City-Related Bills Filed

PROPERTY TAX

H.B. 1208 (Parker) – Property Tax Exemption:  would repeal the requirement that interest is due on additional taxes when land loses an agricultural or open-space appraisal.

H.B. 1217 (Menendez) – Property Tax Exemption:  would increase the progressive property tax exemption amounts for disabled veterans and their surviving spouses and children.  (Companion bill is S.B. 465 by Van de Putte.) (Please see H.J.R. 82, below.)

H.B. 1287 (Hilderbran) – Property Tax Exemption:  would: (1) provide that an application for a residence homestead exemption need not include a copy of the applicant’s driver’s license or personal identification certificate if the applicant: (a) is a resident of a facility that provides services related to health, infirmity, or aging; or (b) is certified for participation in the address confidentiality program; and (2) allow a chief appraiser to waive the requirement that an address of the property for which the exemption is claimed correspond to the address listed on the applicant’s driver’s license or personal identification certificate if the applicant: (a) is an active duty member of the armed services or the spouse of an active duty member and the application includes a copy of the military identification card and a copy of the utility bill for the property subject to the claimed exemption; or (b) holds a license issued to a federal judge, state judge, spouse of the judge, or peace officer that omits the residence address if the application for that license to the Department of Transportation is included in the application for the exemption.

H.B. 1306 (E. Rodriguez) – Property Tax Exemption:  in determining whether a property can be considered as qualified open-space land for purposes of an appraisal, would: (1) require a chief appraiser to consider the cumulative effect of all agricultural uses of a tract of land, including various agricultural production methods like organic, sustainable, pastured poultry, rotational grazing, and other unconventional production methods or systems; (2) provide that a tract of land cannot be disqualified for appraisal as qualified open-space land solely on the basis of the size of the tract so long as the tract is at least 1.5 acres; and (3) allow such an appraisal to apply to a not-for-profit community garden.

H.B. 1338 (Bell) – Appraisal Cap:  would reduce the property tax appraisal cap on homesteads from ten to five percent, and apply the new appraisal cap to all real property.  (Please see H.J.R. 84, below.)

H.B. 1348 (Menendez) – Property Tax Exemption:  would provide an exemption from property taxes for a commercial aircraft used as an instrumentality of commerce that is under construction and other tangible personal property to be attached to the commercial aircraft if the aircraft and tangible personal property is located inside a defense base development authority.  

H.B. 1360 (Ritter) – Property Tax Exemption:  would provide an exemption from property taxes for property that a person owns and leases to a school if: (1) the school uses the property exclusively for educational functions; (2) the property is reasonably necessary for the operation of the school; (3) the owner certifies by affidavit to the school that the rent for the lease of the property will be reduced by an amount equal to the amount by which the taxes are reduced due to the exemption; (4) the owner provides a disclosure statement to the school stating the amount by which the taxes are reduced by the exemption; and (5) the rent charged reflects the reduction in the amount of taxes on the property resulting from the exemption. (Please see H.J.R. 86, below.)   

H.B. 1371 (Munoz) – Property Tax Exemption:  would include cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or epilepsy in the definition of “disabled” for purposes of eligibility for a local property tax exemption or local property tax freeze on the residence homestead of a person who is disabled. (Please see H.J.R. 88, below.)

H.J.R. 82 (Menendez) – Property Tax Exemption:  would amend the Texas Constitution to increase the property tax exemption amount for each different disability rating applicable to disabled veterans and their surviving spouses and children.  (Please see H.B. 1217, above.) (Companion resolution is S.J.R. 30 by Van de Putte.)

H.J.R. 84 (Bell) – Appraisal Cap:  would amend the Texas Constitution to reduce the property tax appraisal cap on homesteads from ten to five percent, and apply the new appraisal cap to all real property.  (Please see H.B. 1338, above.)

H.J.R. 86 (Ritter) – Property Tax Exemption:  would amend the Texas Constitution to authorize the legislature to exempt from property taxes real property leased to certain schools organized and operated primarily for the purpose of engaging in educational functions.  (Please see H.B. 1360, above.)

H.J.R. 88 (Munoz) – Property Tax Exemption:  would amend the Texas Constitution to authorize the legislature to define “disabled” for purposes of eligibility for a local property tax exemption or local property tax freeze on the residence homestead of a person who is disabled.  (Please see H.B. 1371, above.)

S.B. 520 (Paxton) – Property Tax Exemption:  would provide that: (1) an elderly or disabled individual who qualifies for a residence homestead exemption from taxation by a school district or the optional exemption by a city can apply the exemption to newly acquired property as of January 1 of the tax year in which the property was acquired; and (2) an individual who does not qualify for the elderly or disabled residence homestead exemptions mentioned in (1), above, and who acquires property after January 1, may receive the exemptions for which the individual qualifies for the portion of that tax year.

S.B. 586 (Hegar) – Property Tax Liens:  would provide that a property tax lien is inferior to the claim of any creditor that is the holder of a purchase money security interest on personal property encumbered to a property tax lien only to the extent of the amount of taxes, including penalties or interest on those taxes, that would have been imposed on the personal property had the property been taxed separately on the date the tax lien attached.

SALES TAX

H.B. 1202 (Parker) – Sales Tax Exemption:  would expand the current sales tax holiday for clothing and footwear by one week.  (Companion bill is S.B. 485 by Ellis.)

H.B. 1223 (Hilderbran) – Sales Tax Exemption: would provide that a qualifying data center, or operator or tenant of a qualifying data center, is entitled to receive a refund of the state sales taxes imposed on the purchase of tangible personal property that is necessary to manage or operate the data center.

