FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION

Property Tax

H.B. 499 (Rodriguez/Watson) – Property Tax:  allows the governing body of a taxing unit or appraisal district to collect an additional penalty on a corrected or supplemental tax bill that becomes delinquent on or after June 1.  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 843 (Geren/Davis) – Property Tax: requires the assessor for a taxing unit to deliver a tax bill by electronic means to a person listed on the tax roll and that person’s authorized agent if: (1) on or before September 15, the assessor and an individual or entity enter into an agreement for the delivery of the tax bill by electronic means; and (2) the agreement meets the following specifications: (a) is in writing or an electronic format; (b) is signed by the assessor and individual or entity entitled to receive the tax bill; (c) is in a format acceptable to the assessor; (d) specifies the electronic means by which the tax bill is to be delivered; and (e) specifies the e-mail address to which the tax bill is to be delivered.  An assessor who delivers a tax bill electronically under the bill is not required to mail the same bill. (Effective January 1, 2012.)

H.B. 1090 (N. Gonzalez/Seliger) – Property Tax:  changes the amount of interest that a city making a refund of property taxes following a judicial proceeding must pay from eight percent to an annual rate that is equal to the sum of two percent plus the most recent prime rate quoted and published by the Federal Reserve Board as of the first day of the month in which the refund is made, but not more than a total of eight percent.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2169 (Aycock/Shapiro) – Property Tax: provides that: (1) a city council may rescind a property tax discount previously adopted by the city council; and (2) the rescission takes effect beginning in the year following the year in which the discount is rescinded.  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 3133 (Rodriguez/Hinojosa) – Property Tax:  among other things, this bill: (1) provides that property transferred by an organization that received a property tax exemption as an organization constructing or rehabilitating low-income housing to a charitable organization may not be exempted as property of the charitable organization after the fifth anniversary of the date the transferring organization acquired the property; (2) provides that property is exempt from property taxes if an organization owns the property for the purpose of constructing or rehabilitating a housing project on the property and renting the housing, regardless of whether the housing project consists of multifamily or single-family dwellings, to low-income individuals or families; (3) provides that the transfer of property by an organization constructing or rehabilitating low-income housing to a nonprofit organization that claims a property tax exemption is a proper use and purpose for owning the property under this section and does not affect the eligibility of the property for a property tax exemption;  and (4) requires the chief appraiser to take into account how any limitations and/or resale restrictions on property sold to a low-income individual or family reduce the overall market value of the property.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 201 (Uresti/Callegari) – Property Tax:  establishes a formula to calculate the tax due on a residence homestead of a totally disabled veteran for the tax year when an individual either qualifies for, or terminates, a residence homestead exemption.  (Effective January 1, 2012.)

S.B. 432 (Jackson/Bonnen) – Property Tax:  reduces the penalty for failure to make a timely installment payment of ad valorem taxes on property in a disaster area from twelve percent for each month the tax remains unpaid, to six percent for each month the tax remains unpaid, plus interest. (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 449 (Watson/Ritter) – Property Tax:  provides that: (1) the Parks and Wildlife Department, with the assistance of the comptroller, shall develop standards for determining whether land qualifies for appraisal based on water-stewardship use; (2) the chief appraiser and appraisal review board shall apply the standards adopted by the Parks and Wildlife Department and comptroller; and (3) land is not eligible for appraisal on the basis of use for water stewardship if: (a) the land was appraised as qualified open-space land or qualified timber land at the time the water-stewardship use began; or (b) the land was developed to a degree that precludes the land from eligibility for appraisal on a basis other than use for water stewardship or under the subchapter relating to qualified timber land.  (Effective January 1, 2012, if approved by voters.)

S.B. 516 (Patrick/Fletcher) – Property Tax:  provides a complete residence homestead property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a totally disabled veteran if: (1) the surviving spouse has not remarried; (2) the property was the residence homestead of the surviving spouse when the disabled veteran died; and (3) the property remains the residence homestead of the surviving spouse. The bill also implements an amendment to the Texas Constitution (if voters approve the amendment in an election held pursuant to S.J.R. 14, below) to permit the legislature to provide that, if a surviving spouse who qualifies for an exemption subsequently qualifies a different property as a residence homestead, the surviving spouse is entitled to a property tax exemption of the new homestead in an amount equal to the dollar amount of the previous exemption from the previous year, so long as the surviving spouse has not remarried.  (Effective January 1, 2012.)

