Pre-Filing of Legislation Begins

December 07, 2018

Legislative News

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On Nov. 12, legislators began pre-filing legislation for the 86th legislative session. While the regular session does not officially begin until Jan. 8, legislators are allowed to pre-file bills beginning on the first Monday after the general election. Over 700 bills have already been filed thus far.

Legislators have until March 8 to file most legislation, so we can expect many more bills to be filed in the coming months. During most legislative sessions, roughly 6,000-7,000 total bills are filed.

TAC legislative staff is currently reviewing all filed legislation for county impact and will continue to update you on significant county legislation throughout the next session. Beginning in January, our electronic newsletter will be distributed weekly with timely information on legislative activities. We will also send periodic legislative alerts on time-sensitive and important county matters.

To find legislation related to your county office, visit the Bills by Office page on the TAC website. These bill lists will be updated throughout the session.

TAC staff has also highlighted some recently filed bills of interest to county officials. Those brief summaries are listed below.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact your TAC staff if you have any questions or need any assistance as we head into the 86th legislative session.

Courts

HB 301 by Murr – Increases the services rendered before judgment fee from $25 to $50 for Justice Court. This increase will coincide with a Justice of the Peace jurisdiction increase bill that has yet to be filed.

SB 40 by Zaffirini – Grants courts more flexibility regarding the locations, terms, sessions, and procedures for conducting court proceedings after a disaster.

Criminal Justice

HB 63 by Moody/SB 156 by Rodriguez – Creates $250 state civil penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. Provides that after three civil penalties, the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is a Class C misdemeanor. Allows prosecutors to file civil actions in justice court.

HB 131 by Moody/SB 157 by Rodriguez – Authorizes extreme risk protective orders for certain individuals affected by mental illness who pose a danger of causing injury or death to themselves or others. The order, if issued by a court after a hearing, limits the purchase, possession, and control of firearms for the duration of the order.

HB 344 by Dutton – Raises the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18.

HB 404 by Thompson, Senfronia – Repeals civil asset forfeiture and establishes criminal asset forfeiture for offenders convicted of certain offenses.

SB 71 by Nelson – Requires the Texas Attorney General to establish a statewide telehealth center for sexual assault forensic medical examination to expand access to sexual assault nurse examiners for underserved populations.

SB 72 by Nelson – Requires the Texas Attorney General to establish a human trafficking prevention coordination council to develop and implement a five–year strategic plan for preventing human trafficking.

SB 204 by Huffman – Enhances the penalty for the offense of making a firearm accessible to a child from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class B misdemeanor. Provides that the penalty is a state jail felony if the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury. Same as SB 158 by Rodriguez.

Economic Development

SB 118 by West – Extends the expiration date of the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act. This would renew Chapter 312, Tax Code until 2029. Otherwise the chapter will expire in 2019. Same as HB 360 by Murphy.

Environmental

HB 100 by Johnson – Requires state agencies, including the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), the governor’s budget and policy office, among others, to include in their strategic plans an analysis of expected changes, including adverse impacts, in the services provided by the agency because of projected changes in weather, water availability, and climate variability, as determined the Texas state climatologist in a report the bill would require the climatologist to provide every two years to the LBB.

Elections

HB 22 by Romero, Jr. – Seeks to decertify use of paperless direct recording electronic voting machines by Sept. 2021.

HB 140 by Minjarez – Allows for an automatic voter registration upon issuance or change of a driver’s license by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

HB 154 by Swanson – Gives authority to an election officer to photograph the face of a voter while being accepted for voting if the authenticity of the identification documentation is questioned. The photograph is confidential and shall be presented to the secretary of state. The photograph may be used in a criminal investigation.

HB 177 by Bernal – Removes the population bracket limiting the number of counties authorized to participate in the countywide polling place program.

SB 39 by Zaffirini – Consolidates state civil court costs that are payable to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts into Chapter 133 of the Local Gov’t Code.

SB 104 by Menendez – Eliminates the voter identification requirements.

Emergency Management/Disasters

HB 26  by Metcalf – Creates an alert system to notify affected persons of certain releases of water from certain dams.

HB 34  by Raymond – Instructs the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to develop and implement a statewide alert system to be activated in the event of a disaster affecting any location in this state.

HB 62 by Zerwas – Allows a commissioners court to meet in an open or closed meeting via teleconference without posting or opening in public prior to closed meeting in a county where the governor has issued an executive order or proclamation declaring a state of disaster or emergency. No vote or action may be taken.

HB 91 by Martinez – Authorizes Disaster ID System that uses different colored lights for people and domestic animals to communicate numbers and needs to disaster relief personnel.

HB 274 by Davis, Sarah – Appropriates $15 million to create a disaster reinvestment and infrastructure planning revolving fund. Moneys will be used to provide financial assistance to Category I and II qualifying political subdivisions for the use of revolving loan and grant programs.

Emergency Communications

SB 53 by Zaffirini – Requests text to 9–1–1 for all Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and the provision of available contact information.

Fees

HB 145 by Gonzalez – Relates to fees set by commissioners’ court for services provided by sheriffs and constables.  It sets default fees when commissioners’ court does not set fees to fees in effect for the preceding fiscal year instead of fees in place on Aug. 31, 1981.

SB 171 by Perry – Increases the warrant fee by $25 from its current $50 level to $75.  The current warrant fee has not been changed since 1999. This is a cost recovery for the service of serving warrants.

Fire Protection

HB 319 by King – Establishes a grant program to provide assistance to a fire departments and volunteer fire departments seeking to purchase equipment. 