H.B. 1291 (D. Bonnen) – Sales Tax Exemption:  would exempt a gun safety device from sales and use taxes if: (1) the sales price of the device is less than $2,500; and (2) the sale takes place on the weekend following the first Friday in July. 

H.B. 1320 (Murphy) – Sales Tax Prepayment:  would provide that a taxpayer who prepays sales and use tax liability on the basis of a reasonable estimate of the tax liability on a monthly or quarterly basis may deduct and withhold: (1) one percent of the amount of the prepayment if the taxpayer pays the tax quarterly; or (2) one-half of one percent of the amount of the prepayment if the taxpayer pays the tax monthly.

S.B. 535 (West) – Sales Tax Exemption:  would exempt a number of energy-efficient products from sales and use taxes. 

S.B. 571 (Deuell) – Sales Tax Exemption:  would exempt hospital mattresses and intravenous systems, supplies, and replacement parts designed or intended to be used in the diagnosis or treatment of humans from sales and use taxes.

PURCHASING

S.B. 507 (Watson) – Public-Private Partnerships: would make various changes to the optional public-private partnership bill from 2011 (S.B. 1048).  Of particular interest to cities, the bill would provide that: (1) a public private partnership project that is to be performed or located in a city must comply with the city’s zoning and land use regulations, unless the project uses a building or land of a state agency for the same purposes as it is used currently; (2) a city that has adopted a resolution to opt-in to the provisions of the law shall, prior to engaging in any project, submit a copy of the required guidelines to the state’s Partnership Advisory Commission for approval by the commission; and (3) a city that approves an unsolicited proposal shall: (a) select the contracting person for the project by soliciting additional proposals through a request for proposals or invitation to bid; and (b) include in the comprehensive agreement for the qualifying project a written declaration of the specific public purpose served by the project.

ELECTIONS

H.B. 1197 (Raymond) – Elections: would, among other things, provide that if a polling place is located in a building owned by a private business, the owner must notify the authority holding the election if electioneering will be prohibited on the privately-owned premises of the building.

H.B. 1243 (Hughes) – Elections:  would prohibit the use of an electronic voting machine in an election unless the machine: (1) has been certified or otherwise approved by means of qualification testing by a nationally recognized test laboratory; (2) meets certain voluntary standards developed and adopted by the Federal Election Commission, the Election Assistance Commission, or the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and (3) creates a contemporaneous auditable paper record copy of each electronic ballot that allows a voter to confirm the choices the voter made through both a visual and a non-visual method.  Additionally, the bill would require an election authority using electronic voting machines to: (1) submit, at the request of the secretary of state, complete documentation relating to all hardware, software, and firmware components for the system, as well as all documents relating to the federal qualification process; (2) submit a physical security plan for the system to the secretary of state not later than 90 days before a system using electronic voting machines will be used in an election; (3) submit a list of all changes and modifications to the system, a training plan, and a communication plan explaining how election officers at each polling place will communicate on election day to the secretary of state not later than 46 days before a system using electronic voting machines will be used in an election; and (4) provide notice of the penalties for tampering with an electronic voting machine in each language used at a polling place at which an electronic voting machine is used for voting.

H.B. 1252 (Zedler) – Elections: would, among other things, provide that: (1) the presiding judge or a special peace officer may not remove an alternate presiding judge from the polling place without the approval of an election official other than the presiding judge or special peace officer; and (2) any information provided by a poll watcher that may be used to identify the watcher is confidential and may only be used for election administration purposes.

H.B. 1303 (Miller) – Elections: would provide that, upon accepting a poll watcher for service, an election officer shall provide the watcher with a form of identification, prescribed by the secretary of state, to be displayed by the watcher during the watcher’s hours of service at the polling place.

H.B. 1428 (S. Davis) – Elections: would provide that, on a written application by the presiding officer of the local canvassing authority indicating that the early voting ballot board has inappropriately accepted or rejected a ballot or otherwise violated a provision of the Election Code, the secretary of state shall review the act in question and determine the appropriate remedy, including making a determination that may lead to an election recount.

S.B. 553 (Uresti) – Voting Clerks: would allow: (1) a school district to adopt a policy excusing a student from attending school for service as a student early voting clerk in an election; (2) the early voting clerk to appoint not more  than four student early voting clerks at an early voting polling place; and (3) the secretary of state to initiate or assist in the development of a statewide program promoting the use of student early voting clerks.

S.B. 554 (Campbell) – Elections: would increase the penalty for theft of an official ballot or official carrier envelope for an election.

S.B 568 (Watson) – Voter Registration: would provide that: (1) two voter registrars must be present at each polling place while the polls are open; (2) an eligible voter shall be accepted on the day the person offers to vote in the precinct of the person’s residence if the person: (a) submits a voter registration application; (b) presents proof of identification; and (c) executes an affidavit stating all information submitted in the registration application is true; and (3) the secretary of state shall adopt rules to ensure the accountability of election officers and to fairly implement the bill.

S.B. 612 (Lucio) – Drug Testing:  would require any political candidate to: (1) submit to drug testing when applying for elective office; and (2) waive his or her right to confidentiality of the test result so that it can be placed on the Texas Ethics Commission website. 

OPEN GOVERNMENT

H.B. 1295 (Fletcher) – Public Information Act:  would: (1) allow motor vehicle accident report information to be shared with an agent who is authorized under a contract to administer the release of information held by the Texas Department of Transportation or a governmental entity; and (2) require a contract with an authorized agent to provide that a fee must be paid to the governmental entity  and that information contained in accident reports may not be accessible by search engines on the Internet. 

