S.B. 968 - Relating to public health disaster and public health emergency preparedness and response; providing a civil penalty.
More than 150 bills and resolutions were filed pertaining to the pandemic. Less than 20 passed. One of the largest bills that would have curtail governor emergency powers as well as local governments was H.B. 3. This bill died in conference committee when the House and Senate members couldn’t come together to hash out the differences.
One of the few bills that did pass was S.B. 968 by Sen. Kolkhorst. The bulk of the bill focused on creating a new Office of the Chief Epidemiologist to respond to disease outbreaks and coordinate with the Texas Division of Emergency Management. It also creates a panel of doctors and health care providers that will provide recommendations to the chief epidemiologist.
However, the reason the Texas manufactured housing industry is so interested was due to an amendment late in the bill process.
The amendment reads:
Chapter 418, Government Code, is amended by adding Section 418.1085 to read as follows:
Sec. 418.1085. LIMITATIONS ON CONSTRUCTION AND RELATED SERVICES. The presiding officer of the governing body of a political subdivision may not issue an order during a declared state of disaster or local disaster to address a pandemic disaster that would limit or prohibit:
(1) housing and commercial construction activities, including related activities involving the sale, transportation, and installation of manufactured homes;
(2) the provision of governmental services for title searches, notary services, and recording services in support of mortgages and real estate services and transactions;
(3) residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services; or
(4) essential maintenance, manufacturing, design, operation, inspection, security, and construction services for essential products, services, and supply chain relief efforts.
This amendment, which is now the law in Texas, serves as one of the few provisions that actually passed that place definitively in state law protections against local government shutdowns to our industry.
Also underscoring the importance of the final passage of S.B. 968 was the failure to pass H.B. 3, making the passage of SB 968 with the amended language that much more critical. Securing this critical amendment for the manufactured housing industry was the crowning offensive legislative achievement of the session for TMHA’s lobby team.
S.B. 968 was signed into law and is effective as of June 16, 2021.
S.B.6 - Relating to liability for certain claims arising during a pandemic or other disaster or emergency.
S.B. 6 was the omnibus health care, business, and educational providers liability protection bill shielding business from various potential liabilities related to being open during a pandemic. During the bills debate it was stated there are widespread concerns regarding the long-term effects of the pandemic on these sectors, including the effects of the lawsuits that have already been filed in Texas and across the nation. More of these types of suits are likely to come. These suits involve doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and businesses struggling to comply with various government guidelines while treating patients or trying to stay open.
TMHA, like many other business-related industries, strongly supported this bill to stave off a sea of litigation.
S.B. 6 seeks to provide liability protection for certain individuals, organizations, and institutions that attempt to follow applicable governmental standards, guidelines, or protocols with the purpose of minimizing the spread of a pandemic disease. The bill also establishes standards that allow such lawsuits to proceed.
The bill’s effective date is June 14, 2021.