S.B. 551 (Williams/Otto) – Property Tax: provides that back taxes assessed on an improvement to real property do not incur interest if: (1) the property on which the improvement is located did not escape taxation in the year the improvement escaped taxation; (2) the appraisal district had actual or constructive notice of the presence of the improvement the year the improvement escaped taxation (constructive notice can be acquired if building permit is issued for an improvement); and (3) the property owner pays all back taxes on the improvement within 120 days of when the tax bill for back taxes on improvement is sent to property owner.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 1341 (Seliger/Elkins) – Property Tax: provides that: (1) a taxing unit may not be made a party to a suit to compel the appraisal review board to order a change in an appraisal roll; (2) the movant in a suit to compel an appraisal review board to order a change in an appraisal roll must mail notice of a hearing to the collector for each taxing unit that imposes taxes on the property at issue; and (3) a taxing unit that imposes taxes on the property at issue may intervene in a suit filed to compel an appraisal review board to order a change in an appraisal roll for the limited purpose of determining whether the property owner has forfeited a remedy due to the nonpayment of taxes. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 1441 (Ellis/Y.Davis) – Property Tax:  allows an appraisal review board to change the appraisal roll for any of the five preceding years to correct an error in which property is shown as owned by a person who did not own the property on January 1 of that tax year.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)  

S.B. 1505 (Uresti/Lewis) – Property Tax:  changes the method by which a real property interest in oil and gas in place is appraised by: (1) using the average price of the oil or gas interest for the preceding calendar year; and (2) eliminating the comptroller-computed market condition factor multiplier and instead using a price adjustment factor.  (Effective January 1, 2012.)

S.J.R. 14 (Van de Putte/C. Anderson) – Property Tax:  would amend the Texas Constitution to permit the legislature to provide a complete residence homestead property tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a totally disabled veteran if: (1) the surviving spouse has not remarried; (2) the property was the residence homestead of the surviving spouse when the disabled veteran died; and (3) the property remains the residence homestead of the surviving spouse. The bill would also amend the Texas Constitution to permit the Legislature to provide that if a surviving spouse who qualifies for an exemption subsequently qualifies a different property as a residence homestead, the surviving spouse is entitled to a property tax exemption of the new homestead in an amount equal to the dollar amount of the previous exemption from the previous year, so long as the surviving spouse has not remarried.  (Effective if approved at the election on November 8, 2011.)

S.J.R. 16 (Estes/Ritter) – Property Tax:  would amend the Texas Constitution to include water stewardship as a category of open-space land to be taxed on the basis of its productive capacity.  (Effective if approved at the election on November 8, 2011.)

Sales Tax

H.B. 590 (Thompson/Patrick) – Sales Tax:  does the following regarding the reallocation or refund of city sales tax revenues due to a mistake: (1) allows a city to request a review of all available sales tax returns and reports in the comptroller’s possession filed by not more than five individual taxpayers doing business in the city that are identified by the city if the amount the comptroller reallocates or refunds is at least equal to the lesser of: (a) $200,000; (b) ten percent of the revenue received by the city during the preceding calendar year; or (c) an amount that increases or decreases the amount of revenue the city receives during a calendar month by more than 15 percent as compared to the same month in a previous year; (2) allows cities to view sales tax information concerning the pending reallocation or refund, regardless of whether the information is confidential; (3) requires a city to submit the request for information to the comptroller within 90 days of discovering the reallocation or refund; (4) requires the comptroller to provide the requested returns and reports to the city not earlier than the 30th day after receiving a request, or later than the 90th day after receiving a request; and (5) allows the comptroller to collect a reasonable fee from a city to cover the expense of compiling and providing the requested sales tax information.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 654 (Solomons/Shapiro) – Sales Tax:  requires the comptroller to report to the legislature and governor on the amount of revenue remitted to the comptroller for each tax collected in each city and county.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

VETOED H.B. 2403 (Otto/Ogden) – Sales Tax:  provides that a retailer is engaged in business in this state if the retailer: (1) holds a substantial ownership interest in, or is owned in whole or in substantial part by, a person who maintains a location in this state from which business is conducted if: (a) the retailer sells a substantially similar product as the related retailer and does so under a substantially similar name; and (b) the facilities or employees of the related retailer are used to advertise, promote, facilitate, or perform any other activity on behalf of the retailer; or (2) holds a substantial ownership interest in, or is owned in whole or in substantial part by, a person that maintains a distribution center, warehouse, or similar location in the state that delivers property sold by the retailer.  (Vetoed by the governor on May 31, 2011.)