H.B. 1379 (Toth) – Federal Programs: would require the Office of State-Federal Relations to review, report, and provide recommendations on coercive federal funding programs.

OTHER FINANCE/ADMINISTRATION BILLS

H.B. 1207 (Parker) – Prevailing Wage Rates: would repeal the requirement that cities and other governmental entities pay the prevailing wage rates when engaging in the construction of  public works, hospitals, and municipal airports. 

H.B. 1226 (Smithee) – Self-Coverage Funds:  would provide that a governmental unit may purchase reinsurance for a risk pool and that any law requiring insurance may be satisfied by coverage provided through a risk pool fund.  (Companion bill is S.B. 531 by Duncan.)

H.B. 1235 (Dale) – Swimming Pools:  would require a city with a population of 750,000 or more to open and operate certain city swimming pools if certain conditions are met.

H.B. 1269 (Martinez Fischer) – Alcohol Permits:  would require the holder of a wine and beer retailer permit, a mixed beverage permit, a private club registration permit, a retail dealer’s on-premise license, or a brewpub license to have available for purchase and consumption on the permitted or licensed premises at least one nonalcoholic version of an alcoholic beverage, such as nonalcoholic beer or wine.

H.B. 1299 (Stickland) – Weapons:  would:  (1) prohibit a city from adopting or enforcing an ordinance or other regulation relating to the private ownership, keeping, carrying, transportation, licensing, or registration of an electric stun gun, a knife, or a personal defense spray; and (2) provide that the prohibition in (1), above, does not affect:  (a) a city’s authority to enforce certain Penal Code provisions related to weapons; and (b) a city’s authority to adopt or enforce an ordinance or other regulation prohibiting a person, for purposes of entering a restricted area, from carrying an electric stun gun, knife, or personal defense spray past a metal detector or magnetometer used to screen for weapons.

H.B. 1321 (Murphy) – City Debt:  would: (1) require a political subdivision’s ballot proposition for a bond to include a significant amount of information, including: (a) the total amount and per capita amount of the principal of all outstanding debt; (b) the combined principal and interest required to pay all outstanding debt; (c) the principal of the bonds to be authorized; (d) the estimated combined principal and interest required to pay the bonds to be authorized; (e) the purpose for which the bonds are to be authorized; (f) the estimated rate of interest for the bonds to be authorized; and (g) the maturity date of the bonds to be authorized; and (2) require a political subdivision’s notice of issuance of a certificate of obligation to include the same additional information as contained in (1), above, as it applies to a certificate of obligation.

H.B. 1343 (Howard) – Dedicated Revenue:  would provide that the legislative budget board shall take various measures to reduce state government’s reliance on dedicated revenue for the purposes of certification of the state budget.  (Note:  The legislature has failed to allocate billions of dollars of dedicated fees, some of which would benefit cities, in the current biennium. That money has remained unspent to allow the comptroller to certify that the state’s budget is balanced.)

H.B. 1382 (Simpson) – Farmers’ Markets:  would: (1) provide, with some exceptions, that samples of food or the sale of food to consumers at a farm or farmers’ market may not be regulated by a state rule and is not subject to regulation under certain state laws; (2) require that the preparation and distribution of samples of food at a farm or farmers’ market meet certain sanitary conditions; (3) prohibit the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission or a state or local enforcement agency from adopting a rule requiring a farmers’ market to pay a permit fee for conducting a cooking demonstration or providing samples of food, if the demonstration or provision of samples is conducted for a bona fide educational purpose; and (4) provide for the circumstances under which a person may conduct a cooking demonstration at a farmers’ market. 

H.B. 1435 (Darby) – Lawsuits: would require: (1) a party filing a petition, motion, or other pleading challenging the constitutionality of a statute to serve notice on the attorney general if the attorney general is not a party; and (2) the council of government for an area to provide more specific notice to a county clerk of a municipal solid waste landfill until it is no longer operating.

H.J.R. 83 (Hughes) – State Taxes:  would require an affirmative record vote of two-thirds of the Texas legislature on final consideration of a bill that imposes or increases a state tax. 

H.J.R. 85 (Howard) – State Budget:  would amend the Texas Constitution to provide that a state budget appropriation from the state’s Rainy Day Fund is an appropriation of state tax revenues dedicated by the Texas Constitution.

H.J.R. 87 (Munoz) – Vacancies:  would amend the constitution to authorize a home-rule city whose governing body has terms of office of more than two years to provide in its charter the procedure for filling a vacancy on the governing body for which the unexpired term is 24 months or less.

S.B. 522 (Estes) – Administrative Procedures Act:  would provide for significant reforms to the procedures for conducting contested cases before state agencies.  (Note:  City attorneys that work in the area of administrative law should carefully review the provisions of this bill.)

S.B. 531 (Duncan) – Self-Coverage Funds:  this bill is the same as H.B. 1226, above.

S.B. 581 (Carona) – Public Funds Collateral Act:  would: (1) allow a custodian of collateral to deliver a trust receipt for collateral to a governmental entity to either the appropriate public entity officer or the public entity’s depository (current law authorizes only delivery to an officer for the public entity); and (2) require a custodian of collateral to provide a list of all investment securities pledged to the public entity at the request of the public entity.

