H.B. 55 – Cell Phones: this bill: (1) makes the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle within a school crossing zone a class C misdemeanor, unless the vehicle is stopped or the device is being used in a hands-free mode; (2) requires a city that enforces the prohibition to post a sign that complies with standards adopted by the Texas Department of Transportation at each school crossing zone in the city in order to inform an operator of a motor vehicle of the prohibition (the standards must provide that the sign can be attached to an existing sign); (3) provides that the prohibition does not apply to either an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle if the operator is using the device in an official capacity, or an operator of a radio frequency device who is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission; and (4) provides for the preemption of all city ordinances that are inconsistent with specific provisions of the bill.
H.B. 960 – Sexually Oriented Business: provides that a city or county that requires a sexually oriented business to obtain a license or other permit is entitled to obtain from the Texas Department of Public Safety criminal history record information that relates to a person who: (1) is an applicant for a license or other permit for a sexually oriented business in the city or county; (2) is the holder of a license or other permit for a sexually oriented business issued by the city or county; or (3) requests a determination of eligibility for a license or other permit for a sexually oriented business issued by the city or county.
H.B. 1067 – Suicide Data Sharing: authorizes a city, without criminal or civil liability, to: (1) enter into a memorandum of understanding to share suicide data that does not name a deceased individual with a medical examiner, a local registrar, a local health authority, a local mental health authority, a community mental health center, a mental health center that acts as a collection agent for the suicide data reported by community mental health centers, or any other political subdivision; and (2) periodically release this data to an agency or organization with recognized expertise in suicide prevention.
H.B. 1831 – Emergency Management Training: does the following (1) requires an elected law enforcement official or an appointed public official who has supervisory or management responsibilities and is involved in emergency management or emergency preparedness to take a three-hour emergency management training course provided by the state; (2) suspends the application of a city’s on-premise outdoor sign ordinance during a declared disaster to allow licensed or admitted insurance carriers to erect temporary signs to provide information regarding claims service; (3) requires the state’s division of emergency management to develop rules that establish uniform reentry procedures for personnel entering a disaster area and to develop a reentry credentialing process that recognizes the role of local emergency management in making decisions and provides local emergency management with flexibility to adjust the plan; (4) gives the mayor the authority to compel individuals to leave an area that is under a mandatory evacuation order; (5) makes an individual who stays in a disaster area despite a mandatory evacuation order civilly liable for any damages or injuries associated with rescuing the individual after refusing to be evacuated; (6) gives immunity from civil liability to a city officer or employee who issues or is working on a mandatory evacuation order; (7) requires a city to provide a post-disaster evaluation to the division of emergency management not later than the 90th day after requested to do so by the division; (8) permits a privately-owned vehicle to qualify as a city police vehicle for certain purposes, provided that the vehicle is marked with the insignia of a law enforcement agency; and (9) requires an electric utility, including a municipally-owned electric utility, to sell electricity to another electric utility if it is needed during a declared disaster.
H.B. 1998 – Emergency Shelters: provides that a political subdivision that is the location of temporary housing or emergency shelters for persons moved or evacuated by recommendation or order of the governor may be assisted by any resource available to the state, including the disaster contingency fund, to ensure the political subdivision receives an advance or reimbursement: (1) of all expenses, including lost revenue, incurred by the political subdivision to make available public facilities for temporary housing or emergency shelters; and (2) of the amounts paid for salaries and benefits of permanently employed, straight-time, and regular-time personnel of the political subdivision who perform duties associated with the movement or evacuation of persons into, out of, or through the political subdivision.
H.B. 2086 – Gang Activity/Graffiti: does the following: (1) creates the crime of soliciting or directing street gang crime; (2) allows a city to use a map of gang-free zones as evidence at trial; (3) makes a member of a street gang or the gang itself liable to a city injured by the violation of a temporary or permanent injunction; (4) authorizes a city attorney to sue the gang or gang member for actual damages, court and attorneys costs, and a civil penalty not to exceed $20,000; (5) requires that the money collected from such a suit be deposited in the neighborhood and community recovery fund with the attorney general to be used only for the benefit of the community or neighborhood injured; (6) allows a city to retain its sovereign immunity when bringing such a suit; (7) authorizes a city to pass an ordinance requiring a business to lock up aerosol paint behind a counter; (8) allows a city to pass an ordinance requiring removal of graffiti by a property owner if the city offers to remove the graffiti free of charge and the owner refuses; (9) allows a city to remove graffiti from a property if a property owner fails to remove graffiti on or before the fifteenth day after the city gives the owner sufficient notice; (10) allows a city to assess expenses against a property owner on whose property the city had to remove graffiti after the owner refused to do so; (11) creates an anti-gang competitive grant program; and (12) creates a public corruption unit at the Department of Public Safety to investigate allegations of participation in organized criminal activity by peace officers, and requires local cooperation with the unit.
