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Texas Legislative News – June 9, 2017
The 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature adjourned on the afternoon of May 29, 2017. Over the 140-day session, legislators filed 6,631 House and Senate bills, which eclipsed the 6,267 bills filed in the 84th Regular Session in 2015. The total number of bills passed and sent to the Governor was 1,211 this year compared to 1,323 in 2015. Of the 1,211 bills sent to the Governor, as of today he has signed 286 and 28 bills have been filed without his signature. For an overview of what transpired on some major issues during the just-completed session click here.
On June 6, Governor Greg Abbott announced that a Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature will convene on July 18 to address 20 listed items, including sunset legislation, property tax reform, caps on state and local spending, preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects, speeding up local government permitting process, municipal annexation reform and texting while driving. The Special Session is limited to 30 days and can only address the items included in the Governor’s proclamation calling for the session.
-----Construction Legislation Passed-----
Responsibility for Defective Plans and Specifications
On Tuesday, May 23, SB 1215 by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and Representative Hugh Shine (R-Temple) was considered by the House of Representatives. A very strong team of opponents to the legislation had been mobilized to fight the passage of the bill. Despite questions about the accuracy of their arguments against SB 1215, the group was able to sway a large number of Representatives to their side. Prior to the bill coming up for debate, the House sponsor and other House members supporting the bill were not confident there would be a sufficient number of votes to pass the bill. In lieu of the language in the bill after it was approved by the House Business & Industry Committee, the bill was amended to require a joint House/Senate committee to hold an interim study on the various important issues related to construction. The amended version of SB 1215 was then passed by the full House. The Senate concurred in the amended version of the bill on May 27. SB 1215 was sent to the Governor on May 28.
For more information on Responsibility for Defective Plans and Specifications, click here.
State Breach of Contract
Generally, statutes allowing for the breach of sovereign immunity defense restrict or prevent the recovery of attorney fees absent a contractual agreement for them. HB 2121, by Representative John Cyrier (R-Lockhart), makes amendments to existing statutes governing immunity from lawsuit by governmental entities and the recovery of attorney fees in those types of lawsuits. HB 2121 was sent to the Governor on May 27.
For more information on State Breach of Contract, click here.
School Background Checks
HB 3270 by Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) was sent to the Governor on May 30. This legislation will limit criminal background checks on construction personnel to those individuals who could come in direct contact with students on a school construction project.
For more information on School Background Checks, click here.
Choice of Law and Venue for Certain Construction Contracts
SB 807 by Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) and Representative Paul Workman (R-Spicewood) was sent to the Governor on May 28. The current law gives a contractor and subcontractor the ability to void a clause in a construction contract that requires disputes to be decided under the law of another state, or for the dispute to be heard in another state, if the project is located in Texas. The basic rule is that projects constructed in Texas will be decided in Texas under Texas law. The law, though, doesn’t apply to design professionals. SB 807 broadens the coverage of the law to include all project participants, including architects, engineers, suppliers and equipment rental companies.
For more information on Choice of Law and Venue for Certain Construction Contracts, click here.
SB 22 by Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) will establish a Pathways in Technology College High School Program (P-TECH). The legislation was signed by the Governor on May 27 and will take effect on September 1, 2017.
For more information on P-TECH, click here.
Insurance Coverage for Businesses Providing Career or Technology Training for Students
HB 639 by Representative Doc Anderson (R-Waco) will authorize school districts to obtain health, liability and auto insurance coverage to protect businesses that partner with the school district to provide students career or technology training. This legislation was signed into law by the Governor on May 26 and took immediate effect.
For more information on Insurance Coverage for Businesses Providing Career or Technology Training for Students, click here.
TCA has been monitoring and registering support for several education/workforce bills in various legislative committee meetings throughout the session. Below are some selected bills TCA has been supporting.
HB 1469 by Representative Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) would allow CTE teachers without baccalaureate degrees to teach in charter schools. The bill was signed by the Governor on June 1 and took immediate effect.
HB 2790 by Representative James White (R-Hillister) would add flexibility for apprenticeship programs offered in school districts. This legislation was sent to the Governor on May 30.
HB 3706 by Representative Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville) would add options for alternative education programs for workforce development for at-risk students. The bill was sent to the Governor on May 30.
SB 2105 by Senator Borris Miles (D-Houston) would require more Texas Workforce Commission information to be shared with high school students, including CTE partnerships with business and field-based learning opportunities for students. This legislation was signed by the Governor on May 19 and will be effective on September 1, 2017.
HB 2994 by Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) will allow community colleges to keep formula funding dollars from the state when students under 18 years of age take workforce continuing education CTE courses. This bill was sent to the Governor on May 30.
HB 108 by Representative Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) will allow the Texas Workforce Commission to use money from the skills development fund to support employers expanding in Texas or relocating to Texas who will provide highly skilled or complex employment opportunities. This legislation was signed by the Governor on June 1 and will become effective on September 1, 2017.