Bills We Think You Are Interested In – Service Animals, City Ordinance Alert Systems, HVACs and Some RV stuff
H.B. 4164 is a bill that relates, “to the improper use and treatment of an assistance animal or service animal.” This bill has been filed in multiple past sessions by several members, but this session the author of H.B. 416, Rep. Cortez, finally got the bill passed.
This bill was borne out of the backlash from an increase in reports of non-disabled people misrepresenting their dogs as service animals to obtain the benefits provided to individuals with disabilities. For example, some people attempt to pass off their pets as service dogs to circumvent breed restrictions and avoid paying a pet deposit at their apartment. Moreover, others attempt to bring their dogs into restaurants and other business establishments.
The new law reads:
IMPROPER USE OF ASSISTANCE AND SERVICE ANIMALS; OFFENSE. (a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly represents that an animal is an assistance animal or a service animal when the animal is not specially trained or equipped to help a person with a disability. An offense under this subsection is a misdemeanor punishable by:
- a fine of not more than $1,000; and
- 30 hours of community service to be performed for a governmental entity or nonprofit organization that primarily serves persons with visual impairments or other disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than one year.
This law change eliminates the previous law’s more ambiguous provision of a “specially trained” animal and is tied to the more specific definitions of “assistance animal” or “service animal.”
H.B. 4164, in addition to tightening up the law with the definitions, places the “intentionally or knowingly” standard into the law, and increases the criminal penalty for violating the law up to $1000, from what was previously a maximum fine of only $300.
This law becomes effective on September 1, 2023.
S.B. 943 is one of the more fascinating and much needed new laws that we have been working on for years.
The problem is the lack of practical local notice when local governments post notices for things like new ordinances. Texas has been on the arcane process of requiring public notices to be posted in the “local newspaper of record.”
Which practically means the notices are, typically, buried in the back classified section of the local newspapers.
For years now those impacted by local governments have been clamoring in this more modern, and digital, age for a better system. One that would effectively provide notice, is searchable, and could provide alerts statewide to subscribers of local proposed ordinances that might impact their lives and/or businesses.
Prior to this bill, what most often occurs is that local governments make changes and pass new ordinances before anyone who would oppose or seek to change the policy is ever aware of the change.
Previous legislative efforts were attempted, but failed, to require a centralized database and statewide posting requirement with either the Secretary of State’s office or Comptroller’s office.
However, S.B. 943 opted for a different, and possibly one of the most unique approaches I’ve ever seen in state law. Rather than requiring a state agency or government to take on this virtual publishing, the law mandates that local governments post with the Texas Press Association (TPA).
TPA is a non-profit trade organization that represents newspapers throughout the state.
The law requires all local notices to be posted on the local government’s website, but also, and most crucially, also deliver the notice directly to the TPA. Then the TPA must publish the local notices online, at no cost to the public, updated with new notices, and post them in “searchable and sortable” formats.
The TPA must also offer an e-mail notification service where people can subscribe and then receive e-mail notifications of notices, they are interested in based on specific subject matters. The notices will also be archived.
TMHA looks forward to subscribing to TPA’s service to finally have a single database source of statewide local notices to then take action on and send to our members. TMHA will also strongly encourage our members to similarly subscribe for all the local governments where they have business interests, so they too are informed if there are proposed local law changes that could impact their business.
This law goes into effect on September 1, 2023.
H.B. 1859 seeks to help alleviate the strain on limited labor supply specifically to the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry of Texas. H.B. 1859 will help increase the number of HVAC technicians in Texas by removing barriers and creating an opportunity for high school students or community college students to receive HVAC certification.
The law change accomplishes this by reducing the continuing education requirements to renew a license for those who also conduct career training and education, expanding the exemption for certain students who are supervised, and expands licensing pre-requisite training to “career and technology education programs” (vocational education).
This law goes into effect on September 1, 2023.
HB 697 adds new provisions to the statutory seller disclosure form required in traditional residential real estate sales. This is the standard seller disclosure form that covers the seller’s known condition of the property from the status of appliances to other required disclosed known issues.
HB 697 adds to this list the type of material used for fuel gas piping.
However, this disclosure is not required for personal property manufactured home sales.
This law is effective September 1, 2023.