From the 85th: Just Passed the 60 day Mark, Better Buckle Up

You know when you are merging from an onramp of a major highway and you press the accelerator to quickly go from entrance ramp speed up to matching the 70 mph of the highway? That is about the best metaphor I have for where we are in the 85th Session. After the first 60 days of session have passed, which for this session was last Friday, we are in that moment of mashed down gas pedal, merging in, nearing full highway speed.

As I have said before, legislative sessions start slow and end extremely fast. The first real speed transition comes after the first 60 days. From here things will just keep going faster and faster.

The biggest process news for the 60-day mark is that it serves as the bill filing deadline. If you didn’t get your bill filled by last Friday, then you can just go ahead and move it to the “to do” pile for 2019. You can imagine the last-minute flood of bills that were filed – somewhere around 1500 bills filed in the final two days last week, which made for some great weekend reading. The silver lining is that the total scope of filed legislation is now set.

When the final clock strike ticked by last week there were a total of 6,485 bills filed. TMHA is currently tracking 177 of those bills.

A few quick notable items.

First, the TMHA supported regulatory clean-up bill, H.B. 2019, was referred to the Licensing and Administrative Procedures (LAP) Committee. This was expected since all state licensing related bills typically go to LAP. We are now working towards a hearing date to have the bill come up in committee, which is the critical next step in the process after filing the bill. Also, to note, the filed version of the bill will change. We have received various input from members, TMHA leadership, state regulators and other industry trades on various aspects of the language in the filed version. These have been gathered, organized, and re-drafted for what is called a “committee substitute,” which is basically just a fancy way of saying a bunch of edits. The committee substitute language must be ready and out of legislative drafting before the committee hearing.

Second, the TMHA supported H.B. 1852 (which has a Senate counterpart S.B. 1248) was referred to the Land and Resource Management Committee. H.B. 1852 would preserve the rights of manufactured home community owners to replace homes within a community, even if the community has been deemed a non-conforming use. We have also learned that the Texas Municipal League, which is the legislative lobby arm representing 1,150 Texas Cities, is against the bill. While not surprising, the opposition confirms moving this bill will be a challenge in the coming weeks, but a challenge TMHA will work to address.

Of the 177 bills we are tracking, we have identified 30 bills as possibly having some impact in the manufactured home community space. These bills cover a wide range of topics from housing discrimination prohibitions, to booting and towing bills, to multiple bills dealing exclusively with the Chapter 92, Property Code. We watch bills related to Chapter 92 because that is the law that controls when a community owner is leasing both the lot and the home to a tenant. Based on recent trends and discussions with community owners, where some are as much as one-third rentals, we know changes to this area of the law can profoundly impact aspects of the manufactured home community industry. We are working in support of several bills addressing late charges, utility billing disputes and service animals.

We were encouraged not to see any bills filed touching Chapter 94, Property Code, which is the law governing lot-leasing in a manufactured home community. While it is difficult to determine, what actions might be attempted in subsequent versions of filed bills and amendments to bills, the fact that no filed bills touch this chapter would, at a minimum, provide the basis for a procedure challenge for any later action adversely impacting our manufactured home community law.

From here on out we will be cruising at highway speed for the next several weeks as we work with committees and try to get our bills through to the floor.