; (2) exempt a disabled veteran from paying any city fees for a building permit related to handicap-accessibility construction at the veteran’s primary residence; and (3) exempt a disabled veteran from paying for public transportation services.

H.B. 3072 (Geren) – Economic Development: would permit cities under 20,000 population to transfer real property to a 4A or 4B economic development corporation without bidding or auction provided there is an agreement between the city and the corporation to use the land in a manner that primarily promotes a public purpose of the city and the deed contains a reverter clause should the land cease to be used for a public purpose of the city.

H.B. 3087 (Kuempel) – Towing: would provide the following regarding a vehicle that has been the subject of a nonconsent tow from private property or at the request of a local law enforcement agency: (1) the operator of a vehicle storage facility shall send an electronic notification to each local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the area from which a vehicle is towed; (2) The Texas Commission on Licensing and Regulation may adopt rules necessary to administer the requirements of number (1), above, including establishing requirements for a notice and the content of the notice; and (3) the city council may regulate the fees that may be charged or collected in connection with a nonconsent tow originating in the city, and may regulate the storage of a vehicle that has been the subject of a nonconsent tow at a vehicle storage facility located in the city.

H.B. 3090 (Burnam) – Electric Utilities: would provide that the governing body of a city may acquire the infrastructure necessary for the city to offer and provide retail electric service and related services in the corporate limits and the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city, regardless of whether the corporate limits or extraterritorial jurisdiction is in an existing certificated service area, and would provide procedures to implement the bill.

H.B. 3095 (Harless) – Parking: would allow a city to seize a disabled parking placard if the placard does not contain the first four digits of the driver's license number and the initials of either the person operating the vehicle or a person being transported by the vehicle. H.B. 3098 (Bolton) – Hotel Occupancy Tax: would allow a general law city to use hotel occupancy tax revenue to construct and maintain a children’s playground in the vicinity of a hotel.

H.B. 3104 (Paxton) – Property Tax: would alter the community housing development organization (CHDO) property tax exemption as follows: (1) provide that owners of property need not be exclusively engaged in low-income housing to qualify for the exemption; and (2) permit certain limited partnerships to qualify for the exemption.

H.B. 3109 (Parker) – Motorboat Offenses: would broaden the application of certain motorboat-based offenses, and would require a court to remit the fine from such offenses to the entity employing the marine safety enforcement officer who issued the citation.

H.B. 3144 (Gonzalez Toureilles) – Sales Tax: would exempt from sales taxes tangible property installed on farm or ranch vehicles or machinery.

H.B. 3164 (Y. Davis) – Property Tax: would: (1) permit certain limited partnerships to qualify for community housing development corporation (CHDO) property tax exemptions; and (2) repeal the requirement that housing projects must be built after December 1, 2001, to qualify for a CHDO exemption. (Companion bill is S.B. 744 by Wentworth.)

H.B. 3172 (Y. Davis) – Federal Grants: it appears that this bill would move the Community Development Block Grant program from the Office of Rural Community Affairs to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

H.B. 3180 (Thompson) – Dog and Cat Breeders: would (1) authorize the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to regulate dog and cat breeders; (2) allow a local animal control authority to access a dog or cat breeding facility whose license has been suspended or denied in order to verify that the facility is not operating as a commercial breeding facility; (3) allow a local animal control authority to perform investigations of dog or cat breeding facilities; (4) create a dog and cat breeders advisory committee; and (5) provide that any new state law regarding dog and cat breeders does not affect a city ordinance or prevent a city from further regulating the possession, breeding, or selling of dogs or cats. (Companion bill is S.B. 1910 by Whitmire.)

H.B. 3184 (Jackson) – Elections: would require that a ballot proposition allowing voters to approve a tax or the issuance of bonds must: (1) state the total dollar amount of bonds that will be issued or the amount of the tax or tax increase; and (2) describe any projects to be supported by the tax or bonds.

H.B. 3188 (McCall) – Lobbying: would: (1) permit any city official who must file a “conflicts disclosure statement” to use Texas Ethics Commission electronic services and software, and would permit certain vendors who currently file disclosure statements with a city the option to file a lobbying report with the Texas Ethics Commission whenever the vendor makes expenditures in relation to lobbying the city.

H.B. 3190 (McCall) – Sales Tax: would exempt vehicular fuel cells from sales taxes.

H.B. 3191 (McCall) – Emergency Response Fees: would provide that a fee charged by a city for emergency response services to a motor vehicle accident within the city must be applied uniformly and may not be limited to non-residents of the city.

H.B. 3195 (Flynn) – Liquefied Petroleum Gas: would provide that a city may not adopt a regulation relating to the installation, storage, or housing of liquefied petroleum gas that imposes requirements that exceed federal or state law.

H.B. 3196 (Flynn) – Liquefied Petroleum Gas: would provide that a city may adopt a regulation relating to the installation, storage, or housing of liquefied petroleum gas that is consistent with federal and state law.

H.B. 3203 (Hartnett) – Sovereign Immunity: would allow someone suing a city in a contract claim to recover attorneys’ fees.

H.B. 3204 (Edwards) – Pawnshops: would give cities the authority to adopt ordinances to enforce state laws relating to pawn shops, including the imposition of a Class C misdemeanor for violations.

H.B. 3206 (Edwards) – Property Tax: would alter the “Prop 2” pollution control property tax exemption as follows: (1) require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to develop a methodology for determining the proportion of industrial property that is used for pollution control; (2) require the TCEQ to issue a letter to an exemption applicant stating the proportion of property that is pollution control property; (3) permit the applicant for an exemption to initially determine the methodology for a partial exemption application; (4) require the TCEQ to establish a permanent advisory committee to implement the exemption; and (5) require all current recipients of the exemption to reapply in tax year 2010.