VETOED H.B. 2972 (T. Smith/Wentworth) – Street Maintenance Sales Tax:  provides that: (1) a city in which at least 66 percent or more of the voters in the previous two consecutive elections regarding the adoption or reallocation of the tax favored the adoption or reallocation of the tax may call an election to reauthorize the street maintenance sales tax for eight years; and (2) revenue from the street maintenance sales tax may be used to maintain and repair sidewalks.  (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 758 (Deuell/Hildenbran) – Sales Tax: requires the state comptroller, upon request, to provide to a city information relating to the amount of sales tax paid to the city during the preceding calendar year by each entity doing business in the city who remits annual sales tax payments of more than $5,000 to the comptroller.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

Purchasing

H.B. 345 (Kleinschmidt/Wentworth) – Breach of Contract Damages:  provides that, in a suit for breach of contract against a city for goods or services, the total amount of money awarded in an adjudication includes interest as allowed by law, including interest as calculated under the Prompt Payment Act.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 628 (Callegari/Jackson) – Construction Procurement: this bill, among other things: (1) prohibits a reverse auction procedure for a public works contract for which a performance or payment bond is required; (2) provides that the board of trustees of a school district may enter into an agreement for the design, construction, or renovation of improvements to real property not owned or leased by the district if the improvements benefit real property owned or leased by the district, such as the design, construction, or renovation of highways, roads, streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, utilities, and drainage improvements;  (3) consolidates the provisions of current law relating to alternative delivery systems for construction projects (e.g., competitive sealed proposals, construction manager-agent, construction manager at-risk, design-build, job order contracting for buildings) by most governmental entities, including cities, into a new chapter 2267 of the Government Code; (4) provides procedures and criteria for a governmental entity to use when selected a construction contractor using a method other than competitive bidding; (5) authorizes the use of any alternative delivery method, except for design-build (which is authorized for most projects but with various limitations), for any improvement to real property; and (6) limits the use of design-build in various ways, and in some instances provide that an unsuccessful design-build offeror owns the information submitted unless the governmental entity pays a stipend to the offeror; (7) provides that, if a change order for a public works contract in a city with a population of 500,000 or more involves a decrease or an increase of $100,000 or less, or a lesser amount as provided by ordinance, the governing body may grant general authority to an administrative official of to approve the change order; (8) provides that a contract with an original contract price of $1 million or more may not be increased by more than 25 percent; and (9) provides that, if a change order for a contract with an original contract price of less than $1 million increases the contract amount to $1 million or more, subsequent change orders may not increase the revised contract amount by more than 25 percent.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 679 (Button/Carona) – Change Orders: provides that the governing body of a city or a municipal civic center authority may grant authority to an official or employee responsible for purchasing or for administering a contract to approve a change order that involves an increase or decrease of $50,000 or less. (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 782 (Y. Davis/Hinojosa) – Municipal Bonds:  provides that neither a city nor a Type B economic development corporation may purchase property with bond proceeds unless the city or corporation first obtains an independent appraisal of the property’s market value.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 1869 (Giddings/West) – Local Preference: removes the population brackets in current law relating to the Local Government Code provisions that allow the consideration of location of a bidder’s principal place of business when awarding certain contracts, allowing any city to use those provisions.  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 2729 (Callegari/Watson) – Civil Works Projects:  provides that: (1) a city may contract with a private entity to act as the city’s agent in the design, development, financing, maintenance, operation, or construction, including oversight and inspection, of a civil works project or an improvement to real property; (2) a city contracting under the bill shall: (a) select the private entity based on the private entity's qualifications and experience; and (b) enter into a project development agreement with the private entity; (3) the selected private entity shall comply with laws relating to engineering, architecture, the Professional Services Procurement Act and all procurement laws relating to procurement that apply to the city that selected the private entity.  (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 1048 (Jackson/J. Davis) – Public/Private Partnerships:  encourages the use of public private partnerships to develop “qualifying projects,” which include various infrastructure projects as defined by the bill (essentially any improvements necessary or desirable to unimproved real estate owned by a governmental entity).  The bill requires an opt-in by resolution of the governing body of a political subdivision, including a city, to elect to operate under its terms.  It provides detailed procedures for the procurement and implementation of a qualifying project.  Specifically, the bill provides – among many other things – that:

  1. before requesting or considering a proposal for a qualifying project, a governmental entity must adopt and make publicly available guidelines, which must be reasonable, encourage competition, and guide the selection of project, that enable the governmental entity to comply with detailed procedures in the bill.
  2. a person may not develop or operate a qualifying project unless the person obtains the approval of and contracts with the governmental entity under the bill.  
  3. a person may initiate the approval process by submitting a proposal requesting approval or the responsible governmental entity may request proposals or invite bids.
  4. before entering into the negotiation of an interim or comprehensive agreement for a qualifying project, a  governmental entity must submit copies of detailed proposals to the newly-created state Partnership Advisory Commission (commission).
  5. the Partnership Advisory Commission is an advisory commission in the legislative branch that advises governmental entities on proposals received under the bill.
  6. before beginning to negotiate an interim or comprehensive agreement for a qualifying project, each governmental entity receiving a detailed proposal for a qualifying project must provide copies of the proposal to the presiding officer of the commission and the chairs of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee or their designees.         
  7. the following qualifying projects are not subject to review by the commission: (a) any proposed qualifying project with a total cost of less than $5 million; and (b) any proposed qualifying project with a total cost of more than $5 million but less than $50 million for which money has been specifically appropriated as a public-private partnership in the state’s general appropriations act.
  8. most state procurement laws do not apply to a qualifying project under the bill.     
  9. a governmental entity may enter into a comprehensive agreement only in accordance with guidelines that  require the contracting person to design and construct the qualifying project in accordance with procedures that do not materially conflict with those specified in the Local Government Code procurement provisions relating to alternative delivery methods.
  10. a governmental entity must obtain professional services in accordance with the Professional Services Procurement Act.
  11. before developing or operating the qualifying project, the contracting person must enter into a comprehensive agreement with a responsible governmental entity, which shall provide for detailed terms as provided by the bill.
  12. the comprehensive agreement shall provide for any user fee, lease payment, or service payment established by agreement of the parties and may include a provision that authorizes the responsible governmental entity to make grants or loans to the contracting person from money received from the federal, state, or local government or any agency or instrumentality of the government.
  13. a contracting person has broad powers relating to a project, including – with the consent of the governmental entity – the power to adopt and enforce reasonable rules for the qualifying project to the same extent as the governmental entity
  14. at the request of a contracting person, the governmental entity may exercise any power of eminent domain that it has under law to acquire any land or property interest to the extent that the governmental entity dedicates the land or property interest to public use and finds that the action serves the public purpose of the bill.
  15. a peace officer of this state or of any affected jurisdiction has the same powers and jurisdiction within the area of the qualifying project as the officer has in the officer's area of jurisdiction.
  16. the procedures in the bill are not exclusive, and do not prohibit a governmental entity from entering into an agreement for or procuring public and private facilities and infrastructure under other statutory authority.

(Effective September 1, 2011.)

Elections

H.B. 360 (Jackson/Duncan) – Elections:  requires that a ballot proposition allowing voters to approve the issuance of bonds or the imposition, increase, or reduction of a tax must: (1) with respect to the issuance of bonds, state the total principal amount of bonds that will be issued, as well as a general description of the purposes of the bond; (2) with respect to a proposition that only seeks voter approval of the imposition or increase of a tax, state the amount or maximum tax rate of the tax or tax increase; and (3) with respect to a proposition that only seeks voter approval of the reduction of a tax, state the amount of tax rate reduction or the tax rate for which approval is sought.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 1545 (Lewis/Watson) – Elections:  provides that the governing body of a political subdivision, other than a county, that holds its general election for officers on a date other than the November uniform election date may, not later than December 31, 2012, change the date on which it holds its general election for officers to the November uniform election date.  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 1593 (Isaac/Huffman) – Elections:  requires the inclusion of a space for a candidate’s e-mail address on an official application for a place on the ballot.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2194 (L. Taylor/Jackson) – Elections:  among other things, this bill: (1) requires unofficial election results to be released as soon as they are available after polls close, except that the presiding judge of the central counting station may withhold the release of unofficial election results until the last voter has voted; and (2) provides that the nepotism laws do not apply to an appointment of an election clerk who is not related in the first degree by consanguinity or affinity to an elected official of the authority that appoints the election judges for that election.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2449 (Aliseda/Hegar) – Elections: provides that: (1) when mail ballots or carrier envelopes are obtained in violation of state law pursuant to a continuing course of conduct, the conduct may be considered as one offense and the number of ballots or carrier envelopes may be aggregated to determine the grade of the offense; and (2) provides that a copy of an application for a ballot to be voted by mail is not available for public inspection, except to the voter seeking to verify that the information pertaining to the voter is accurate, until the first business day after election day.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2817 (L. Taylor/Duncan) – Elections: among other things, this bill: (1) eliminates the current provision that requires the secretary of state to either prescribe the terms that a county elections administrator must accept, or instruct the county elections administrator to decline to enter into a contract with a city, if a city and county are unable to initially reach an agreement to furnish election services; (2) provides that an election watcher may not be accepted for service if the watcher has possession of a device capable of recording images or sound unless the watcher agrees to disable or deactivate the device; (3) requires that an election order and election notice state the location of the main early voting polling place only, rather than each early voting polling place; (4) provides that the custodian of keys to early voting ballot boxes must retain possession of the keys until delivered to the presiding judge of the central counting station; (5) requires that a plan for counting votes cast on an electronic voting system include a process for comparing the number of voters who signed the combination form with the number of votes cast for the entire election; (6) requires a city to post notice of dates of the filing period for an application for a place on the ballot not later than the 30th day before: (a) the first day on which a candidate may file an application; or (b) the last day on which a candidate may file the application, if the election code does not designate a first day on which the candidate may file the application: (7) provides that a withdrawal from an election that is not made in writing and signed by the candidate, or is not timely filed with the appropriate authority or agent of an authority, has no legal effect and is not considered filed; and (8) requires a notice relating to a local option liquor election that is published in a newspaper to include: (a) the individual or entity that is applying for the petition to gather signatures for a local option liquor election; (b) the type of local option liquor election; (c) the name of the political subdivision in which the petition will be circulated; and (d) the name and title of the person with whom the application will be filed.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 14 (Fraser/Harless) – Elections:  this is the “Voter ID bill.”  It does the following: (1) requires a voter to present one form of acceptable identification to an election officer at the polling place in order to vote; (2) requires the voter registrar of each county and the secretary of state to provide notice of voter identification requirements and to educate voters about the requirements through certain programs by publishing notice on certain websites; (3) requires the presiding judge to post a list of the acceptable forms of identification in a prominent place outside each polling location; (4) requires a disabled voter applying for an exemption from the requirement to present identification in order to vote to include certain types of documentation with the application; (5) provides that a voter who does not present acceptable identification shall be accepted for provisional voting only, and is entitled to receive specific information from an election officer regarding the voter’s right to a provisional ballot; (6) requires an election officer to distribute written notice of the identification required for voting beginning with elections held after January 1, 2012, to each voter who presents a form of identification that will not be sufficient for acceptance as a voter beginning with those elections; (7) provides that a voter who presents the acceptable identification, but whose name is not on the precinct list, shall be accepted for voting if the voter also presents a voter registration certificate; (8) modifies the types of acceptable voter identification documents to include military identification cards and concealed handgun licenses; (9) makes an offense of illegal voting a second degree felony or – if the person is convicted of attempt – a state jail felony; (10) provides that a provisional ballot may be accepted only if the voter: (a) presents acceptable proof of identification at the time the ballot is cast or within six days after the election; (b) executes an affidavit stating that the voter has a religious objection to being photographed; or (c) executes an affidavit stating that the voter does not have proper identification due to a natural disaster; and (11) requires the Department of Public Safety to issue an election identification certificate to a person who does not have another acceptable form of identification.  (Effective January 1, 2012.)

