The 85th Texas Legislative Session will adjourn Sine Die on May 29. And while there is less than a month remaining in the 140 day session that began on January 10, the next few weeks will see a frenzy of action with the House and Senate passing more than 1,000 bills that will be sent to Governor Abbott’s desk for his decision to sign those into law or veto them.
Last session, House and Senate members filed 6,476 bills and joint resolutions and 1,323 of those were sent to the governor’s desk. This year, there were 6,769 bills and joint resolutions filed by the March 10 deadline. None of those had passed both chambers and reached the governor’s desk at the time this article went to print.
There is only one bill that the legislature must pass each session: The Budget. The budget funds the state’s operations for the two year biennium following that session. This session the budget originated out of the Senate and has been designated as Senate Bill 1 (SB 1). The chambers alternate the responsibility of introducing the bill each session.
Now that both chambers have passed SB 1 they must work together to reconcile a compromise before it can head to the governor’s desk for his final approval. The next step is a conference committee. The Speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor each chose five members to represent their colleagues in negotiations towards a resolution.
Speaker Straus chose Reps. John Zerwas, Trent Ashby, Sarah Davis, Larry Gonzales and Oscar Longoria. Lt. Governor Patrick tapped Sens. Jane Nelson, Chuy Hinojosa, Joan Huffman, Lois Kolkhorst and Charles Schwertner. Reps. Zerwas and Davis and Sens. Huffman and Kolkhorst are members of the GHBA’s delegation.
Those 10 members, along with the Speaker, lieutenant governor and the governor, will work for the next few weeks to resolve their differences on spending priorities and methods to arrive at an agreement. If they cannot reach a deal by the end of session, Governor Abbott will be obligated to call a special session.
With nearly 7,000 bills filed this session, there are many issues that will continue to be debated and addressed, including school finance, pre-K funding, sanctuary cities, CPS reform and property tax relief.
As the session winds down, there are several mandated deadlines for action on legislation and members will be scrambling to save their bills at the last minute. The deadline for the House to pass the remaining general house bills or joint resolutions is May 11 at midnight. There will be thousands of House bills that will not meet that deadline and will be considered dead when the clock strikes 12.
The GHBA Government Affairs team has been active in Austin throughout the session. We have attended committee meetings in support of several measures and have met with members of our delegation and their staff to discuss legislation that could affect homebuilding and development. In addition to specific bills, we have continued to push the GHBA’s priority issue which is protecting MUDs as a tool to help keep housing affordable and maintain steady growth.
We will continue to monitor legislation that could positively or negatively impact the homebuilding and development industries as the session’s final weeks come to a close and will provide updates as bills pass and die.
Update on TAB and GHBA Supported Bills
House Bill 1449 and Senate Bill 852
These bills filed by Representative Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) and Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), respectively, would prohibit a political subdivision from adopting or enforcing any measure that imposes a fee on new construction for the purpose of offsetting the cost or rent of any unit of residential housing.
Linkage fees are currently being imposed in some cities outside of Texas on new residential and commercial building projects in an effort to subsidize low- and moderate-income housing. These fees actually increase the cost of housing for everyone, including lower-income renters, and reduce housing affordability.
Former GHBA President and current Government Affairs Committee Chair Mike Dishberger, CEO of Sandcastle Homes, testified in favor of the bill when it was heard in the House Ways & Means Committee in April.
HB 1449 was voted out of committee unanimously and is awaiting placement on the House calendar by the Calendars Committee.
House Bill 2052 and Senate Bill 744
These bills filed by Representative Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) and Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), respectively, will require that cities that impose tree mitigation fees for trees removed during development give property owners credits for trees planted to replace those removed tress.
In an effort to protect the removal of trees by property owners, many cities will require prohibitive tree mitigation fees. This is both an infringement on property rights and a harm to the affordability of housing by adding to the cost of development.
Members of the Government Affairs staff attended and registered support for HB 2052 when it was heard in the House Urban Affairs Committee hearing in April.
SB 744 was voted out of the Senate unanimously on April 5 and is waiting to be referred to a House committee. Following testimony in the House Urban Affairs Committee, HB 2052 was left pending and will require a vote to pass the committee and get sent to the Calendars Committee.
House Bill 1704 and Senate Bill 787
These bills filed by Representative John Kuempel (R-Seguin) and Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), respectively, will allow courts the discretion to award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party in vested rights actions.
Vested rights ensure a property is grandfathered against new regulatory regulations upon the filing of a development application for a permit. Vested rights are an important tool to protect property owners from cities that try to change regulatory requirements and rules on property owners once development and/or construction has begun.
HB 1704 was voted unanimously out of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee and was set on the House calendar for a full House vote on April 26.
* Please note, all updates are accurate as of 4/25/17
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