H.B. 3210 (Edwards) – Property Tax: would alter the duration of the religious organization property tax exemption as follows: (1) extend from six years to ten years the exemption for tracts of land that are contiguous to the tract of land where the main church sanctuary is located; and (2) extend from three years to five years the exemption for tracts of land that are not contiguous to tract of land where the main sanctuary is located.

H.B. 3222 (Hancock) – Tax Increment Finance: would permit adjoining cities to create a joint tax increment reinvestment zone. (Companion bill is S.B. 1947 by West.)

H.B. 3240 (Martinez) – Affordable Housing: would allow a city to adopt a program to foreclose on certain properties and delay the payment of back taxes to other taxing entities until the property has been improved and sold as affordable housing.

H.B. 3245 (Solomons) – Electric Markets: would, among other things, provide that: (1) the possession of a low market share within a power region may not, by itself, be deemed as a sufficient condition to preclude a finding that an investor-owned generator is engaged in an abuse of market power; (2) the Public Utility Commission shall permit affected customers, including political subdivisions, to participate in enforcement proceedings alleging market power abuses or manipulation of the wholesale market; and (3) the Electric Reliability Council of Texas shall not allow any charges or costs associated with a nodal wholesale market design or its implementation to be passed on to the retail customers.

H.B. 3248 (Cohen) – Property Tax: would exempt from property taxes any real property that is leased to a person for use as a school for educational purposes. (Note: please see H.J.R. 100, below.)

H.B. 3251 (Miklos) – Utility Disconnections: would provide that, to protect residents of a multiunit residential property from potential fire hazards, the Public Utility Commission by rule shall require an electric utility (not including a municipally-owned utility) or natural gas utility (including a municipally-owned gas utility) to immediately notify the owner and manager of the property when the utility disconnects the submetered electric or natural gas service of a resident of the property.

H.B. 3255 (Gattis) – Vehicle Impoundment: would: (1) allow a peace officer to impound a vehicle if the driver fails to display a driver's license; and (2) create certain requirements for notice to the driver and release of the vehicle from impoundment.

H.B. 3265 (Rose) – County Development Authority: would expand county authority to regulate development in certain counties located east of Austin and San Antonio, commonly known as the Texas Hill Country.

H.B. 3275 (Ortiz) – Red Light Cameras: would require a city to receive approval from the Texas Department of Transportation before installing a photographic traffic signal enforcement system at a state highway intersection.

H.B. 3288 (McReynolds) – Oil and Gas: would allow a city to lease a street, alley, or public square in the city for mineral development only if the lease prohibits the location of any facilities on the surface of the street, alley, or public square.

H.B. 3298 (Strama) – Open Meetings: would allow a quorum of the city council to discuss certain items not related to official city business without placing such items on the agenda. The items that would not require posting would include: (1) expressions of condolence; (2) reminders about upcoming city events; (3) certain honorary or salutary recognitions; and (4) a public official's attendance at an upcoming social, ceremonial, or community event.

H.B. 3311 (Maldonado) – Municipal Solid Waste: would prohibit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from permitting a landfill unless the TCEQ receives written consent from the city council of each city over 5,000 population that is located within five miles of the proposed landfill.

H.B. 3334 (Merritt) – Police: would require the governor’s criminal justice division to pay a city for the cost to replace a police officer who is receiving immigration training from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

H.B. 3335 (Callegari) – Special Districts: would provide that: (1) a city may enter into certain strategic partnership agreements with conservation and reclamation districts operating under Chapter 49 of the Texas Water Code; (2) to be annexed for limited purposes pursuant to a strategic partnership agreement, an area must be in a city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and contiguous to the corporate or limited purpose boundaries of the city, unless a district consents to noncontiguous annexation pursuant to a strategic partnership agreement with the municipality; (3) a city may not exercise the power of eminent domain inside a municipal utility district's boundaries if a reasonable alternative is available outside the district's boundaries; and (4) current provisions authorizing allocation agreements and varying water rates in the district are repealed. (Note: cities that use strategic partnership agreements and/or allocation agreements with special districts should carefully review the provisions of this bill.)

H.B. 3342 (Bohac) – Graffiti: would: (1) make it a state jail felony for a person who was previously convicted of a graffiti offense two or more times to commit a graffiti offense that causes a pecuniary loss to real or tangible personal property in an amount less than $20,000; (2) make it a crime to conspire with a street gang to commit a graffiti offense; and (3) require a court to suspend a person’s driver’s license upon conviction of a graffiti offense.

H.B. 3366 (Rose) – Water and Sewer Utilities: would: (1) prohibit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from allowing recovery of any rate case expenses following an appeal of water or sewer rates; (2) enable the TCEQ to set interim rates during a rate appeal case; (3) prohibit a city council from taking into account during rate approval proceedings any legal expenses incurred by an investor-owned water or sewer utility in a contested ratemaking proceeding before the TCEQ; and (4) make changes to the process for city council approval of investor-owned water and sewer utility rates.

H.B. 3378 (Parker) – Economic Development Corporations: would add railport, sea port, and inland port facilities to the list of authorized 4A and 4B sales tax corporation projects. (Companion bill is S.B. 2052 by Estes.)