S.B. 582 (Davis) – Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act:  would: (1) require a person who constructs an in-ground or above-ground swimming pool, or who remodels a swimming pool for a single-family home, to provide: (a) on each access door from the home to the pool, an exit alarm; and (b) a swimming pool alarm that sounds on detection of accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water; (2) require that written notice of the requirements in (1), above, be provided to a homeowner by a person who sells, constructs, installs, or remodels pools; (3) require the Department of State Health Services to adopt rules necessary to implement the bill and to post on its website the requirements of the bill; (4) except various pools from the requirements of the bill, including a pool in the jurisdiction of a political subdivision that adopts an ordinance regarding alarms for residential swimming pools with requirements that are at least as stringent as the requirements of the bill; and (5) provide civil penalties for failure to comply with the bill.

S.B. 596 (Birdwell) – Alcoholic Beverage Permits:  would, among other things, provide that an alcoholic beverage may not be provided to the public free of charge on the premises of a commercial establishment not licensed or permitted under the Alcoholic Beverage Code if the owner or operator of the establishment is ineligible for a permit or license or has been denied a permit or license for the premises.

S.B. 636 (Paxton) – Municipal Debt: would, among other things: (1) provide that the attorney general may not approve a local security until the attorney general receives written notification from the Bond Review Board that the board has received information on the local security from the issuing governmental body or has agreed to a later date of submission of the information; (2) require the Bond Review Board to maintain a searchable, computerized database that contains details on bond and debt obligations; (3) would require the state bond finance office to publish an annual report on local securities; and (4) would require  an issuer of a local security to annually provide information that the state bond finance office considers necessary for the preparation of any report.  

S.B. 637 (Paxton) – Municipal Debt: would, among other things, require: (1) any bond proposition to contain language regarding: (a) the maximum tax rate sufficient to pay the annual interest on the bonds and to provide a sinking fund to redeem the bonds at maturity; (b) the aggregate amount of outstanding bonds and other debt obligations, including interest, accumulated by the taxing unit on the date of the election; and (c) the ad valorem debt tax rate for outstanding bonds and other debt obligations, including interest, imposed by the taxing unit on the date of the election; (2) a city to give notice of a bond election as soon as practicable after the election is ordered through the date of the election by prominently posting the notice of the election and contents of the ballot proposition on the city’s website, if the city maintains a website; and (3) the ballot proposition to be printed to permit voting for or against the proposition: “The issuance of bonds and the imposition of an ad valorem tax.”

MUNICIPAL COURTS

H.B. 1222 (Turner) – Water Safety Offenses: would grant jurisdiction to a municipal court over water safety offenses under the Parks and Wildlife Code.

H.B. 1311 (Farias) – Elderly Victims: would require a judge to make an affirmative finding of fact if the judge determines that the victim or intended victim of a crime was 65 years of age or older and would add a $100 court cost to such an offense. 

H.B. 1426 (Moody) – Discovery: would require a municipal prosecutor, upon request by a defendant, before or during a trial, and subject to certain exceptions and existing rules of evidence, to make available to the defendant multiple types of discovery records related to the case. (Companion bill is S.B. 91 by Ellis.)

S.B. 501 (West) – Water Safety Offenses: this bill is the same as H.B. 1222, above.

COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC  DEVELOPMENT

H.B. 1191 (Burkett) – Group  Homes:  would: (1)  make information about housing options for persons with mental illness available online through the Texas Information and Referral Network Internet site; and (2) require housing providers, including cities, to cooperate with the Texas Information and Referral Network Internet site to provide related information. 

H.B. 1250 (Frank) – Property Acquisition/Eminent Domain:  would provide that private property acquired through eminent domain or through purchase in connection with an initial offer must be initially used for the public use for which it was acquired.

H.B. 1335 (Sheets) – Economic Development:  would prohibit a home-rule city from mandating to an economic development corporation in an economic development agreement under Chapter 380 of the Local Government Code the compensation to be paid to workers during the construction of a project.

H.B. 1377 (Kolkhorst) – Regulation of Trees and Timber:  would provide that: (1) a landowner owns all trees and timber located on the landowner’s land as real property until cut or otherwise removed from the land, unless otherwise provided by a contract, bill of sale, deed, mortgage, deed of trust, or other legally binding document; (2) a governmental entity, including a city, may not prohibit a landowner from trimming or removing trees or timber located on the landowner’s land; (3) a governmental entity may, if authorized by other state law and subject to the limitations of that law, assess a limited mitigation fee as that term is described by the bill against a landowner for the removal of a mature tree on the landowner’s land; (4) a landowner is entitled to plant a replacement tree at the landowner’s expense instead of paying a mitigation fee; and (5) notwithstanding any other law, a city may not regulate the trimming or removal of trees or timber in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, unless the extraterritorial jurisdiction is adjacent to or includes all or part of a federal military base in active use as of September 1, 2013.

PERSONNEL

H.B. 1031 (Lewis) – Personnel:  would allow an employer, including a city, to create an ombudsman program for employees that: (1) provides an alternative dispute resolution service to help employees resolve workplace disputes; (2) gathers information that would be confidential and non-discoverable as a part of the ombudsman procedure; and (3) allows an employer to create a different ombudsman or alternative dispute resolution service that is not subject to the requirements and protections of the statutory program. (Companion bill is S.B. 399 by Hancock.)

H.B. 1065 (Hernandez Luna) – Employee  Leave:  would: (1) require an employer, including a city, to give paid leave to an employee to attend a court hearing due to being a victim of a crime or their child being a victim of a crime; (2) allow an employer to require that an employee use their accrued paid leave to take the leave; (3) create a cause of action for an employee if they are retaliated against by an employer for use of the leave; (4) require the employee to provide appropriate documentation to the employer; (5) require an employer to place a conspicuous notice of this right in the workplace;  and (6) prohibit a collective bargaining agreement adopted after 2013 from modifying the right to paid leave. 