S.B. 100 (Van de Putte/V. Taylor) – Elections:  this bill: (1) implements the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act by requiring the early voting clerk to make registration and absentee ballots available to overseas military voters at least 45 days before an election involving a federal or statewide office; (2) moves the filing deadline for an application for a place on the general primary election ballot to the second Monday in December of an odd-numbered year; (3) moves the general primary runoff election date to the fourth Tuesday in May following a general primary election; (4) provides that a county elections administrator is not required to enter into a contract to furnish election services with a city for the May uniform election date (the second) in an even-numbered year; (5) allows a home-rule city to change the date on which it holds its general election for officers from the May uniform election date to the November uniform election date through the adoption of a resolution that supersedes a city charter provision requiring a different election date; (6) allows a home-rule city to provide for the election of all members of the governing body at the same election through the adoption of a resolution that supersedes a city charter provision establishing staggered terms of office; (7)  provides that a member of a city council with a term of office of more than two years that holds over in office in accordance with Article XVI, Section 17 of the Texas Constitution to conform to a new election date does not create a vacancy in the office by doing so, thereby eliminating the need for a special election called within 120 days of the vacancy; (8) authorizes a general law city with a term of office of one or three years to adopt a resolution by December 31, 2012 changing the length of the term of office to two years; (9) authorizes a general law city with staggered terms of office for members of the city council to cancel its staggered terms by adopting a resolution by December 31, 2012 providing for the election of all members of the governing body at the same election; 10) authorizes a political subdivision that elects the members of its governing body to a term that consists of an odd number of years to adopt a resolution by December 31, 2012 changing the length of terms of its members to an even number of years.
(Effective September 1, 2011, but does not apply to an election held on November 8, 2011.) 

S.J.R. 37 (Van de Putte/V. Taylor) – Elections:  would amend the “resign to run” provision in the Texas Constitution by requiring an officer to resign to run for another office only if the unexpired term of the office exceeds one year and thirty days from the date the officer becomes a candidate for the new office.  (Election on November 8, 2011.)

Open Government

H.B. 2313 (Coleman/Wentworth) – Meeting Notice:  provides that, as an alternative to posting on a physical bulletin board, a city may post notice of each meeting on an electronic bulletin board at a place convenient to the public in the city hall. The bill defines “electronic bulletin board” to mean an electronic communication system that includes a perpetually illuminated screen on which the city council can post message or notices viewable without manipulation by the public. (Effective immediately.)