H.B. 3383 (Coleman) – Property Tax: would prohibit land located inside city limits from receiving certain agricultural property tax exemptions if the land is owned by an entity that is not engaged principally in agricultural production.

H.B. 3389 (Harper-Brown) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) require the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education (TLCEOSE) to develop and establish rules for the electronic submission of forms, and require local law enforcement agencies to submit all required documents to TCLEOSE electronically; (2) require TLCEOSE to list the offenses for which placement on deferred adjudication community supervision would constitute grounds for TCLEOSE to suspend or revoke an officer’s license; and (3) require TCLEOSE to establish a comprehensive procedure for each phase of TCLEOSE’s complaint enforcement process. (Companion bill is S.B. 1018 by Deuell.)

H.B. 3390 (Harper-Brown) – Texas Commission on Fire Protection: would: (1) make it optional (rather than mandatory, as is current law) for the Texas Commission on Fire Protection to consult with the firefighter advisory committee; (2) encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution in adopting commission rules; (3) require that commission fees be based on an amount designed to recover the commission’s costs, with no maximum fee listed; (4) require criminal background checks for individuals applying for certification by the commission; (5) allow the commission to enter a default order if a fire department does not respond to a violation notice within the commission deadlines; and (6) abolish the fire department emergency program, which provides scholarships, grants, loans, and other financial assistance to eligible local fire departments. (Companion bill is S.B. 1011 by Estes).

H.B. 3394 (Harper-Brown) – Transportation Funding: would: (1) prohibit the non-transportation-related diversion of certain state fines and fees that fund the Texas Department of Public Safety; and (2) provide that money that is required to be used for public roadways by the Texas Constitution or federal law and that is deposited in the state treasury to the credit of the state highway fund may be used only to improve the state highway system or to mitigate adverse environmental effects that result directly from construction or maintenance of a state highway by the Texas Department of Transportation.

H.B. 3397 (C. Howard) – Zoning: would provide that: (1) a property owner may request a change in the zoning classification of the owner's property from an existing commercial use zoning classification to one or more other zoning classifications of lower use intensity if the owner establishes that: (a) the property has been under the same commercial use zoning classification for at least five years; (b) the owner has been unable to sell or obtain approval for the development of the property under the existing commercial use zoning classification for at least five years; and (c) an alternate development plan that includes one or more zoning classifications of lower use intensity has the potential to generate annual ad valorem tax revenues for the city in an amount equal to or greater than a development plan submitted under the existing commercial use zoning classification; (2) a property owner who requests a change to an alternate zoning classification under number 1, above, must make the request to the city's board of adjustment or governing body if the city has no board of adjustment; (3) if the board of adjustment finds that the owner complies with the criteria established under number 1, above, the board shall grant the zoning change; and (4) the bill’s provisions are retroactive.

H.B. 3410 (Chisum) – Gas Rate Cases: would provide that: (1) to the extent the Texas Railroad Commission determines the costs are reasonable, a gas utility shall reimburse the costs of a city that is a party to a proceeding that results from a complaint filed against the utility if the city is wholly or partially successful in prosecuting the complaint before the commission or a court; (2) costs for which a city may receive reimbursement include any reasonably necessary expenses related to the investigation, preparation, and prosecution of a claim on which the city prevails, including the reasonable costs of consultants, accountants, auditors, attorneys, and engineers; (3) a city may recover reasonable costs not yet paid because payment has been deferred pending a determination of reasonableness by the commission; and (4) a gas utility may not recover any amounts paid as reimbursement to the utility's customers.

H.B. 3415 (Thompson) – Smoking Ban: would prohibit smoking in restaurants and would preempt and supersede a city ordinance or regulation that restricts or prohibits smoking on the premises of a restaurant.

H.B. 3434 (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 TML Legislative Update has frequently reported on this proposed federal legislation, most recently in the January 22, 2009, edition.)

H.B. 3436 (Hamilton) – Plumbers: would modify the plumber’s license law by providing that: (1) a person is not required to be licensed to perform plumbing (other than plumbing performed in conjunction with new construction, repair, or remodeling) on a property that is located inside a city that is within a county that has fewer than 50,000 inhabitants and that: (a) has fewer than 5,000 inhabitants; and (b) by municipal ordinance or order of the county commissioners court has authorized a person who is not licensed to perform plumbing; (2) a city that requires a plumbing contractor to obtain a permit before the person performs plumbing shall electronically accept permit applications, collect required fees, and issue the required permits; (3) if drawings of proposed plumbing work are required by the city, the city shall specify how permit drawings are to be submitted; (4) a person who is required to obtain a permit in a city over 5,000 population or a city under 5,000 population that has elected to require a permit, is not required to pay a plumbing registration fee or administrative fee in the city; (5) a plumbing contractor must electronically register with a city that requires registration before performing plumbing regulated by the city; (6) a city that requires a plumbing contractor to obtain a permit before performing plumbing in the city shall verify through the Texas Board of Plumbing Examiner's Internet Web site that the plumbing contractor has filed with the board a certificate of insurance; and (7) if the boundaries of a city and another political subdivision overlap, only the affected city may perform a plumbing inspection and collect a permit fee. (Companion bill is S.B. 1354 by Jackson.)

H.B. 3498 (Swinford) – Property Tax: would make several minor procedural changes to the judicial appeals process for property tax appraisals, including providing that appeals in any county, not just counties under 175,000 population as current law provides, shall receive preferential court settings.

H.B. 3500 (Dunnam) – License Plates: would provide for the issuance of specialized license plates for city officials.