H.B. 1092 (Martinez) – Civil  Service:  would: (1) prohibit any condition from being placed on a voluntary civil service suspension of a fire fighter or police officer, unless the individual retains the right to appeal the condition; and (2) grant to a fire fighter or police officer the right to appeal any condition added to a suspension.

H.B. 1312 (Fletcher) – Police/Fire Civil Service: would amend Chapter 143 of the Local Government Code to provide that: (1) if a civil service commission finds that a period of disciplinary suspension should be reduced, the commission may order a reduction in the period of suspension; and (2) if the commission or a hearing examiner orders that a suspended firefighter or police officer be restored to the position or class of service from which the person was suspended, the firefighter or police officer is entitled to immediate reinstatement to the position or class of service from which the person was suspended, notwithstanding any action filed in a court by the city or department head challenging the commission’s decision. 

H.B. 1364 (Lucio) – Meet and Confer: would reduce from 50,000 to 10,000 the minimum population allowing fire fighter meet and confer. 

H.B. 1369 (McClendon) – Employee Leave:  would: (1) require an employer, including a city, to allow an employee who is a parent or guardian to take unpaid time off to meet with his child’s school or attend his child’s school activities; (2) allow a city to require the employee to use any paid leave time to go to the school; (3) require an employee to provide advance written notice and documentation to the employer if possible; (4) require the employer to give notice to its employees regarding this right; and (5) create a cause of action if an employee is retaliated against for using this right.

H.B. 1419 (S. Thompson) – Wage Discrimination Report:  would require the Texas Workforce commission to prepare a wage discrimination report for the legislature every even-numbered year. 

H.B. 1424 (Moody) – Workers Compensation:  would waive governmental immunity for claims against a public employer, including a city, that discriminates or retaliates against a first responder who has filed a workers compensation claim.

H.B. 1430 (Fletcher) – Termination of Public Safety Employees:  would: (1) prohibit a city from terminating an injured peace officer or firefighter before he or she has reached maximum medical improvement; and (2) create a cause of action for damages and reinstatement if the bill is violated.

H.B. 1447 (Button) – 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 use E-Verify.

S.B. 200 (Patrick) – Pension Review Board:  this is the Pension Review Board sunset bill.  Of interest to cities, the bill would: (1) continue the Pension Review Board until 2025; (2) authorize the board to provide training to retirement trustees and administrators; (4) exempt some fire fighter pension plans from the certain state law requirements; (5) require an audit for a public retirement system that is separate from a governmental entity’s general audit;  (6) require that a public retirement system inform its participants within 31 days of any significant change in the ordinances or regulations of the system that could affect contributions, benefits, or eligibility; and (7) eliminate certain actuarial valuations for defined contribution plans.

PUBLIC SAFETY

H.B. 1194 (Paddie) – Firearms:  would authorize a concealed handgun license holder to openly carry a handgun.

H.B. 1200 (Taylor) – Search and Rescue Dogs:  would:  (1) prohibit the owner, manager, or operator or an employee or agent of the owner, manager, or operator of a public facility from denying a search and rescue dog or the dog’s handler admittance because of the presence of the dog; (2) prohibit the owner, manager, or operator or an employee or agent of the owner, manager, or operator of a common carrier plan, train, bus, streetcar, boat, or other public conveyance or mode of transportation from:  (a) refusing to accept as a passenger a search and rescue dog or the dog’s handler; and (b) requiring the dog’s handler to pay an additional fare because of the search and rescue dog; (3) prohibit a public facility from adopting a policy that prohibits the use of the facility by a search and rescue dog or the dog’s handler; (4) provide that a search and rescue dog’s handler is entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations offered for rent, lease, or compensation in this state, subject to any condition or limit established by law that applies to all persons, except that a handler may not be required to pay an extra fee or charge or security deposit for the search and rescue dog; (5) provide penalties for discrimination against a search and rescue dog and the dog’s handler; (6) allow a person to maintain a civil cause of action against a handler for personal injury, property damage, or death resulting from the failure of the handler to properly harness or leash the dog; (7) make a handler liable for property damage caused by a search and rescue dog to a public facility or housing accommodation; (8) waive immunity from suit and liability of a governmental entity owning a search and rescue dog or employing the dog’s handler for liability described in (6) and (7), above; and (9) authorize a person to ask a search and rescue dog handler to display proof that the handler is a peace officer, firefighter, or member of a state or nationally-recognized search and rescue agency.

H.B. 1206 (Parker) – Missing Children:  would require a local law enforcement agency – upon receiving a report that a child’s whereabouts are unknown and indications are that the child was taken or retained without permission of the custodian for a period of not less than 48 hours – to: (1)  immediately make a reasonable effort to locate and determine the well-being of the child; (2) notify the Department of Family and Protective Services if the agency has reason to believe the child is a victim of abuse or neglect; and (3) use its discretion in deciding whether to take possession of the child as authorized by law

H.B. 1258 (Zedler) – Evading Arrest: would require a sentence for evading arrest to commence immediately on completion of any sentence imposed for the conduct for which the peace officer was attempting to lawfully arrest or detain the defendant. 

H.B. 1275 (Smith) – Bond Conditions: would require a defendant ordered by the court to have an alcohol monitoring device installed as a condition of bond to pay a fee not to exceed $10.

H.B. 1294 (Price) – Child Safety Seat: would add a requirement to the defense for failure to secure child in safety seat that the defendant was not arrested or issued a citation for violation of any other offense.

