By Dana Kervin Clark
Another Texas Legislative Session has come and gone, but did bring with it much success for Texas REALTORS®. “Texas REALTORS® should be very excited because this was our most successful legislative session in recent memory – and maybe ever,” said Mark Lehman, TAR’s long-time vice president of governmental affairs (TAR Legislative Liaison, 6.2.15). There were many great policy wins during this session for REALTORS®, but the main highlight would have to be the opportunity for Texas voters to constitutionally ban real estate transfer taxes this November. Below is a list of bills waiting to be signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, who has until June 21 to do so, and if he takes no action, will automatically become law. As of date publication.
- House Bill 7 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) and Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) would repeal a $150 annual “professional fee” that Texas brokers, and other professionals, pay to hold a license. Signed 6/15/15; Effective 9/1/15
- House Bill 2489 by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) keeps HOAs out of the property management business. The bill protects property owners’ rights by clarifying that HOAs don’t have the authority to screen, approve, or deny prospective tenants. The bill also explicitly states that prospective tenants don’t have to provide a credit report or lease application to the HOA.
- While patent reform is largely a federal issue, a lack of Congressional action has forced state legislative bodies to search for solutions. Senate Bill 1457 by Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) prohibits a person from sending bad-faith claims of patent infringement to an end user who is located in Texas or doing business in Texas. Signed 6/17/15; Effective 9/1/15
- House Bill 2404 by Rep. Rodney Anderson (R-Grand Prairie) allows a landlord to deduct the charge of re-keying a security device from a tenant’s deposit when the tenant breaches a lease.
- Senate Bill 267 by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) clearly states that cities and counties may not prohibit a property owner (or the owner’s agent) from choosing whether to rent housing to someone based on the person’s lawful source of income, including a federal housing choice voucher (i.e., Section 8 vouchers).
- Senate Bill 1760 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) requires a supermajority vote of a local taxing jurisdiction before the jurisdiction may increase the property-tax rate.
Signed 6/15/15; Effective 1/1/16 except section 9 take effect 1/1/20
- Senate Bill 900 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and House Sponsor Dr. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood): Signed 6/16/15; Effective 9/1/15
- Implements actuarially sound insurance principles by mandating that TWIA have enough funding every year to payProbably Maximum Loss on a 100-year event.
- Ensures administrative accountability by giving the Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner the ability to privatize TWIA management, if necessary.
- Provides equal representation of all stakeholders on the Board of Directors by changing the composition of the Board of Directors from a 5/4 industry/ coastal representation to a 3-3-3 (with new representation from inland areas).
- Promotes private market solutions by requiring biennial studies of market incentives to promote voluntary participation in the wind- (and hail-) insurance market.
In summary, the 84th Texas Legislature held one of the more successful sessions Texas REALTORS® have seen in some time. The efforts made by HAR REALTOR® members and the other 2,000 Texas REALTORS® who traveled to Austin to visit one-on-one with their state lawmakers on April 14 did not go unnoticed this session. Looking forward, HAR members should be ready to get out the vote for the constitutional ban on real estate transfer taxes in the November 3 election. HAR members are encouraged to connect with your HAR Governmental Affairs staff for updates on candidates and issues which will appear on the November ballot. Stay tuned!