H.B. 3548 (Miklos) – Felony Forfeiture: would require that all felony forfeiture money related to human trafficking or prostitution offenses be paid directly to the state instead of being available for local law enforcement purposes.

H.B. 3556 (Bonnen) – Elections: would: (1) require the presiding election judge to post on the outside of each polling location a list of the acceptable forms of voting identification using a font that is at least 24 point; (2) provide that a voter accepted for provisional voting because the voter does not meet the identification requirements, or an interested person on behalf of the voter, may present proof of identification to the voter registrar within 10 business days of the election; and (3) require an election officer to inform an individual voting by provisional ballot of the ten-day window for providing identification to the voter registrar.

H.B. 3558 (Phillips) – Red Light Cameras: would allow a city to enact an ordinance requiring a person who is ticketed by a red light camera to complete an intersection driving safety course in addition to any monetary civil penalty imposed.

H.B. 3561 (Phillips) – Transportation Funding: would provide that state highway fund money may no longer be used to fund the Texas Department of Public Safety, and that the money may be used only to improve the state highway system, with certain exceptions. (Companion bill is S.B. 216 by Carona.)

H.B. 3562 (Coleman) – Records Retention: would require the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to set a records retention period of at least three years for electronic mail records held by a city.

H.B. 3563 (Coleman) – Racial Profiling: would: (1) provide that if a law enforcement agency intentionally fails to submit a required racial profiling report, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) shall initiate disciplinary action against that agency’s chief administrator; (2) expand the required contents of a peace officer’s report on a vehicle search; (3) require that the annual compilation of the vehicle search reports shall be submitted to TCLEOSE; (4) retain the current-law exemption from these reporting requirements for any agency in which vehicles are equipped with video cameras; (5) impose a new, 15-cent court fee on any person convicted in municipal court of a moving violation; (6) allow a municipal court to retain ten percent of that new fee revenue; and (7) require that the remaining fee revenue be remitted to the state for placement in the “Civil Justice Date Repository” for use by TCLEOSE. (Companion bill is S.B. 1120 by West.)

H.B. 3587 (Truitt) – Interactive Water Features: would: (1) set sanitation standards and bacterial content levels for interactive water features and fountains; (2) allow a city to require that the owner of an interactive water feature or fountain obtain a permit for its operation; (3) allow a city to inspect an interactive water feature or fountain for compliance; (4) allow a city to impose and collect a reasonable fee in connection with a permit or inspection; and (5) allow a city to close an interactive water feature or fountain for non-compliance. (Companion bill is S.B. 968 by West.)

H.B. 3713 (Bolton) – Animal Euthanasia: would provide that personnel of a humane society or an animal control agency may possess Telazol or Ketamine for the purpose of tranquilizing, sedating, or destroying injured, sick, homeless, or unwanted animals if the humane society or animal control agency is registered with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

H.B. 3766 (Paxton) – Discharge of Weapons: would amend the statute that prevents a city from prohibiting the discharge of a firearm or other weapon in the extraterritorial jurisdiction or in an area annexed after September 1, 1981, if the firearm or other weapon is a shotgun, air rifle or pistol, BB gun, or bow and arrow discharged on a tract of land of 10 acres or more, a center fire or rim fire rifle or pistol of any caliber discharged on a tract of land of 50 acres or more, used in a way that is not reasonably expected to cause a projectile to cross the boundary of the tract. The bill would provide that in such cases the weapon may not be used within: (a) 1,000 feet of an occupied building, including a residence, located on another property; and (b) 1,500 feet of an occupied building that is a school, day-care facility, nursing home facility, adult day-care facility, the property line of a public tract of land used for outdoor recreation, the property line of a residential subdivision, or the property line of a multifamily residential complex. (Companion bill is S.B. 1742 by Shapiro.)

H.B. 3830 (T. Smith) – Elections: would: (1) provide that a special election of a city is considered to be a separate election from a general election for city officers or another special election of the city held at the same time; (2) require a city to post a copy of the order declaring each unopposed candidate elected at each polling place that would have been used in an election; (3) require a city to print on each ballot for a separate election the names and offices of those candidates who were unopposed and declared elected for an election that was to be held at the same time; (4) allow a city that orders an election on a measure to declare the measure moot and remove it from the ballot if the city determines that the action to be authorized by the voters may not be taken regardless of the outcome of the election; (5) require that an insufficient number of ballots or a malfunction of electronic voting system equipment must be remedied through the use of emergency paper ballots when no other method of voting is available; (6) require an election order to state the location of each early voting polling place; (7) require an early voting clerk to notify the voter registrar of a federal postcard application that states a voting residence address located outside the registrar’s county; (8) provide that a person who changes residence to another county may cast a vote during the early voting period if the person is registered to vote in the county of former residence at the time the person offers to vote in the new county; (9) allow a city to have a voting system technician present at a polling place, a meeting of the early voting ballot board, or a central counting station to maintain or operate voting system equipment; (10) require a city to post notice of the dates of the filing period for an application for a place on the ballot in a public place within the main city office building not later than the 30th day before the first day on which the application may be submitted; (11) require the recount deposit to be $60 for each precinct in which paper ballots were used, and $100 for each precinct where an electronic voting system was used; and (12) allow for joint elections only if elections are ordered by the authorities of two or more political subdivisions to be held on the same day in all or part of the same county. (Companion bill is S.B. 1970 by Duncan.)