H.B. 2553 – Off-Highway Vehicles: does the following: (1) prohibits the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) from registering a golf cart for operation on a public highway, regardless of whether any alteration has been made to the golf cart; (2) authorizes the operation of golf carts on certain streets and in specified areas; (3) authorizes a city to either prohibit the operation of a golf cart on a street if the city determines it is necessary in the interest of safety or to permit certain golf carts to operate on city streets under certain conditions; and (4) authorizes TxDOT to issue license plates to golf carts under certain conditions.
H.B. 2571 – Tow Trucks: defines a "consent tow", for purposes of the bill, as any tow of a motor vehicle in which the tow truck is summoned by the owner or operator of the vehicle or by a person who has possession, custody, or control of the vehicle, not including an incident management tow or a private property tow; defines "incident management tow" as any tow of a vehicle in which the tow truck is summoned because of a traffic accident or to an incident; defines "nonconsent tow" as any tow of a motor vehicle that is not a consent tow, including an incident management tow and a private property tow; and defines "private property tow" as any tow of a vehicle authorized by a parking facility owner without the consent of the owner or operator of the vehicle. The bill provides that the Texas Commission on Licensing and Regulation shall adopt rules for granting permits to tow trucks and granting licenses to towing operators and towing companies, including rules for denial of applications and permits if the applicant has certain criminal convictions or has violated a commission order. To protect the public health and safety, the bill requires the commission to establish: the fees that may be charged in connection with a private property tow; the maximum amount that may be charged for fees, other than tow fees, in connection with a private property tow; and a maximum amount that may be charged for certain private property tows. The bill requires that in adopting rules described above, the commission shall at least every two years contract for a study that examines towing fee studies conducted by cities in this state and analyzes the cost of towing services by company, the consumer price index, the geographic area, and individual cost components. Of special interest to cities is the provision that the governing body of a political subdivision may regulate the fees that may be charged or collected in connection with a nonconsent tow originating in the territory of the political subdivision if the private property tow fees are authorized by commission rule and do not exceed the maximum amount authorized by commission rule. The bill also provides that a vehicle storage facility accepting a vehicle that is towed shall, within two hours after receiving the vehicle, report certain information to the police department of the city from which the vehicle was towed or, if the vehicle was towed from a location that is not in a city with a police department, to the sheriff of the county from which the vehicle was towed. Finally, the bill provides that: (1) the penalties for a towing company or a parking facility owner who violates state law are increased in certain circumstances, and a towing company is required to reimburse the owner or operator of a vehicle for an unauthorized tow in certain circumstances; (2) a hearing to determine the appropriateness of a tow shall be in the justice court having jurisdiction in the precinct from which the motor vehicle was towed; (3) the operator of a vehicle storage facility shall conspicuously post a sign that states: "This vehicle storage facility must accept payment by an electronic check, credit card, or debit card for any fee or charge associated with delivery or storage of a vehicle"; and (4) the operator of a vehicle storage facility may not refuse to release a vehicle based on the inability of the facility to accept payment by electronic check, debit card, or credit card of a fee or charge associated with delivery or storage of the vehicle unless the operator, through no fault of the operator, is unable to accept the electronic check, debit card, or credit card because of a power outage or a machine malfunction.
H.B. 2682 – Speed Limits: amends the current statute permitting a city to reduce the speed limit on a city street from 30 m.p.h. to 25 m.p.h. absent an engineering study as follows: (1) removes the current-law requirement that a street must be 35 feet or less in width to qualify for a reduction; (2) removes the current-law requirement that parking be allowed on the street to qualify for a reduction; (3) requires that a street must have two lanes and be undivided to qualify for a reduction; (4) requires a city that reduces a speed limit under the statute on any street after June 2009, to publish on its Internet Web site and submit to TxDOT a report that compares for each of the two previous calendar years the following: (a) the number of traffic citations issued by peace officers for speeding violations on the street; (b) the number of warning citations issued by peace officers on the street; and (c) the number of accidents resulting in injury or death that were attributable to speed limit violations on that street.