H.B. 1298 (Stickland) – Concealed Handguns:  would expand the places where a concealed handgun licensee can carry a handgun to include a public or private school, with certain conditions and exceptions.

H.B. 1313 (Creighton) – Concealed Handguns:  would, among other things, expand the places where a concealed handgun licensee can carry a handgun to include the campus of an institution of higher education, with certain exceptions.

H.B. 1314 (Creighton) – Firearms:  would, with limited exceptions, provide that a person who is an officer or employee of the United States, the state, or a political subdivision commits a class A misdemeanor if the person, while acting under color of the person’s office or employment, intentionally or knowingly seizes a firearm as required by a federal statute, order, rule, or regulation that imposes a prohibition, restriction, or other regulation on firearms that does not exist under the laws of this state.

H.B. 1333 (Perry) – Synthetic Drugs: would add certain synthetic drug compounds to Penalty Group 2 or 2-A of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

H.B. 1342 (Raymond) – Emergency Medical Services:  would require a private emergency medical services provider to receive a certificate of local need and necessity from a city or county based on specified criteria before providing services within that location. 

H.B. 1353 (E. Rodriguez) – Emergency Alarms in Schools:  would require that each school have three or more electronic alarms designed to be used to alert law enforcement of the need for an emergency response.

H.B. 1392 (S. King) – Cottage Foods:  would give the Department of State Health Services the ability to make an official, binding determination regarding the applicability of  any food regulation adopted under certain parts of the Health and Safety Code, including cottage food production. 

H.B. 1393 (S. King) – Cottage Foods :  would prohibit the Department of State Health Services from adopting any rule requiring that food production occurring in a home be separated from living and sleeping areas. 

H.B. 1417 (S. Thompson) – Drug Offenses: would reduce the penalty for certain controlled substance offenses. 

H.B. 1420 (Fletcher) – Failure to Identify:  would provide that a person commits an offense if the person intentionally refuses to give the person’s name, residence, address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested or detained the person.

H.B. 1421 (Perry) – Seized Property:  would:  (1) authorize a court to order, in certain instances, that a seized weapon be sold at a public sale or auction; (2) allow only a licensed firearms dealer to purchase a weapon at a public sale held under (1), above; and (3) require that the proceeds from the sale of a weapon be transferred, after the deduction of court and auction costs, to the law enforcement agency holding the weapon. (Companion bill is S.B. 343 by Estes.)

H.B. 1439 (Lucio) – Complaints and Affidavits:  would:  (1) provide that an attorney representing the state in the prosecution of felonies may request a district or appellate judge to seal a complaint and provide that the attorney may request a single 30-day extension of the order to seal a complaint under certain circumstances; and (2) make any complaint presented to a magistrate in support of the issuance of a warrant public information, except a complaint sealed under (1), above.

H.B. 1446 (Button) – Rabies Vaccines:  would allow a trained staff member of an animal shelter to administer a rabies vaccine to an impounded animal under the general supervision of a veterinarian.

H.J.R. 81 (Craddick) – Law  Enforcement:  would amend the Texas Constitution to make a sheriff the “chief law enforcement officer of the county.”

S.B. 509 (Williams) – School Security Districts: would authorize school districts to create school security districts that encompass the entire school district area and, after an election, impose ad valorem taxes and sales taxes for crime prevention measures.  (Note:  Please see S.J.R. 33, below.)

S.B. 526 (J. Rodriguez) – Peace Officers:  would prohibit peace officers from asking the nationality or immigration status of a witness or victim of a criminal offense except: (1) as necessary to investigate the offense; or (2) to provide information about federal visas for individuals providing assistance to law enforcement.

S.B. 527 (J. Rodriguez) – Peace Officers:  would prohibit a police department from holding an individual who has an immigration detainer: (1) unless the hold is for one of several serious offenses listed in the bill, once the individual posts bail or discharges their sentence: and (2) unless the person is in custody as a witness or a victim, who has not been charged with a crime, regardless of whether they have information related to the investigation or prosecution of a crime.

S.B. 532 (Van de Putte) – Human Trafficking: this bill is the same as H.B. 8, above.

S.B. 562 (Carona) – Polygraph Examiners:  would:  (1) prohibit a person from using or offering to use, for compensation or for a law enforcement purpose, an instrument, including a polygraph, to detect deception or verify the truth of a statement unless the person has an applicable state license; (2) provide for certain licensing and continuing education requirements for polygraph examiners; and (3) prohibit a  person from using, for compensation or a law enforcement purpose, a voice stress analyzer or similar device to detect deception or verify the truth of a statement.

S.B. 616 (Carona) – Burglary: would provide that a person who enters a building or habitation while evading or attempting to evade arrest or detention commits the crime of burglary.  (Companion bill is H.B. 73 by Fletcher.)

S.J.R. 33 (Williams) – School Security Districts: would amend the Texas Constitution to authorize school districts to create school security districts and impose ad valorem taxes for crime prevention measures.  (Note:  Please see S.B. 509, above.)