H.B. 3832 (Hilderbran) – Elections: would: (1) require a candidate for elective public office to have resided continuously in the state for two years and in the territory from which the office is elected for one year preceding the filing deadline for the office; (2) provide that while a home rule city can prescribe different age and residence requirements for city office, a minimum length of residence in the state or city may not be more than two years immediately preceding election day, and any charter provision that requires residency of more than two years for eligibility to run for an elective city office is voided; (3) create a class A misdemeanor for knowingly providing false information on an application for a place on the ballot; and (4) provide that an individual convicted of providing false information on an application for a place on the ballot is ineligible to run for public elective office.

H.B. 3840 (Hilderbran) – Property Tax: would provide that land may not be reappraised more often than once every three years (except that land may be reappraised in the year immediately following the year it was sold).

H.B. 3841 (Hilderbran) – Elections: would require elections for the trustees of a common school district to be held jointly with either an election for the governing body of a city located in the school district or the general election for state and county officers.

H.B. 3842 (Hilderbran) – Municipally-Owned Electric Utilities: would provide that a municipally-owned electric utility may not directly or indirectly provide service to the public outside of the city’s limits unless the utility first obtains a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Public Utility Commission.

H.B. 3851 (Eiland) – Budget Deadlines: would suspend statutory deadlines for adoption of a budget and taxes if a city is located within an area under a disaster declaration and the mayor or city council declares that the city cannot meet the deadlines due to the disaster.

H.B. 3854 (Eiland) – Economic Development Corporations: would permit 4A and 4B economic development corporations located in federally-defined Hurricane Ike disaster areas to spend sales tax revenue on certain hurricane recovery projects. (Companion bill is S.B. 1752 by Jackson.)

H.B. 3866 (Naishtat) – Fire Code Inspections: would provide that: (1) only an individual certified by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection as a fire inspector may conduct a fire safety inspection required by a state or local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance; and (2) a fire safety inspection required by a state or local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance must be conducted in accordance with the most recent local fire code or the most recent fire code adopted by the state fire marshal.

H.B. 3941 (Swinford) – Renewable Energy Regulations: would provide that a city may not adopt an ordinance that governs the installation or operation of a small wind turbine or that places any substantial restriction either directly or indirectly on the installation or use of such equipment unless the municipality first conducts a study and issues a report that concludes that the ordinance would: (1) ensure the public safety; or (2) not significantly increase the cost or decrease the efficiency of distributed renewable generation.

H.B. 3943 (C. Howard) – Open Meetings: would provide that a quorum of the city council may receive from municipal staff, and a member of the governing body may make a report regarding, items of community interest during a council meeting without having given notice of the subject of the report, provided no action is taken or discussed.

H.B. 4018 (Gutierrez) – Eight-Liners: would: (1) require a county to conduct an election upon proper petition by the required number of voters in a city to determine whether the operation of eight-liners should be legalized or prohibited within the city; (2) if legalized, require a license fee of $500 per year to be assessed for each eight-liner in the city; and (3) require the state comptroller to take the revenue for the state.

H.B. 4038 (Merritt) – Property Tax: would: (1) provide that appraisal districts shall be governed by the county tax assessor-collector, rather than a board of directors; (2) provide that a city’s obligation to fund a portion of appraisal district operations is calculated based on the total taxable value of land located within the city instead of total taxes levied by the city; (3) create a new property tax appraisal cap for residential homestead property at a rate equal to consumer inflation in the state as determined by the state comptroller; and (4) provide that the appraisal of a homestead may not increase at all in the first tax year after it is purchased by a homeowner. (Note: please see H.J.R. 104, below.)

H.B. 4090 (Farrar) – Law Enforcement: would: (1) require a police department to provide training regarding the technological aspects of electronically recording interrogations to any officer or employee who interrogates defendants or suspects; (2) require DPS to adopt rules providing funds or electronic recording equipment to police departments; and (3) exempt certain electronically recorded interrogations from release under the Texas Public Information Act. (Companion bill is S.B. 116 by Ellis.)

H.B. 4105 (Bohac) Property Tax: would change the name of the effective property tax rate to the “no new taxes” property tax rate.

H.B. 4123 (Alonzo) – Fire Figher Collective Bargaining: would impose upon cities a system of mandatory collective bargaining with firefighters. Specifically, the bill would: (1) waive sovereign immunity to the extent necessary to enforce the bill’s provisions; (2) mandate that cities provide firefighters with wages and working conditions similar to those in the private sector; (3) require a city to recognize and bargain with a “bargaining agent” selected by its firefighters; (4) allow the city and the bargaining agent to use a mediator; (5) provide that a tentative agreement must be approved by both the city’s governing body and the firefighter association; (6) provide that an impasse shall be submitted to a three-member arbitration board whose decisions shall be final; (7) provide that the city and the firefighter association shall each select one arbitrator, that those two arbitrators shall attempt to select the third arbitrator, and that an alternative system of selecting the third arbitrator shall be used if the two appointed arbitrators cannot agree; and (8) prohibit strikes, slowdowns, and lockouts. (Note: this bill undoubtedly anticipates the passage of federal legislation that would impose collective bargaining on all cities. The TML Legislative Update has frequently reported on this proposed federal legislation, most recently in the January 22, 2009, edition.) (Companion bill is S.B. 1894 by Gallegos.)

H.B. 4164 (Moody) – Graffiti: would: (1) include in the definition of graffiti the act of affixing a sticker to property without permission; (2) create the offense of burglary of a building with intent to create graffiti; (3) authorize a city to adopt an ordinance to require a person who sells aerosol paint to require and record proof of identification and to impose a $1 surcharge on each sale, with the revenue to be used for graffiti abatement; and (4) authorize a city to require a property owner to remove graffiti from the property, or authorize the city to remove it and place a lien on the property. (Companion bill is S.B. 1087 by Shapleigh.)

