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Legislative Highlights - 84th Session

This session, legislators filed more than 6,000 bills. However, only about 1,300 of them ultimately passed. A considerable number impact county government. TAC legislative staff has highlighted some of the county-related bills that passed during the regular session. A more comprehensive list of county-related bill summaries will be available later this summer in our 2015 Legislative Analysis Report.

Appraisal Process
HB 2083 by Darby. Relating to the determination of the appraised value of property for purposes of an ad valorem tax protest or appeal. Requires the use of generally accepted appraisal methods and techniques in protests or appeals on the basis that the appraised value is higher than the median appraised value of a reasonable number of comparable properties appropriately adjusted. Requires that the selection of comparable properties and the application of adjustments made to the appraised value of a property be based on generally accepted appraisal methods. Effective 1/1/2016.

Bail Bonds
HB 2499 by Thompson, Senfronia. Relating to the electronic filing of bail bonds. Authorizes the electronic filing of a bail bond with the court, judge, magistrate, or other officer taking the bond in any manner permitted by the county in which the bond is written. Effective 9/1/2015.

County Authority
HB 40 by Darby. Relating to the exclusive jurisdiction of this state to regulate oil and gas operations in this state and the express preemption of local regulation of those operations. Subjects an oil and gas operation to the exclusive jurisdiction of the state. Prohibits a political subdivision from enacting an ordinance or other measure or revising an existing ordinance or other measure that bans, limits, or otherwise regulates an oil and gas operation within its boundaries or extraterritorial jurisdiction; provides certain specified exceptions to this prohibition for municipalities. Effective 5/18/2015.

HB 2002 by Keffer. Relating to the recycling of county surplus or salvage property. Authorizes a commissioners court to dispose of surplus and salvage property through a recycling program. Effective 5/28/2015.

HB 3067 by Coleman. Relating to the amount that may be donated by contract by certain populous counties to crime stoppers or crime prevention organizations. Allows the commissioners court of a county with a population of one million or more to donate up to $100,000 each year to a crime stoppers or crime prevention organization. The commissioners court of a less populous county may continue to donate up to $25,000 each year. Effective 6/10/2015.

SB 1756 by Taylor, Van. Relating to the issuance of driver's licenses and personal identification certificates and the classification and operation of certain vehicles; authorizing a fee. Expands the pilot program established by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and authorizes any county to contract with DPS to allow the county to renew and duplicate driver's license and other identification certificate services. Effective 6/19/2015.

County Liability
SB 273 by Campbell. Relating to certain offenses relating to carrying concealed handguns on property owned or leased by a governmental entity; providing a civil penalty. Prohibits a political subdivision or state agency from providing notice (by communication or sign) indicating that a concealed handgun license holder carrying a handgun is prohibited from entering or remaining on the premises unless license holders are, in fact, prohibited from carrying a handgun on the premises under Sections 46.03 or 46.035 of the Penal Code. Provides that a political subdivision or state agency is liable for a civil penalty between $1,000 and $1,500 for the first violation and $10,000 and $10,500 for the second or a subsequent violation.

Authorizes the filing of a complaint with the attorney general’s office if the violation is not cured within three days of the state agency or political subdivision’s receipt of notice of the violation. Requires the attorney general to give the political subdivision or agency 15 days to cure the violation to avoid the penalty, unless there has been a previous finding of liability for a violation. Authorizes the attorney general or appropriate county or district attorney to sue to collect the civil penalty if the violation has not been cured within the 15-day period, and provides that sovereign immunity is waived and abolished to the extent of liability created by the law.

Further, the bill provides that a license holder commits the offense of unlawfully carrying a handgun where a meeting of a governmental entity is held only if the meeting is an open meeting subject to Chapter 551 of the Government Code and the entity provided notice as required by that law. Effective 9/1/2015.

County Officials
SB 435 by Lucio. Relating to the powers and duties of a county treasurer. Adds the county treasurer to the list of statutorily authorized individuals who may administer an oath to allow them to administer the oath of office to the treasurer’s deputy to carry out the duties of the office. Allows the county treasurer to complete the authorized introductory course of instruction upon being elected or appointed to that office instead of upon taking office. Effective 9/1/2015.

SB 1025 by Seliger. Relating to supplemental compensation paid to certain county judges. Increases the annual state salary supplement for a county judge from $15,000 to an amount equal to 18 percent of the salary provided for a district judge ($25,200). To qualify, at least 40 percent of a county judge’s duties must be judicial functions. Effective 6/17/2015.