UTILITIES AND ENVIRONMENT

H.B. 200 (Murphy) – Liability of Electric Utilities:  would:  (1) for an electric utility located in a county with a population of four million or more: (a) authorize the electric utility to enter into an agreement with a political subdivision to allow public access to and use of the premises of the electric utility for recreation, exercise, relaxation, travel, or pleasure; (b) provide that the utility by entering into an agreement under (a), above, does not:  (i) assure that the premises are safe; (ii) does not owe to a person entering the premises a greater degree of care than is owed to a trespasser, and, (iii) except in certain instances, does not assume responsibility or incur any liability for damages arising from bodily or personal injury or death, property damage, or the act of a third party; (c) provide that the limitation on liability provided to the electric utility applies only to a cause of action brought by a person who enters the premises for recreation, exercise, relaxation, travel, or pleasure; (d) provide that the doctrine of attractive nuisance is not applicable; and (e) provide that a written agreement described in (a), above, may require the political subdivision to provide or pay for insurance coverage for any defense costs or other litigation costs incurred by the electric utility for damage claims; and (2) authorize a person to appeal an interlocutory order of a district court, county court at law, or county court that denies a motion for summary judgment filed by an electric utility in a suit regarding liability described in (2), above. (Companion bill is S.B. 633 by Ellis.) 

H.B. 1189 (Larson) – Regional Water: would create the Southwestern States Water Commission as an advisory commission to work with neighboring states and then advise the governor and the legislature on regional water issues. 

H.B. 1307 (Geren) – Water Utilities:  this omnibus water utility reform bill would transfer functions relating to the economic regulation of water and sewer service – including certificates of convenience and necessity – from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC).  In addition, the bill would provide that:

  1. certain duties relating to residential and small commercial water customer representation are assigned to the Office of Public Utility Counsel.
  2. a city retains original jurisdiction over water rates and service with its limits.
  3. the regulatory authority, including a city, may require, by order or subpoena served on any utility, the production at the time and place it may designate of any books, accounts, papers, or records kept by a water and sewer utility outside the state or verified copies of them if the regulatory authority so orders.
  4. for purposes of water rate and service regulation, create utility classifications as follows: (1) a Class A utility means a public utility that provides retail water or sewer utility service through 10,000 or more taps or connections or an affiliate of a such a utility; (b); a Class B utility means a public utility that provides retail water or sewer utility service through 500 or more taps or connections but fewer than 10,000 taps or connections; and (c) a Class C utility means a public utility that provides retail water or sewer utility service through fewer than 500 taps or connections.
  5. a Class A utility may not make changes in its rates except by delivering a statement of intent (which must include a description of the process by which a ratepayer may intervene in the ratemaking proceeding)  to each ratepayer and with the regulatory authority having original jurisdiction at least 35 days (Note: reduced from 60 days in current law) before the effective date of the proposed change.
  6. the regulatory authority shall, not later than the 30th day after the effective date of a rate change, begin a hearing to determine the propriety of a rate change request by a Class A utility.
  7. a Class A utility is not required to provide a formal answer or file any other formal pleading in response to a city’s notice that the city will hold a hearing on  rate change request, and the absence of an answer does not affect an order for a hearing.
  8. a utility may put a changed rate into effect throughout the area in which the utility sought to change its rates, including an area over which the utility commission is exercising appellate jurisdiction, by filing a bond with the utility commission if a city acting as a regulatory authority fails to make a final rate determination before the 91st day after the date the rate change would otherwise be effective.
  9. a Class B utility may not make changes in its rates except by delivering a statement of intent to each ratepayer and with the regulatory authority having original jurisdiction at least 35 days before the effective date of the proposed change.
  10. when the statement of intent under (9), above, is delivered, the Class B utility shall file with the regulatory authority an application to change rates.
  11. if, before the 91st day after the effective date of the rate change under (10), above, the regulatory authority receives a complaint from any affected city, the regulatory authority shall set the matter for hearing.
  12. the Class B utility is not required to provide a formal answer or file any other formal pleading in response to the notice, and the absence of an answer does not affect an order for a hearing.
  13. the Class B utility shall mail notice, which must include a description of the process by which a ratepayer may intervene in the ratemaking proceeding, of the hearing to each ratepayer before the hearing.
  14. a Class B utility or two or more utilities under common control and ownership may not file a statement of intent to increase its rates more than once in a 12-month period, unless the regulatory authority determines that a financial hardship exists.
  15. The PUC by rule shall adopt procedures to allow a Class C utility to receive without a hearing an annual rate adjustment based on changes in a price index adopted by the PUC.
  16. a Class C utility may adjust its rates using the procedures adopted under (15), above, not more than once each year and not more than four times between formal rate proceedings.

(Companion bill is S.B. 567 by Watson.)

H.B. 1317 (Creighton) – Water Infrastructure Funding:  would provide that, if the state water implementation fund for Texas is created by the Eighty-Third Legislature: (1) the comptroller shall transfer to the credit of the state water implementation fund an amount of general revenue equal to that reduced amount (if the comptroller reduces the unencumbered amount of state revenue to be transferred to the state’s Rainy Day Fund); (2) the comptroller shall transfer to the credit of the state water implementation fund for Texas a certain amount according to the bill (if the comptroller reduces an amount to be transferred to the economic stabilization fund from excess oil and gas revenue that would otherwise go to the state’s general fund); (3) a surplus account in the Texas Water Development Board Fund II account is created; (4) money transferred under (1) and (2), above, goes to the surplus account; and (5) at the direction of the Texas Water Development Board, the comptroller shall transfer money from the surplus account to another account in the fund for use by the board.

H.B. 1324 (J. Davis) – Water Districts:  would provide that certain water districts must release certain land if the district fails to provide services to the land.  (Companion bill is S.B. 619 by Taylor.)