Guardianship

SB 31 by Zaffirini – Requires the Office of Court Administration (OCA) to establish a guardianship abuse, fraud, and exploitation deterrence program designed to provide resources and assistance to courts with jurisdiction over guardianship proceedings by engaging guardianship compliance specialists who have specified duties. Requires a court to participate, including allowing specialists to conduct reviews and audits, if selected by OCA to participate. Additionally, the bill authorizes OCA to notify the State Commission on Judicial Conduct regarding any perceived judicial misconduct.

Inquests

HB 300 by Murr – Eliminates requirements of a Justice of the Peace or other person authorized to deliver a sealed certified copy of the inquest summary report to the clerk of the district court.

Jails

SB 174 by Perry – Requires a sheriff capable of confining 800 or more prisoners to obtain insurance information from them and allows the sheriff to arrange for the carrier’s covered services.

Lobbying

SB 82 by Hall – Current law prohibits a political subdivision or private entity that receives state funds from using those state funds to pay either lobbying expenses or to pay a lobbyist. This bill would prohibit a political subdivision or private entity receiving state funds from paying either lobbying expenses or paying a lobbyist, regardless of the source of funds.

Mental Health

SB 105 by Menendez – Establishes Bexar County mental health diversion and crisis stabilization unit pilot program. Requires funding agreement by Bexar County commissioners’ court. State appropriations made to pay for the pilot program are made in addition to and will not reduce the amount of appropriations made in the regular funding of a local authority for intellectual and developmental disabilities or a local mental health authority that serves Bexar County. Requires DSHS to evaluate and submit a report concerning the effect of the pilot program in providing short–term residential treatment in a crisis stabilization unit and reducing recidivism.

Open Government

SB 84 by Hall – Gives a public officer of a governmental entity the right of access to information of the governmental entity to which the officer is elected or appointed without prior approval from the governmental entity. The governmental entity that has received the request must provide the requested information, including confidential information or information that would otherwise be excepted from disclosure. The governmental body may not require the requestor to sign a confidentiality agreement. The failure to provide the requested information is a Class A misdemeanor.

Property Taxes

HB 54 by Zerwas – Creates the Property Tax Administration Advisory Board which will have state oversight of appraisal districts and local taxing units. Members of the board are to be appointed by the Comptroller for the purpose of advising on state administration of property taxation, making recommendations for improvements in the property tax system, and guiding towards best practices.

Additionally, the bill requires completion of the arbitrators training course of approved comptroller curricula. Training must be available online for a maximum cost of $50 and include provisions on equal and uniform appraisal of property. HB 54 also requires completion of the property tax law training course established in the bill.

The bill makes changes to the appraisal review board (ARB) meeting process, mandating that the local administrative district judge select the chairman (previously selected by the board of directors) and allows this selection to take place with a majority of the quorum present at the meeting.

Furthermore, HB 54 requires delivery of requested information the appraiser plans to share at the hearing 14 days prior to the first scheduled protest hearing on appraised property for free. Information not delivered 14 days prior may not be used at the hearing in any form.

The final determination of value cannot be higher than the original protested appraised value. Additionally, HB 54 allows the property owner of multiple properties to schedule consecutive protest hearings in the same day.

Lastly, the bill creates a survey for individuals to submit suggestions to the comptroller regarding an ARB.

HB 185 by Bernal – Establishes an advisory committee to study the impact disclosing the sales price on real property would have on the property tax system, the allocation of property tax burdens among taxpayers, and the cost to the state for funding public education. Additionally, the bill requires examining what administrative changes would be necessary to collect, disseminate and use sales price information, what the annual cost of purchasing sales information from a private entity would be, and the cost to appraisal districts for property tax protests. Lastly, the study would compare tax burdens for commercial properties, industrial properties, and single–family residential properties. If the bill passes, the study would be conducted and reported back to the legislature by December 2020.

HB 275 by Miller – Allows a surviving spouse of a member of the armed services killed or fatally injured in the line of duty to claim a homestead exemption if the surviving spouse does not remarry. Takes effect only if the constitutional amendment is passed by the legislature and approved by the voters. Same as SB 196 by Campbell.

SB 67 by Nelson – Reforms the property appraisal review process by creating a property tax administration advisory board appointed by state Comptroller and increasing training requirements for Appraisal Review Board (ARB) and arbitrators. Adds term limits and clarified eligibility for ARB members. Creates annual ARB survey.

Transportation

HB 42/HJR 13 by White – Collects two percent of severance tax revenue to be deposited in a trust fund administered by the state Comptroller. The Comptroller remits the county share based on a proportion of oil/gas production. The revenue will supplement construction and maintenance of county roads and bridges impacted by oil and gas exploration and production.

Unfunded Mandates

HJR 30 by Burns. Provides that a law passed by the legislature on or after Jan. 1, 2020 that requires a city or county to establish, expand, or modify a duty that requires the expenditure of revenue is not effective unless the legislature appropriates or provides for the payment or reimbursement of the costs incurred by the city or county in complying with the requirement. See also SJR 10 by Buckingham.

SB 62 by Zaffirini – Creates an inter–agency work group on unfunded mandates made up of the state auditor, comptroller and a Senate and House member, but no county representative.

Veterans

SB 131 by Hinojosa – Creates an open burn pit registry to assist service members, veterans, medical providers and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in determining the effects of exposure to open air burn pits and prevents medical misdiagnoses. The registry will collect data regarding the effects of exposure to chemicals while serving in foreign lands and provide information for available programs to veterans and their families.