VETOED H.B. 2499 (Cook/Nichols) – Department of Information Resources:  this is the Department of Information Resources sunset bill.  Of particular interest to cities, the bill: (1) requires the department to adopt a process to determine the amount of the administrative fee the department charges to administer any of its programs and, among other things, requires that the amount of a fee directly relate to the amount necessary for the department to recover the cost of its operations; (2) requires the board to establish rules regarding the approval requirements for all contracts; and (3) transfers certain powers to the comptroller, including the authority to charge an administrative fee to a city that purchases commodity items through the comptroller.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2866 (Harper-Brown/Ellis) – Public Information:  this bill: (1) authorizes the attorney general to charge and collect a nonrefundable administrative convenience fee for the electronic submission of a document to the attorney general; (2) allows open records letter ruling requests, notices, and other documents to be filed electronically with the attorney general’s office; (3) allows the attorney general’s office to electronically transmit open records notices, decisions, and other documents; and (4) does not, under the Public Information Act, affect the right of a person or governmental body to submit information to the attorney general by United States mail or common or contract carrier. (Effective immediately.) 

S.B. 602 (Rodriguez/Marquez) – Public Information: among other things, this bill: (1) provides that certain types of information are expressly public unless they are made confidential under the Public Information Act or other law; (2) authorizes a governmental body to redact certain motor vehicle record information without requesting a decision from the attorney general; (3) authorizes a governmental body to redact a credit card, debit card, charge card, or access device number without requesting a decision from the attorney general; (4) makes a public information request that is modified in response to the requirement of a deposit or bond a separate request that is considered received on the date the governmental body receives the modified request; and (5) provides that if a governmental body receives a written request by mail and cannot establish the actual date of receipt, the written request is considered to be received on the third business day after the date of the postmark.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 1613 (Ogden/Brown) – Municipally Owned Electric Utilities:  this bill: (1) changes the current definition of “competitive matter” in the Open Meetings and Public Information Acts relating to public power utilities; (2) redefines a “competitive matter,” which can be deliberated by a public power utility in a closed meeting and is not generally subject to public disclosure, as a matter reasonably related to: (a) generation unit specific and portfolio fixed and variable costs, capital improvement plans for generation units, and generation unit operating characteristics and outage scheduling; (b) bidding and pricing information for purchased power, generation and fuel, and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) bids, prices, offers, and related services and strategies; (c) effective fuel and purchased power agreements and fuel transportation arrangements and contracts; (d) risk management information, contracts, and strategies, including fuel hedging and storage; (e) plans, studies, proposals, and analyses for system improvements, additions, or sales, other than transmission and distribution system improvements inside the service area for which the public power utility is the sole certificated retail provider; and (f) customer billing, contract, and usage information, electric power pricing information, system load characteristics, and electric power marketing analyses and strategies; and (3) provides that a “competitive matter” may not be deemed to include, among other things: (a) any tariff of general applicability regarding rates and other matters; (b) salaries and total compensation of all employees of a public power utility; or (c) information publicly released by ERCOT to a law, rule, or protocol generally applicable to similarly situated market participants.  (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 1638 (Davis/Geren) – Public Information:  this bill: (1) authorizes a current or former employee or official of a governmental body to choose whether to allow public access to their emergency contact information; (2) creates an exception from public disclosure for emergency contact information of certain current and former employees and officers; (3) makes emergency contact information confidential and not subject to public disclosure for certain officers and employees; (4) creates an exception from public disclosure for a motor vehicle operator’s or driver’s license or permit and a motor vehicle title or registration issued by another state or country; and (5) makes a photocopy or other copy of an identification badge issued to an official or employee of a governmental body confidential.  (Effective immediately.)

Other Bills

H.B. 1 (Pitts/Ogden) – State Budget:  this is the state budget.  The following chart shows the differences over the coming biennium in city-related items from the last budget:

Budget Item

HB1

2010-2011 appropriated

Change

Mixed Beverage Tax*

$246,020,807

$261,255,000

-$52,000,000

Library Resource Sharing

$14,534,904

$24,594,393

-$10,059,489

Local Library Aid

$9,720,097

$29,684,263

-$19,964,166

Local Parks Grants

$881,460

$36,212,430

-$35,330,970

Major Events Trust Fund

$0

$25,000,000

-$25,000,000

Automobile Theft Prevention

$29,823,740

$15,214,355

$14,609,385

Homeless Funds/TDHCA

$0

$20,000,000

-$20,000,000

TCEQ Solid Waste Grants

$15,806,890

$27,674,640

-$5,933,879

TOTAL

-$153,679,119

*Mixed beverage tax reduction is an extrapolation based on the decreased percentage of transfer