H.B. 4271 (Y. Davis) – Group Homes: would grant additional city authority over various types of group homes that are regulated under state law (e.g., community homes for those with various emotional or physical disabilities, assisted living facilities, special care facilities, maternity homes, and intermediate care facilities for the mentally retarded).

H.B. 4310 (Gallego) – Street Gangs: would: (1) make a street gang liable for damages arising from gang activity, including increased cost of governmental services and loss of ad valorem tax revenue due to decreased value of property; (2) make a street gang liable for damages stemming from injury to a neighborhood or community injured by a public nuisance arising from the street gang’s activity, to be filed by a citizen or district, county, or city attorney on behalf of the neighborhood or community; (3) allow the property of a street gang to be seized in execution of a judgment against the gang; and (4) make any property used in certain organized crime offenses eligible for felony forfeiture proceedings. (Companion bill is S.B. 11 by Carona.)

H.B. 4388 (Chavez) – Employment Preference: would require a city to give a hiring preference to a veteran or a veteran’s surviving spouse if the applicant meets the minimum qualifications for the position. (Companion bill is S.B. 1498 by Van de Putte).

H.B. 4409 (Taylor) – Emergency Management: would: (1) waive the civil liability of a city officer, employee, or volunteer, for actions taken while discharging duties involved in an activity related to sheltering or housing individuals during a disaster evacuation; (2) make the General Land Office responsible for contracting for debris removal from beaches following a weather-related disaster; (3) make the Texas Department of Transportation responsible for contracting for debris removal from the state highway system following a weather-related disaster; and (4) make the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs responsible for contracting to provide temporary shelter or housing following a weather-related disaster.

H.B. 4569 (Zerwas) – Law Enforcement: would, among other provisions, require a police department that receives a report of child abuse or neglect to maintain the report for two years.

H.B. 4585 (Pitts) – Federal Stimulus Funding: would provide that various eligible state agencies shall take action to apply for and receive the maximum amount of federal stimulus money available to this state for expenditure by or through the agencies. (Companion bill is S.B. 2354 by Ogden.)

H.B. 4613 (Oliveira) – Tax Increment Financing: this bill is a lengthy re-write of tax increment finance law. Among its many changes, it would: (1) permit tax increment proceeds to be spent for remediation of buildings, including facades; (2) permit a tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) to be composed of non-contiguous land; (3) permit a TIRZ to be composed of largely underdeveloped land; (4) permit a city council to extend the term of certain TIRZs; (5) repeal the authority to add land to a TIRZ by petition; (6) change the taxable base of a TIRZ from the appraised value of the land to the taxable value of the land; (7) permit tax increment agreements to establish a base year later than the year the agreement is signed; (8) validate TIRZ actions taken by a city two years after they occur; and (8) repeal certain restrictions on the creation of TIRZs. (Companion bill is S.B. 2338 by Shapiro.)

H.B. 4628 (Lucio) – School Bus Camera Enforcement: would: (1) allow a school district to enter into an understanding with a city to create and enforce a red light camera-type civil penalty system for passing stopped school buses; and (2) require that all civil penalties collected under such a program go to the school district, even after a penalty has been appealed to municipal court.

H.B. 4632 (Lucio) – Annexation: would provide that a city in a county that contains an international border may not annex an area other than an unincorporated area that is entirely surrounded by the incorporated territory of the city until all of the unincorporated areas that are entirely surrounded by the incorporated territory have been annexed. (Companion bill is S.B. 1962 by Lucio.)

H.B. 4634 (Lucio) – Cell Phones: would: (1) prohibit the driver of a commercial motor vehicle from using a cell phone except with a hands-free device or while stopped; and (2) create an exception for official use of cell phones by peace officers or emergency responders.

H.B. 4635 (Lucio) – Municipal Ordinances: would require a city to add an additional fine of ten percent (but not less than $10) to each violation of a city ordinance, rule, or police regulation, with the revenue being devoted to the support of city parks.

H.B. 4643 (Lucio) – Red Light Cameras: would require a light at an intersection using photographic red light enforcement to be set to the maximum allowable yellow change interval duration established in the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

H.B. 4653 (D. Howard) – Elections: would: (1) require a presiding election judge to appoint at least two clerks in addition to the alternate presiding judge for each precinct in an election; (2) provide that a home rule charter may not provide for fewer than four election officers for each precinct; (3) provide that a city election precinct must be established for an area in a manner that will adequately serve the voters and must contain at least 100 but not more than 2,000 registered voters; (4) require that a city ordering an election shall provide a video recording device to a presiding judge at a polling place to record the ballots, ballot boxes, and envelopes used for provisional ballots at the polling place from the time the polls open until the precinct returns have been certified and posted; (5) require each polling place to have at least one voting station that is accessible to voters with physical disabilities and provide these voters with a way to privately and independently mark a secret ballot; (6) allow a polling place to provide disabled voters with an electronic paper ballot marker machine or a non-electric voter-assist device; (7) provide that at each polling place the ballots shall be counted by at least one team consisting of four election officers; (8) allow any interested citizen the opportunity to silently observe the opening of the ballot box, counting of the votes, and computation of the precinct results; (9) provide various procedural requirements relating to Envelope No. 5 of the precinct election records; (10) make it a state jail felony for a presiding judge to fail to fasten the precinct returns to the outside of the entrance door as required by statute; (11) make it a state jail felony for a person to remove or alter precinct returns that are posted on the public entrance to the polling place; and (12) allow a citizen to silently observe the operation of an early voting ballot board.