S.B. 514 (Davis) – Saltwater Pipelines:  would provide that: (1) a saltwater pipeline operator is entitled to install, maintain, and operate a saltwater pipeline facility through, under, along, across, or over a public road only if: (a)  the pipeline facility complies with applicable federal and state regulations, as well as any municipal regulations regarding the accommodation of utility facilities on a public road or right-of-way, including regulations relating to the horizontal or vertical placement of the pipeline facility; and (b) the saltwater pipeline operator ensures that the public road and associated facilities are promptly restored to their former condition of usefulness after the installation or maintenance of the pipeline facility is complete; (2) the governing body of a city may require a saltwater pipeline operator to relocate a saltwater pipeline facility at the cost of the saltwater pipeline operator to accommodate construction or expansion of a public road or for any other public work unless the saltwater pipeline operator has a property interest in the land occupied by the facility to be relocated; and (3) the bill does not affect the authority of a city to regulate the use of a public right-of-way by a saltwater pipeline operator under any other law or require the payment of a franchise fee for the use of municipal rights-of-way.

S.B. 536 (Hinojosa) – Greenhouse Gas Emissions: would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to adopt a program for issuing permits that include the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, in accordance with federal law.  (Companion bill is H.B. 788 by W. Smith.)

S.B. 567 (Watson) – Water Utilities:  this bill is the same as H.B. 1307, above.

S.B. 584 (Hegar) – Accidental Discharges: would exempt an individual from notifying the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of an accidental discharge or spill of 1,500 gallons or less from a wastewater treatment facility or works or collection facility, if the discharge or spill does not reach waters of the state. (This bill is similar to H.B. 824 by Callegari.)

S.B. 619 (Taylor) – Water Districts:  this bill is the same as H.B. 1324, above. 

S.B. 633 (Ellis) – Electric Utilities:  this bill is the same as H.B. 200, above.

TRANSPORTATION

H.B. 479 (Harper-Brown) – Transportation Funding: would provide that the comptroller shall deposit 25 percent of the motor vehicle sales tax paid on motor fuel used in motorboats to the credit of the state’s available school fund, and shall deposit the remaining amount to the credit of the state highway fund.

H.B. 1097 (Sheets) – Construction or Maintenance Work Zone:  would amend the definition of a “construction or maintenance work zone” to mean a portion of a highway or street:  (1) where highway construction or maintenance is undertaken, other than mobile operations; (2) that is marked by at least one sign: (a) indicating that it is a construction or maintenance work zone; (b) indicating the maximum lawful speed; and (c) stating fines double when workers are present; and (3) that is marked by signs indicating where the zone begins and ends.

H.B. 1102 (Harper-Brown) – Complete Streets:  would, among other things:  (1) require the Texas Transportation Commission (Commission) to adopt a complete streets policy that provides guidelines for addressing the safety, accessibility, and mobility of users of streets and highways, including pedestrians, bicyclists, persons with disabilities, children, seniors, public transportation users, commercial goods movers, and motorists in the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of streets and highways; (2) require local authorities (counties, cities, and certain other local entities) to ensure that all transportation planning, design, construction, and reconstruction, street or highway improvements, and access roads, bicycle paths, and sidewalks to public transportation comply with the complete streets policy if federal or state funds are used; (3) require, to the extent consistent with federal law, a metropolitan planning organization to ensure that any transportation improvement plan complies with the complete streets policy; (4) exempt transportation projects from complying with the complete streets policy if: (a) use of the street or highway by bicyclists or pedestrians is prohibited by law; (b) the cost to comply would be excessively disproportionate to the present or future need or use of the street or highway; or (c) the sparseness of population indicates an absence of future need; (5) require that an exemption described in (4), above, be approved by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) or local authority and supported by publicly available documentation; and (6) require TxDOT or the local authority to certify that each transportation project complies with the complete streets policy in all aspects of project development.  (Companion bill is S.B. 565 by Ellis.)

H.B. 1290 (Phillips) – Transportation Reinvestment Zones:  would provide that the governing bodies of two or more local governments that have designated a transportation reinvestment zone may enter into an agreement to provide for the joint administration of two or more adjacent transportation reinvestment zones. 

H.B. 1309 (Guillen) – Transportation Funding:  would, among other things: (1) impose a tax on the number of miles traveled during a defined tax period (related to the vehicle registration period) by a motor vehicle subject to inspection under state law; (2) provide that the tax is one cent per mile driven on a vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds and more for vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds minus the motor fuels taxes paid by the registrant (determined by  a credit formula under the bill that includes the year, make, and model of the vehicle); (3) provide that the comptroller shall adopt detailed rules relating to the implementation of the bill; and (4) mandate that the revenue under the bill be deposited to a new road construction account in the state highway fund to be used to maintaining roads in the state.

H.B. 1336 (Keffer) – Transportation Funding: would: (1) create the Transportation Infrastructure Fund to be supported by a transfer of $1.4 billion from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund;” (2) provide that the Texas Department of Transportation shall provide grants from the funds to for state or county roads for transportation infrastructure projects; and (3) provide that at least fifty-percent of the funds must go to county road projects related to oil and gas development.

S.B. 565 (Ellis) – Complete Streets:  this bill is the same as H.B. 1102, above. 

S.J.R. 31 (Davis) – Transportation Funding:  would amend the Texas Constitution to provide that: (1) subject to legislative appropriation, allocation, and direction, three-fourths of the net revenue that is remaining after payment of all refunds allowed by law and expenses of collection that is derived from taxes on motor fuels and lubricants used to propel motor vehicles over public highways shall be used for the sole purpose of constructing and maintaining public highways; and (2) for a biennium, the legislature may not appropriate those funds for a purpose other than acquiring rights-of-way or constructing or maintaining public roadways in an amount that exceeds the lesser of the total amount of those funds appropriated for a purpose other than acquiring rights-of-way, constructing, or maintaining public roadways in the preceding biennium or a slightly less amount in certain circumstances.

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