H.B. 4 (Pitts/Ogden) - Parks Funding:  this is the supplemental appropriations bill, which reduces funding for parks from proceeds of the sporting good sales tax during the current 2010-2011 biennium by $300,000.  The bill also reduces funding for the Large County and Municipality Recreation Parks account by $200,000 during the current biennium.  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 1400 (Elkins/West) – Public Improvement Districts: among other things, provides that: (1) a public improvement project may include the payment of expenses relating to the operation and maintenance of mass transportation facilities; (2) a city council may defer an assessment associated with a  public improvement district until a date the governing body specifies by ordinance or order; and (3) a city that defers a public improvement district assessment must estimate the appraised value of taxable real property liable for assessment in the district and the cost of the improvement before holding a hearing as required by state law.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 1781 (Price/Nelson) – State Reporting:  eliminates various state agency reporting requirements, including the requirement that cities that impose an impact fee submit a written certification verifying compliance with the impact fee law to the attorney general each year not later than the last day of the city's fiscal year and that cities submit reports relating to tax increment financing to the attorney general (the report must still be prepared for other entities).  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 1844 (Guillen/Watson) – Records Retention: authorizes the executive and administrative officer of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to: (1) store, for a fee, local government records on the request of the local government; and (2) allow the state records center to provide for the storage, access, protection, and final disposition of inactive and vital local government records. (Effective Immediately.)

H.B. 1959 (Thompson/Carona) – Alcoholic Beverage Permit: provides that an applicant who is denied an alcoholic beverage permit or license based on the certification of a city or county is entitled, upon written request, to a hearing before the county judge to contest the matter.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2048 (Lyne/Deuell) – Hotel Occupancy Taxes: provides that: (1) a city may directly perform an audit, or may contract with another person to perform an audit on an hourly or fixed-fee basis, to determine any delinquency in hotel occupancy tax payments to the city; (2) the city shall provide at least 30 days’ written notice to a person who is required to collect the tax with respect to a hotel before conducting the audit; (3) the city shall notify the comptroller if the results of an audit reveal a failure of a hotel to collect or pay hotel taxes; and (4) the comptroller shall review the information submitted by a city to determine whether to proceed with collection and enforcement efforts, and shall distribute 20 percent of any additional state hotel taxes collected as a result of the city’s audit to the city to defray the cost of the audit.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2226 (Truitt/Carona) – Public Funds Investment: among other things, this bill: (1) requires a city’s investment policy to include procedures to monitor rating changes in investments acquired with public funds and the liquidation of such investments; (2) requires a city’s investment officer to attend a training session not less than once in a two-year period that begins on the first day of that local government’s fiscal year and consists of the two consecutive fiscal years after that date; (3) provides that an obligation that is fully guaranteed or insured by the FDIC or by the explicit full faith and credit of the United States is an authorized investment; (4) provides that certain investment in certificates of deposit using a broker are authorized investments; and (5) authorizes an investment pool to invest its funds in money market mutual funds to the extent permitted by and consistent with state law and the investment policies and objectives adopted by the pool.  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 2702 (Solomons/Eltife) – Population Classifications: updates hundreds of provisions in state law that bracket certain legislation to cities and/or counties of a certain population.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