H.B. 4654 (Chisum) – Oil and Gas Ordinances: would: (1) direct the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) to create model rules for adoption by a city regulating the drilling of oil and gas wells within city limits; and (2) require a city to adopt an ordinance in accordance with those rules, unless the TRC approves of a conflicting ordinance, after a hearing.

H.J.R. 96 (Christian) – Eminent Domain: would amend the Texas Constitution to provide that "public use" means a use of property that allows the state, a political subdivision of the state, or the general public of the state to possess, occupy, and enjoy the property, including the use of property for: (1) transportation projects including, but not limited to, railroads, airports, and public roads or highways; (2) projects of port authorities, navigation districts, and any other conservation or reclamation districts that act as ports; (3) water supply, wastewater, flood control, and drainage projects; (4) public buildings, hospitals, and parks; (5) the provision of utility services; (6) a certain sports and community venue project approved by voters at an election held on or before December 1, 2005; (7) the operations of a common carrier pipeline or an energy transporter; (8) projects of certain private gas or electric utilities; (9) certain underground gas storage operations; (10) a waste disposal project; or (11) a library, museum, or related facility and any infrastructure related to the facility.

H.J.R. 100 (Cohen) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to exempt from property taxes any real property that is leased to a person for use as a school for educational purposes. (Note: please see H.B. 3248, above.)

H.J.R. 104 (Merritt) – Property Tax: would amend the Texas Constitution to: (1) create a new property tax appraisal cap for residential homestead property at a rate equal to consumer inflation in the state as determined by the state comptroller; (2) provide that the appraisal of a homestead may not increase at all in the first tax year after it is purchased by a homeowner; and (3) permit the legislature to limit the frequency with which an appraisal office may reappraise residence homesteads. (Note: please see H.B. 4038, above.)

H.J.R. 120 (Homer) – Resign-to-Run: would make an elected city official subject to automatic resignation if: (1) the term of office is more than two years; (2) there is more than one year left in the unexpired term; and (3) the official announces or becomes a candidate for an elected public office created under the constitution or other law of the state.

S.B. 12 (Carona) – Emergency Management: would: (1) give the mayor the authority to compel individuals to leave an area that is under a mandatory evacuation order; (2) make an individual who stays in a disaster area despite a mandatory evacuation order civilly liable for any damages or injuries associated with rescuing the individual after refusing to be evacuated; and (3) give the Division of Emergency Management the authority to determine a disaster area reentry plan governing who is allowed to reenter and when they may do so.

S.B. 20 (Williams) – Property Tax: would: (1) permit two or more adjoining appraisal districts to consolidate certain appraisal operations; (2) provide that the appraised value of a residence homestead must be determined solely on the basis of its use as a residence homestead, regardless of the otherwise “highest and best use” of the property; (3) require that the comptroller’s property value study take place once every two years instead of yearly for districts that are currently in compliance; (4) expand the scope of the comptroller’s power to review appraisal district standards and operations; (5) permit citizens to sue appraisal districts for failure to follow appraisal procedures; and (6) establish a pilot program for the appeal or certain property disputes to an administrative law judge in Bexar, El Paso, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis Counties.

S.B. 1019 (Hegar) – Texas Department of Transportation: this bill is the same as H.B. 300, above.

S.B. 1618 (Wentworth) – Elections: would mandate that the governing body of a city with a population of 500,000 or more must consist of a mayor elected at large and at least six councilmembers elected from single-member districts, and would provide additional details relating to that mandate.

S.B. 1619 (Wentworth) – Debt: would provide that the issuance of public securities are not subject to home rule referenda procedures.

S.B. 1624 (Wentworth) – Property Tax: would provide that property owners must submit documents related to sales price during district court appeals of property appraisals, or else the property owner may not raise an equity challenge during the appeal.

S.B. 1626 (Wentworth) – Law Enforcement: would require a city police department to: (1) create a written report upon the receipt from a mental health professional of a report of a threat of physical violence; (2) provide a copy of the report to the Department of State Health Services and the Department of Public Safety; and (3) establish departmental codes and policies regarding the identification and retrieval of these reports.

S.B. 1639 (Harris) – Procurement: would provide that: (1) a city that enters into a public works contract with a prime contractor shall require the contractor to execute a performance bond if the contract is in excess of $100,000 and execute a payment bond if the contract is in excess of $50,000; and (2) if a change order involves a decrease or an increase of $50,000 or less, the governing body of a city may grant general authority to an administrative official to approve the change order.

S.B. 1640 (Harris) – Property Tax: would expand the list of equipment eligible to receive the heavy equipment inventory property tax exemption to include certain equipment weighing between 1,500 and 3,000 pounds. (Note: current law allows the exemption only for equipment weighing over 3,000 pounds.) (Companion bill is H.B. 4375 by Ritter.)

S.B. 1679 (Hinojosa) – Gas Pipelines: would provide that: (1) a common purchaser (e.g., a gas pipeline company or gas purchaser) has the right to lay and maintain a pipeline over, under, across, and along a public road or a municipal street or alley; and (2) a common purchaser may exercise authority under the bill in relation to a municipal street or alley only with the consent of and subject to the direction of the governing body of the city. (Companion bill is H.B. 1526 by Crownover.)

