From the 86th - Gov's State-of-the-State, bill filings of interest, and a modular bill to increase height limit

We are nearly a month into the 86th Legislative Session. Just 110 days to go.

Tuesday, Gov. Abbott delivered his state-of-the-state speech. The governor laid out six “emergency items”: 1) increasing teacher pay; 2) school finance reform; 3) school safety; 4) mental health services; 5) property tax reform; and 6) disaster response.  The designation of an “emergency item” simply means they are eligible to be taken up prior to some of the normal procedural timelines that limit all other bills.  More symbolically they are clear signs of Gov. Abbott’s top legislative priorities.

In other session news, committee assignments are set now for both the House and Senate. So far Senate Finance has already reviewed the proposed budgets of numerous state agencies, including TDHCA, TDLR, and the GLO.  But the other committees will soon get underway and begin hearing bills.

There have been 2,008 bills filed.  TMHA is tracking 94 of them.

There have already been several landlord tenant bills filed, but we anticipate many more to come.  Bills such as ending a lease when the tenant dies, expunction of some records following an eviction, late fees that can be charged to tenants who receive Section 8 vouchers, landlord notices on rent increases, right to terminate a lease and avoid liability follow the occurrence of family violence,  multiple bills that require tenant notice when the leased property (including manufactured home lots) are located in a flood zone,  and a bill dealing with the dissemination of eviction case information.

The number of bills filed in reaction to Hurricane Harvey are also beginning to add up, but it will take action in the various committees to better determine which of these bills have legs.

Yesterday, HB 1385 by Chairman Tracy King was filed.  This bill relates, “to the regulation of industrialized housing and buildings.”  The bill, as filed, removes the current 60 feet or four-story height limitation for residential and commercial modular construction.  TMHA is in full support of Chairman King’s bill. 

Recall that in 2015, TMHA worked on SB 1264 that was passed into law increasing the previous three-story limit with the current four-story maximum height.  However, since then advances in technology and construction, in particular metal frame construction, have resulted in TMHA members asking if the four-story limit could be increased again.  We will be working this bill, and another yet to be filled modular bill related to the energy code, throughout this session. 

And for those who remember last session, Chairman King was the sponsor of HB 2019, which was the omnibus manufactured housing reform bill.  He was a champion of manufactured housing, defended the bill against floor amendments, and got the bill passed into law.

I get asked about any interesting bills we are seeing.  In this category in the past were bills like allowing  the hunting of feral hogs from a hot air balloon, which became law.  We have already reported on the bill that would prohibit government regulation of kids’ lemonade stands.  Another that caught my eye was a bill to change the official designation of Fredericksburg from its current title of “Polka Capital of Texas” to “Wine Capital of Texas,” to which no doubt the hill country polka enthusiasts are understandably devastated. 

There have been two bills filed, one in the House and one in the Senate, that would define what constitutes a dangerous wild animal.  The bills contain a rather exhaustive and impressively thorough list of what is defined as a wild animal, which includes a bear, cheetah, clouded leopard, gorilla, snow leopard, lion, tiger, or (my personal favorite), “any hybrid or subspecies of an animal listed.”  So, for all you liger owners out there thinking you were safe with a loophole, you are in the mix too. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these are great bills, but I was more shocked that clearly these bills were drafted in response to some bad situations where people had these types of animals as pets. 

Full confession, I’m not a pet guy, and I’m currently in full court defensive up against my wife and two kids wanting a dog (maybe I should count myself lucky they aren’t asking for a clouded leopard).  But the fact that there are people who have a gorilla or a tiger as a pet is about as surprising to me as the need for a new law addressing it.

And Gov. Abbott also said during his Tuesday speech that he supported the bill to require in state law that Texas and Texas A&M play against each other in football every year.

We still have about another 4,000 -5,000 bills to go before it is all said and done.  I’m hoping a few more slightly quirky or obscure bills will surface before the filing deadline.