H.B. 2853 (J. Davis/Jackson) – Tax Increment Financing: among other things, this bill: (1) repeals the requirement that a city adopting a reinvestment zone financing plan mail a copy of the plan to the governing body of each taxing unit that levies taxes in the proposed zone; (2) allows a city to designate a reinvestment zone so long as: (a) less than 30 percent of the property in the proposed zone is used for residential purposes; or (b) the total appraised value of taxable real property in the proposed zone and in existing zones is less than 25 percent of the total appraised value for a city with a population of 100,000 or more, or 50 percent of the total appraised value for a city with a population of less than 100,000; (3) allows a city council that designated a reinvestment zone by ordinance or resolution to adopt an ordinance or resolution extending the term of all or a portion of the zone after notice and a hearing; (4) authorizes a city council to appoint a reinvestment board of directors consisting of nine members if fewer than seven taxing units other than the city are eligible to appoint members of the board of directors; (5) provides that if at least seven taxing units other than the city are eligible to appoint members of the reinvestment zone’s board of directors, then the city creating the zone may appoint only one member; (6) allows an agreement to specify the projects to which a participating taxing unit’s tax increment will be dedicated and that the taxing unit’s participation may be computed with respect to a base year later than the original base year of the zone; and (7) provides that an act or proceeding of a city, a reinvestment zone board, or other entity acting pursuant to a reinvestment zone financing plan is conclusively presumed valid after three years have passed and a lawsuit to annul or invalidate the act or proceeding has not been filed.  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 2973 (Hunter/Ellis) – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPP suits”): this bill: (1) provides for the dismissal of a lawsuit if it is shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the legal action is based on, relates to, or is in response to the exercise of the defendant’s right of free speech, right to petition, or right of association; (2) prohibits dismissal as described in (1), above, if the party bringing the action establishes by clear and specific evidence a prima facie case for each essential element of the claim; (3) requires a court, if dismissal is ordered as described in (1), above, to award to the moving party court costs, attorney’s fees, and expenses incurred in defending against the legal action, and impose sanctions against the person and attorney who brought the legal action; (4) authorizes a court, if a motion for dismissal under (1), above, is found to be frivolous or solely intended to delay, to award court costs and attorney’s fees to the responding party; and (5) exempts from the application of this bill: (a) an enforcement action brought in the name of this state or a political subdivision of this state by the attorney general, a district attorney, a criminal district attorney, or a county attorney; (b) certain legal actions brought against a person who sells or leases goods, services, or insurance products or certain commercial transactions; and (c) legal actions seeking recovery for bodily injury, wrongful death, or survival. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 425 (Carona/Hancock) – Certificates of Insurance:  applies to an insurance certificate holder, policyholder, insurer, or agent with regard to a certificate of insurance issued on property or casualty operations or a risk located in this state, regardless of where the certificate holder, policyholder, insurer, or agent is located.  The bill provides – among other things – that: (1) a property or casualty insurer or agent may not issue a certificate of insurance or any other type of document purporting to be a certificate of insurance if the certificate or document alters, amends, or extends the coverage or terms and conditions provided by the insurance policy referenced on the certificate or document; (2) a certificate of insurance or any other type of document may not convey a contractual right to a certificate holder; (3) a person may not require an agent or insurer, either in addition to or in lieu of a certificate of insurance, to issue any other document or correspondence, instrument, or record, including an electronic record, that is inconsistent with the bill; (4) an insurer or agent may not deliver or issue for delivery in this state a certificate of insurance unless the certificate's form has been filed with and approved by the Texas Insurance Commissioner and contains the phrase "for information purposes only" or similar language, and if a certificate of insurance form does not contain the required language, the commissioner may approve the form only if the form states: (a) that the certificate of insurance does not confer any rights or obligations other than the rights and obligations conveyed by the policy referenced on the form; and (b) that the terms of the policy control over the terms of the certificate of insurance; (5) a certificate of insurance is not a policy of insurance and does not amend, extend, or alter the coverage afforded by the referenced insurance policy; and (6) the commissioner may adopt rules as necessary or proper to accomplish the purposes of the bill. (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 577 (Duncan/Frullo) – Facsimile Signature: this bill: (1) allows an authorized officer of a home rule city of 200,000 or more to execute, authenticate, certify, or endorse or authorize to be executed, authenticated, certified, or endorsed with the officer’s facsimile signature instead of the officer’s manual signature an eligible contract, if the use of the facsimile signature is authorized by the governing body of the city; and (2) authorizes a city described in (1), above, to use a facsimile signature on a health and safety lien statement. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 760 (West/Thompson) Interlocal Contractsprovides that an interlocal contract may contain a specified term of years.  (Effective when the companion constitutional amendment is approved by voters.  See S.J.R. 26, below.).

S.B. 980 (Carona/Hancock) – Telecommunications:  provides, among other things, that: (1) a city may not by rule, order, or other means directly or indirectly regulate rates charged for, service or contract terms for, conditions for, or requirements for entry into the market for Voice over Internet Protocol services or other Internet Protocol enabled services; and (2) the limitation in (1) does not: (a) affect payment of municipal right-of-way fees applicable to Voice over Internet Protocol services; (b) affect any person’s obligation to provide video service as defined under applicable state or federal law, the applicability of Utilities Code Chapter 66 (state-issued video and cable franchise), or a requirement to make a payment under Chapter 66; (c) require or prohibit assessment of enhanced 9-1-1, relay access service, or universal service fund fees on Voice over Internet Protocol service; (d) affect any entity’s obligations or rights under Sections 251 and 252 of the federal Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. Sections 251 and 252), which relate to interconnection; (e) affect any applicable wholesale tariff; (f) grant, modify, or affect the authority of the Public Utility Commission to implement, carry out, or enforce the rights or obligations provided by Sections 251 and 252 of the federal Communications Act of 1934, or of an applicable wholesale tariff through arbitration proceedings or other available mechanisms and procedures; (g) require or prohibit payment of switched network access rates or other intercarrier compensation rates, as applicable; (h) limit or grant the commission authority over the subjects listed in (a)-(g); or (i) affect the assessment, administration, collection, or enforcement of any tax or fee over which the comptroller has authority.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.B. 1269 (Wentworth/Branch) – Honoraria:  Provides that: (1) transportation, lodging, and meals that a public servant accepts in connection with a conference or similar event are not political contributions; and (2) the prohibitions against offering and giving a gift to a public servant do not apply to transportation, lodging, and meals that a public servant accepts in connection with a conference or a similar event. 

S.B. 1692 (Lucio/Alvarado) – City Budget:  requires the comptroller to provide on its Internet Web site a link to the Web site of each city that contains budget information for the city.  (Effective September 1, 2011.)

S.J.R. 26 (West/S. Turner) – Interlocal Contracts: proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow a city to enter into a multiyear interlocal contract with another city or county without having to meet interest and sinking fund requirements, even if such a contract creates a debt. (Effective if approved at the election on November 8, 2011.)


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