HB 2486 by Keffer. Relating to the right of a person to enter the person's residence or former residence accompanied by a peace officer to recover certain personal property; creating an offense. Allows an individual who is denied access to personal property located in a residence to apply to a justice court for an order authorizing entry with a peace officer to retrieve certain specified items. Requires an individual’s application to attest to denied entry, specify items needed, certify that no protective order prevents the individual from entry, and allege personal harm if the items are not retrieved. Requires the applicant to execute a bond. Provides immunity from civil and criminal liability for a peace officer who provides assistance in good faith and with reasonable diligence, and creates a Class B misdemeanor offense for interfering with a person or peace officer retrieving property under a court order. Effective 9/1/2015.

SB 1116 by West. Relating to a notice or document sent by mail or electronic mail by a court, justice, judge, magistrate, or clerk of a judicial court. Permits a court, justice, judge, magistrate, or clerk to send any notice or document through mail or electronic mail, unless a statute requires proof of delivery. Effective 9/1/2015.

SB 1139 by Huffman. Relating to the operation and administration of and practice in courts in the judicial branch of state government, the composition of certain juvenile boards, and the increase of certain filing fees. Includes numerous provisions creating certain district and statutory county courts; adds certain prosecuting attorneys to the Professional Prosecutors Act; and increases the statewide electronic filing fee on the filing of certain civil actions or proceedings from $20 to $30, among other provisions. Effective 9/1/2015 except for certain sections.

SB 1876 by Zaffirini. Relating to the appointment of attorneys ad litem, guardians ad litem, mediators, and guardians in certain counties. Requires each court in a county with a population of 25,000 or more to establish and maintain the following lists of individuals registered with the court: a list of all attorneys who are qualified to serve as an attorney ad litem; a list of all attorneys and other persons who are qualified to serve as a guardian ad litem; a list of all mediators; and a list of all attorneys and private professional guardians who are qualified to serve as a guardian under the law. Requires a court using a rotation system to appoint the person whose name appears first on the applicable list except in certain circumstances. Authorizes a local administrative judge to maintain the lists for multiple courts, and requires a court to post each established list at the courthouse and on any court website, among other provisions. Effective 9/1/2015.

Criminal Justice
HB 710 by Turner, Sylvester. Relating to procedures for certain persons charged with a violation of a condition of release from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on parole or to mandatory supervision. Allows certain parole violators to receive a summons, instead of a warrant, for violating a condition of release including certain Class C misdemeanors committed after the first year of release, excluding new offenses for family violence or against children under the age of 17, and only if the parolee has maintained steady employment and housing for at least one year. The bill also requires the issuance of a summons instead of a warrant if the person is only charged with committing an administrative violation that is alleged to have been committed one year (instead of three years) after release and other requirements are met. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 1690 by King, Phil. Relating to the investigation and prosecution of offenses against public administration, including ethics offenses. Establishes a Public Integrity Unit within the Texas Rangers division of the Department of Public Safety to perform initial investigations into whether certain offenses against public administration have been committed. Requires the Unit to refer the matter to the local prosecuting attorney of the county with proper venue under the law if there is a reasonable suspicion that an offense against public administration has occurred. Provides for the recusal of a prosecuting attorney in certain circumstances. Additionally, the comptroller is required to pay from specific funds appropriated to the comptroller’s judiciary section reasonable amounts incurred by a prosecuting attorney for extraordinary costs of prosecution of an offense against public administration. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 2187 by Smith. Relating to the regulation of metal recycling entities; imposing an administrative penalty; amending provisions subject to a criminal penalty. Increases regulations for metal recyclers by requiring additional identifying information from sellers before cash transactions may occur. Requires a seller to present a cash transaction card before receiving a payment by cash or debit card. Provides law enforcement an additional tool in identifying and arresting copper thieves. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 2246 by Villalba. Relating to the restriction of certain intoxication offenders to the operation of a motor vehicle with an ignition interlock device in lieu of a license suspension. Requires a judge to restrict a person whose license has been suspended after a conviction for certain intoxication offenses to the operation of a motor vehicle with an ignition interlock device. Authorizes a defendant whose license is suspended for certain intoxication offenses to operate a vehicle if the defendant obtains and uses an ignition interlock device and receives an occupational driver’s license with an ignition interlock designation.  Additionally, the bill entitles a person convicted of certain intoxication offenses who is restricted to the operation of a motor vehicle with an ignition interlock device to receive an occupational license without an essential need finding if the person shows evidence of financial responsibility and proof of an installed ignition interlock device, among other provisions. Effective 9/1/2015.

