With a little more than a month left of the regular session (46 days, but who’s counting); we are starting to see the finish line in the distance. It will be the typical sprint to the finish in what has so far been anything but a typical session. Deadlines are now looming, and bills are bottlenecking at the various choke points. We are at that critical window of time in a session where bills must move, or they begin to die.
TMHA’s main offensive focus is HB 3417. This bill would add needed regulatory flexibility for our industry in the time of a prolonged declared disaster, as well as several technical clean-up provisions. The most significant aspect of this bill is that it would place definitively in state law that our industry is essential and must remain operational, even in times of a disaster. We are encouraged that this bill was heard in the Urban Affairs committee last week and passed yesterday afternoon out of that committee. The bill now heads to the House floor where our team will work all 150 members advocating for its passage out of the House.
Other favorable bills that are moving, HB 871 that would prohibit cities from being able to charge local fees for air conditioning contractors licensed with the state. This bill passed the House this week and heads to the Senate. The PPP loan forgiveness bill that would exclude PPP loan forgiveness towards a business’ income calculation under state franchise tax liability has passed is one of the few bills moving fast through the legislative bodies. This bill has passed the House, is out of Senate committee and headed to the Senate floor. The broadband bill is also moving through at a rapid clip.
Defense is always a major part of every sessions’ workload, but this session in particular we have seen a significant uptick in bills that would have a negative impact on the industry. Most of these bills fall in the landlord tenant space and many are heavily influenced by the pandemic. Some of these bills include a source of income bill, abatement or suspension of evictions during a pandemic or more broadly no evictions during and for 60 days following any declared disaster, extended eviction notices with mandatory rights to cure, a bill that would effectively prohibit ever increasing a tenants rent if they joined a tenant organization, right to terminate a lease if a utility function is lost and not restored within 48-hours, and a comprehensive tenant bill called the “tenants’ bill of rights” by its author. There are also several bills filed related to tenant screening eviction records and use of prior criminal histories.
Land use bills, in partial bills allowing counties the equivalent of city zoning authority are also bills we work to amend or oppose. This session there is a bill we oppose that would allow a county to have broad authority, including zoning, if it adopted a “wildland-urban interface code.” This bill has been heard in committee, but has not been brought up for vote in committee. Another bill would grant city like authority to Fort Bend County around the Brazos River. The proponents of the bill argue that the authority is needed to prevent erosion, which we certainly want to also prevent. However, the bill grants sweeping and broad authority that goes beyond just erosion control, and our concern is that this authority will be used to prohibit manufactured homes in the county. This bill has also received a hearing, but remains in committee.
In our last post, I described how the session was moving out of the bill filing stage and shifting into committee work. While committees will continue to hear bills, at this point we are transitioning from committees to floor action. More members to vote, more work to pass, harder to kill, and many more opportunities for bill amendments (good, bad, and scary).