S.B. 1686 (Hinojosa) – Municipal Court: would: (1) require a municipal prosecutor to, upon request by a defendant and subject to certain exceptions and existing rules of evidence, make available to the defendant multiple types of records related to the case; (2) require the same of the defendant; (3) create sanctions for violations; (4) apply the requirements created to pro se defendants only as required by the court; and (5) give the release requirement precedence over the Texas Public Information Act. (Companion bills are H.B. 301 and H.B. 1168 by Dutton.)

S.B. 1689 (Hinojosa) – Prompt Payment Act: would provide that a governmental entity is not liable for interest on a disputed payment under the Prompt Payment Act if the governmental entity's invoice payment is late because of a bona fide dispute between the governmental entity and a vendor, contractor, subcontractor, or supplier concerning the goods delivered or the service performed. (Companion bill is H.B. 2670 by Thibaut.)

S.B. 1707 (West) – Felony Forfeiture: would permit a police chief 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. 1716 (West) – Sales Tax: would entitle owners of certain energy efficient facilities to receive rebates of state sales taxes paid for repair or remodeling services. (It is unclear whether the refund would apply to city sales taxes.) (Companion bill is H.B. 346 by Straus.)

S.B. 1732 (West) – Swimming Pool Safety: would: (1) require the owner, manager, or operator of a swimming pool to comply with pool safety standards adopted by the Health and Human Services Commission; (2) require the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to adopt pool safety standards related to drowning that are at least as stringent as those imposed under the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.

S.B. 1741 (Carona) – Emergency Management Training: would: (1) require an elected city official to take three hours of emergency management training provided by the state if the official has management or supervisory responsibilities and: (a) has a position description, job duties, or assignment that includes emergency management responsibilities; or (b) plays a role in emergency preparedness, response, or recovery; and (2) require a city, upon request of the Division of Emergency Management, to conduct an evaluation of the city’s response to a disaster, identify areas for improvement, and issue a report of the evaluation to the division.

S.B. 1742 (Shapiro) – Discharge of Weapons: this bill is the same as H.B. 3766, above.

S.B. 1749 (Jackson) – Gas Pipelines: would provide that a gas corporation has the right to lay and maintain lines under a public road, a railroad, railroad right-of-way, an interurban railroad, a street railroad, a canal or stream, or a municipal street or alley. (Companion bill is H.B. 2572 by Gonzalez Toureilles.)

S.B. 1752 (Jackson) – Economic Development Corporations: this bill is the same as H.B. 3854, above.

S.B. 1753 (M. Jackson) – Sales Tax: would do the following regarding the reallocation of city sales tax revenues due to a mistake: (1) reduce the statute of limitations (also known as the “look back” provision) for reallocation of city sales taxes from four years to one year; (2) grant cities a right to notification and hearing regarding reallocation decisions, as well as a right of appeal to a Travis County district court; and (3) prohibit cities from using reallocated sales tax proceeds for certain economic development grants. (Companion bill is H.B. 1377 by Thompson.)

S.B. 1894 (Gallegos) – Fire Fighter Collective Bargaining: this bill is the same as H.B. 4123, above.

S.B. 1962 (Lucio) – Annexation: this bill is the same as H.B. 4632, above.

S.B. 1970 (Duncan) – Elections: this bill is the same as H.B. 3830, above.

S.B. 2153 (Whitmire) – Parking Boots: would provide that: (1) parking boot operators are subject to certain state licensing requirements and also to certain regulations that apply to tow truck operators; (2) a city may adopt an ordinance that is identical to the booting provisions in the bill or that imposes additional requirements that exceed the minimum standards of the booting provisions in the bill, but may not adopt an ordinance that conflicts with the booting provisions in the bill; (3) a city may regulate the fees that may be charged in connection with the booting of a vehicle, including associated parking fees; and (4) a city may require booting companies to obtain a permit to operate in the city.

S.B. 2218 (Ellis) – Graffiti: would, among other provisions: (1) require a court to order a defendant convicted of a graffiti-related offense to make restitution to the property owner; and (2) allow a city entitled to restitution to require the defendant to restore the property instead.

S.B. 2255 (Zaffirini) – Elections: would allow an authority adopting a voting system to provide for the use of electronic voting machines in addition to another method of casting a vote at the same polling place. (Companion bill is H.B. 2274 by Raymond.)

S.B. 2268 (Gallegos) – Alcoholic Beverages: would prevent a city that erroneously approves a location as eligible for an alcoholic beverage license from later asserting that the location does not qualify for the applicable license if: (1) the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission issued a license for the location in reliance on the city’s erroneous approval; (2) the license holder, in good faith reliance on the erroneous approval by the city and issuance of a license or permit by the commission, spent $250,000 or more on improvements to the location; and (3) the original or renewed license is active for the location on or after January 1, 2009.

S.B. 2288 (Lucio) – Affordable Housing: would provide that: (1) the Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) shall fund various colonia protection measures; (2) ORCA shall work with the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) to identify available sources of funding for housing initiatives in a county or municipality that is eligible, as identified by ORCA rule, to receive financial assistance from the community development block grant colonia fund; (3) TDHCA shall establish a division to support rural community and small municipality housing initiatives and by rule shall define a small municipality and a rural community; (4) TDHCA shall establish regional nonprofit housing development organizations that serve rural communities and small municipalities and shall designate a rural grants administrator; (5) on the request of the governing body of a city or county, the division shall assign a department employee or independent contractor to assist the city or county in identifying financial resources available for its plans and initiatives; and (6) the governing bodies of one or more rural municipalities or rural counties may participate in a rural housing land assemb