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84th Legislative Preview: What’s at stake for your business next year?

Texas is changing. From the steady increase in our population to the politicians who hold statewide offices, these changes and others will significantly impact your business. We have a new governor, a new lieutenant governor, a new comptroller, and new faces in many other statewide offices. Texas has not seen this type of turnover in more than a decade, and the new Texas Legislature will feel its effects. Houston Association of REALTORS® is actively involved during (and leading up to) a legislative session, from HAR’s Governmental Affairs staff that works closely with TAR’s team, to our local REALTORS® serving on TAR’s public policy subcommittees. Below is TAR’s legislative positions for the upcoming 84th Texas Legislative Session, which begins on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

When legislation that affects your business is on the agenda, it’s not enough to email or call lawmakers. They need to see and hear from Texas REALTORS® in person — the more, the better. The Texas REALTOR® Hill Visits on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, is your chance to join more than 2,000 of your colleagues to meet legislators in their offices and share TAR’s positions. The last legislative session Houston Association of REALTORS® offered five chartered buses in various locations throughout our territory to take our members to the Capitol that day. In addition to your legislative activities at the Capitol, you will enjoy a barbecue lunch at TAR headquarters across the street.

Who comes up with TAR’s legislative positions?

Texas REALTORS® serving on TAR’s six public policy subcommittees identify and research important issues that impact the real estate industry. With input from issue experts, legislators, association leadership, and members, the subcommittees formulate legislative recommendations for consideration by the TAR Public Policy Committee. The TAR Legislative Management Team, made up of a dozen Texas REALTORS® in various leadership positions, sets the association’s priorities and makes final decisions about specific legislation during the legislative session.
Here’s a rundown of where TAR stands and what you can expect to happen after the gavel drops on Jan. 13, 2015.

During the legislative session, a bill’s status can change overnight. But REALTORS® have boots on the ground every step of the way, following every bill and sending you updates from the real estate perspective in the Legislative Liaison e-newsletter. Sign up to get Legislative Liaison at texasrealestate.com > For Texas REALTORS® > Get involved > Sign up for Political Affairs programs.

Transportation

The state’s transportation network directly affects the state’s economy and business climate and has a direct correlation with affordable housing and quality of life. The passage of statewide Proposition 1 was a great first step toward addressing the state’s transportation funding issues, but we still have a long way to go. TAR supports legislation that ensures Texans have a safe, efficient transportation network.
What to expect: Many legislators have already called for an increase in transportation funding without implementing any new taxes or fees. To this end, the only bill we expect to pass will call for motor vehicle sales taxes to be dedicated to transportation funding.

Sales taxes on professional services and real estate transactions

TAR opposes efforts to expand the sales-tax base to include professional services—including real estate commissions—or real estate transactions.
What to expect: Several fringe groups have already proposed expanding the sales-tax base to include real estate services as part of a large state tax restructure, while others have proposed including the sale and lease of all property—commercial and residential.

Patent trolls

TAR supports legislation that limits the abilities of patent trolls, which are also called patent assertion entities (PAEs). These entities are people or companies that enforce certain patents against accused infringers in an attempt to collect settlements. They do not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question; they are engaging in financial shakedowns.
What to expect: While this issue must be addressed by the U.S. Congress, several Texas legislators have expressed an interest in taking state action against patent trolls. Expect a few bills to be filed.

Homeowners associations (HOAs)

TAR supports transparent, consumer-friendly HOA operations that balance property rights and community standards.
What to expect: Lawmakers passed substantial HOA reforms during the 2011 legislative session. However, some HOAs continue to restrict certain activities, which is a violation of First Amendment rights. Look for a few bills to be filed to protect property owners’ ability to live their lives without intrusion from a quasi-governmental entity.

Mandatory sales-price disclosure

TAR opposes the disclosure of sales-price information.
What to expect: Some appraisal districts will continue to seek the passage of a bill requiring mandatory sales price disclosure on all sales of real property, but the Texas Legislature has consistently stated that expanding government intrusion into the private lives of Texans is not an option.

Windstorm insurance

TAR supports a windstorm insurance solution that’s actuarially sound and that has better underwriting rules, adequate rates, liability limits, more stable funding strategies, and incorporation of the private insurance market in some capacity.
What to expect: Look for the Texas Legislature to discuss ways to make sure the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association—the insurer of last resort—is financially stable.

Home-equity lending

TAR opposes any effort to weaken the conservative home-equity lending provisions in the Texas Constitution.
What to expect: There may be some attempts to pass a joint resolution amending these conservative consumer protections, but most lawmakers agree that these provisions helped Texas avoid much of the national foreclosure crisis.

Appraisal reform

TAR supports an appraisal appeal process that ensures property owners are treated fairly when protesting property valuations for ad valorem tax purposes.
What to expect: Many statewide and legislative candidates campaigned on appraisal reform. You can expect several bills to be filed to enhance the “uniform and equal” provision in the law, which requires all property owners to be treated in a fair and uniform manner. You can also expect bills to be filed that repeal the petition requirement before a tax-rate rollback election can be held, bills that lower the tax rollback rate from 8% to 5%, and bills that ensure higher property values do not automatically increase a property owner’s tax bill.

Texas Real Estate Commission

TAR supports TREC’s efforts to increase its efficiency and to enhance ethics, consumer protection, and transparency in the real estate process.
What to expect: No legislative action is anticipated.

Expansion of county rulemaking authority

TAR opposes expanding government through the expansion of county rulemaking authority.
What to expect: Many counties will ask for more regulatory authority to limit growth, but the Texas Legislature has consistently denied such requests.

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Dana Kervin

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