H.B. 2730 – Public Safety: This is the Department of Public Safety sunset bill. Of particular interest to cities, this bill: (1) eliminates the criminal penalty for a concealed handgun license holder to refuse to display a handgun license and identification on request of a peace officer, and prohibits the suspension of that person’s license for refusing to display it to a peace officer; and (2) requires a county with an average disposition completeness percentage of less than 90 percent to establish a local data advisory board, of which the police chief of the municipality with the greatest population in the county must be a member.
H.B. 3004 – Animal Control: adds a civil penalty of between $100 and $500 for violations of the animal shelter regulations under Chapter 823 of the Health and Safety Code, but specifies that the regulations cannot be enforced by the county against an animal shelter operated by a city. The bill also provides that a city or county may enjoin violations of the animal shelter laws.
H.B. 3389 – Law Enforcement: does the following: (1) requires more detailed reporting by police departments when applying for Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) funds; (2) requires a city that desires to start a police department to send a report to TCLEOSE including information on the need for the department, the funding for the department, the facilities that will be used, any police procedures and policies, and other information; (3) requires TCLEOSE to establish a statewide comprehensive education and training program on federal and Texas law; (4) requires an officer to complete training on federal and Texas law as part of the officer’s education program; (5) requires an officer holding a basic proficiency certificate to take live training on crisis intervention with individuals with mental impairments; (6) requires an officer with an intermediate proficiency certificate to complete an education and training program on investigative topics and civil rights, racial sensitivity, and cultural diversity; (7) subjects a police department to a TCLEOSE penalty if the department violates state law or a TCLEOSE rule; (8) requires a police department to include handling of individuals of Middle Eastern descent in their racial profiling policies; (9) expands the required contents of a police officer’s report on motor vehicle stops to include whether the officer knew the race of the individual detained before detaining the individual; (10) requires an annual report on racial profiling to be filed with TCLEOSE; (11) provides that if a police department intentionally fails to submit a required racial profiling report, TCLEOSE shall initiate disciplinary action against that agency’s chief administrator; (12) imposes a new ten-cent court fee on any person convicted in municipal court of a moving violation; (13) allows a municipal court to retain ten percent of that fee revenue; and (14) requires that the remaining fee revenue be remitted to the state for placement in the “Civil Justice Data Repository” for use by TCLEOSE.
H.B. 3866 – Fire Safety Inspections: provides that: (1) only an individual certified by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection as a fire inspector may conduct a fire safety inspection required by a state or local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance; and (2) a fire safety inspection required by a state or local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance must be conducted in accordance with the most recent local fire code or the most recent fire code adopted by the state fire marshal.
H.B. 4102 – Disaster Funding: this bill: (1) allows a city that participates in disaster preparation or recovery to request and receive funding from the disaster contingency fund to pay for costs incurred by the city in preparing for or recovering from a disaster; (2) requires a city that has received funding from the disaster contingency fund and subsequently receives reimbursement from the federal government or another source for costs associated with disaster recovery to reimburse the disaster contingency fund for those amounts; (3) provides that money in the disaster contingency fund may be used to pay for a disaster risk financing instrument to leverage available funds and receive proceeds greater than appropriated amounts to pay for extraordinary expenses; (4) provides that a city that is suffering financial hardship as the result of a disaster may receive disaster contingency funds for the purpose of providing local matching funds for Federal Emergency Management Agency qualifying projects.
H.B. 4409 – Emergency Management: this bill: (1) waives the civil liability of a city officer, employee, or volunteer for actions taken while discharging duties involved in an activity related to sheltering or housing individuals during a disaster evacuation; (2) makes the Texas General Land Office responsible for contracting for debris removal from beaches following a weather-related disaster; (3) makes the Texas Department of Transportation responsible for contracting for debris removal from the state highway system following a weather-related disaster; and (4) makes the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs responsible for contracting to provide temporary shelter or housing following a weather-related disaster. The bill also provides that when constructing or extensively renovating a critical governmental facility (such as a command and control center, shelter, jail, or police or fire station), the entity with charge and control of the facility shall evaluate whether equipping the facility with a combined heating and power system (i.e., a system that can provide all the electricity needed to power the facility's critical emergency operations for at least 14 days) would result in expected energy savings that would exceed the expected costs of purchasing, operating, and maintaining the system over a 20-year period. Finally, the bill allows the entity to equip the facility with a combined heating and power system if the expected energy savings exceed the expected costs.
S.B. 61 – Child Safety Seats: does the following: (1) changes the fine for the offense of failing to secure a child passenger in a motor vehicle; and (2) creates a fifteen-cent court cost on such offenses to be sent to the comptroller to fund a child safety seat distribution program.
S.B. 254 – Volunteer Fire Departments/Motor Fuel Taxes: exempts volunteer fire departments from the payment of motor fuel taxes.
S.B. 418 – Street Gangs: requires a city police department in a city with a population of 50,000 or more or in a county with a population of 100,000 or more to compile and maintain in a local or regional intelligence database criminal information relating to criminal street gangs.
S.B. 446 – Child Safety Fund: authorizes a city with a population under 850,000 that collects a child safety fund court cost but either does not operate a crossing guard program or has excess funds after funding that program to use the money remaining in the fund on programs designed to enhance public safety and security.
S.B. 702 – Towing: provides, among other things, that: (1) a vehicle storage facility accepting a towed vehicle shall, within two hours after receiving the vehicle, report to the local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the area from which the vehicle was towed a general description of the vehicle; the state and number of the vehicle's license plate, if any; the vehicle identification number of the vehicle, if it can be ascertained; the location from which the vehicle was towed; and the name and location of the vehicle storage facility where the vehicle is being stored; (2) the report required by number 1, above, must be made by telephone, electronically, delivered personally, or by facsimile; (3) all storage fees shall be posted at the licensed vehicle storage facility to which a motor vehicle has been delivered and shall be posted in view of the person who claims the vehicle; and (4) a motor vehicle owned and operated by a governmental entity is exempt from the state’s towing laws.
S.B. 1011 – Texas Commission on Fire Protection: does the following: (1) allows the Texas Commission on Fire Protection to modify or reject the recommendations of the Fire Fighter Advisory Committee; (2) requires that commission fees be based on an amount designed to recover the commission’s costs, with no maximum fee listed; (3) requires firefighter applicants to obtain a fingerprint-based criminal history record before receiving their certificates; (4) allows the commission to perform risk-based assessments on fire departments that can lead to fines, default judgments, and suspension of fire department certificates; (5) creates a grant program for firefighter training and firefighter equipment to be used by city fire departments and volunteer fire departments; and (6) abolishes the fire department emergency program, which provides scholarships, grants, loans, and other financial assistance to eligible local fire departments.
S.B. 1732 – Swimming Pool Safety: this bill: (1) requires the owner, manager, or operator of a public swimming pool to comply with pool safety standards adopted by the Health and Human Services Commission; (2) requires the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission to adopt pool safety standards related to drowning that are at least as stringent as those imposed under the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
S.B. 2048 – Sex Offenders: does the following: (1) authorizes a commissioners court in a county with a population greater than 100,000 to enter into an interlocal agreement with a city to designate the office of the chief of police as the mandatory, centralized sex offender registration site for the entire county; and (2) requires a sex offender residing in a city to notify the city of his/her registration with a centralized registration authority if the centralized registration authority is not the city.
S.B. 2153 – Vehicle Booting: adds the regulation of vehicle "booting" (the attachment to a vehicle’s wheel a device that is designed to immobilize the vehicle) to the Texas Towing Act. The bill provides, among other things, that: (1) unless a person holds an appropriate license under state law, the person may not perform booting operations; (2) a parking facility owner may, without the consent of the owner or operator of an unauthorized vehicle, cause a boot to be installed on the vehicle in the parking facility if appropriate signs (as defined by the bill) are located on the parking facility at the time of the booting; (3) a boot operator who installs a boot on a vehicle must affix a conspicuous notice to the vehicle's front windshield or driver's side window stating that the vehicle has been booted and damage may occur if the vehicle is moved; the date and time the boot was installed; the name, address, and telephone number of the booting company; a telephone number that is answered 24 hours a day to enable the owner or operator of the vehicle to arrange for removal of the boot; the amount of the fee for removal of the boot and any associated parking fees; and notice of the right of a vehicle owner or vehicle operator to a hearing in justice court; (4) upon removal of a boot, the boot operator shall provide a receipt to the vehicle owner or operator stating various items as defined by the bill; (5) a booting entity shall accept payment by an electronic check, debit card, or credit card for any fee or charge associated with the removal of a boot; and (6) a booting entity may not collect a fee for any charge associated with the removal of a boot from a person who offers to pay the charge with an electronic check, debit card, or credit card form of payment that the booting entity is not equipped to accept. Of particular interest to cities, the bill provides that: (1) a city may adopt an ordinance that is identical to the booting provisions in the bill or that imposes additional requirements that exceed the minimum standards of the booting provisions in the bill, but may not adopt an ordinance that conflicts with the booting provisions in the bill; (2) a city may regulate the fees that may be charged in connection with the booting of a vehicle, including associated parking fees; and (3) a city may require booting companies to obtain a permit to operate in the city.