SB 746 by Whitmire. Relating to the civil commitment of sexually violent predators; amending provisions subject to criminal penalties. Reforms the civil commitment process for sexually violent offenders. Renames the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management as the Texas Civil Commitment Office. Transfers jurisdiction for civil commitment proceedings from the 435th District Court in Montgomery County to the court of conviction in the county for the person’s most recent sexually violent offense. Authorizes a prosecuting attorney serving that court to file a petition to initiate the civil commitment process for such offenders; under prior law, the state’s special prosecution unit pursued such commitment proceedings. Requires the special prosecution unit to provide legal, financial, and technical assistance to the attorney for the civil commitment proceeding upon request.
Requires a trial to determine whether a person is a sexually violent predator and should be civilly committed to be conducted not later than the person’s discharge date. Revises the supervision and treatment process for committed offenders by creating a tiered program which must provide for the seamless transition of a committed person from a total confinement facility to less restrictive housing and eventually to release from civil commitment, among several other provisions. Effective 6/17/2015.

SB 790 by Kolkhorst. Relating to the procedures applicable to the revocation of a person's release on parole or to mandatory supervision. Authorizes a magistrate to release on bond with parole supervision or mandatory release supervision a person arrested for a technical violation on a pre-revocation warrant by the parole division. The bill also requires the parole board or a parole panel to make a final determination of a parole violation before issuing a warrant for arrest. Effective 9/1/2015.

Criminal Procedure
HB 1595 by Murr. Relating to testing certain defendants or confined persons for communicable diseases. Requires a person who is arrested for a misdemeanor or a felony to be tested for communicable diseases if a correctional officer or magistrate comes into contact with the person’s bodily fluids. Effective 6/17/2015.

SB 1902 by Perry. Relating to the eligibility of criminal defendants for an order of nondisclosure of criminal history record information; authorizing a fee. Allows issuance of an order of nondisclosure at the time of a defendant’s dismissal and discharge from a term of deferred adjudication community supervision of certain misdemeanor offenses if the person proves to the court eligibility for the order of nondisclosure and pays a $28 fine. Expands eligibility for an order of nondisclosure to include certain offenders who have been convicted of certain non-violent offenses. Effective 9/1/2015.

Eminent Domain
SB 1812 by Kolkhorst. Relating to transparency in the reporting and public availability of information regarding eminent domain authority; providing a civil penalty. Requires the comptroller of public accounts to create and make accessible on a website an eminent domain database containing certain information regarding public and private entities, including common carriers, authorized by the state by a general or special law to exercise the power of eminent domain. Requires each applicable entity to report to the comptroller certain information as prescribed by the bill on an annual basis, provides for civil penalties for an entity's noncompliance with that reporting requirement, and authorizes the attorney general to sue to collect a civil penalty. Provides that the reporting, failure to report, or late submission of a report by a public or private entity does not affect the entity’s authority to exercise the power of eminent domain. The comptroller is required to create and post the database by September 1, 2016. Effective 6/19/2015.

HB 1794 by Geren. Relating to suits brought by local governments for violations of certain laws under the jurisdiction of, or rules adopted or orders or permits issued by, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; affecting civil penalties. Limits the amount that can be recovered by counties in civil suits brought against certain polluters. The first $4.3 million of the amount recovered in such a suit must be divided equally between the state and the county and any amount recovered in excess of $4.3 million shall be awarded to the state. Requires the trier of fact take into account certain current statutory factors in determining the amount of a civil penalty. Requires the county bring suit no later than the fifth anniversary of the earlier of either the violator notifying TCEQ or TCEQ notifying the violator of a notice of enforcement. Effective 9/1/2015.

Fees & Fines
HB 121 by Fletcher. Relating to an alternative means of payment of certain past due criminal fines and court costs. Allows a court to adopt an alternative procedure for collecting a past due payment on a judgment for a fine and related court costs if a capias pro fine has been issued on a case. Under the procedure, a peace officer is authorized to accept payment for past due fines/costs by credit or debit card, as authorized by the court, in lieu of arresting a person and taking them to jail. Effective 6/15/2015.

HB 2182 by Clardy. Relating to the collection and refunding of certain fees and deposits by a county clerk or district clerk; increasing certain fees. Allows the clerk to retain an administrative fee in an amount equal to 5 percent of the withdrawal but that may not exceed $50 in refunding a cash bail bond; Effective 9/1/2015. Raises the jury fee from $20 to $40 for a defendant convicted by a jury in a county court, county court at law, or a district court; Effective 1/01/2016. Allows the district clerk to collect a records archive fee, if adopted by commissioners court, not to exceed $10 on any court for which the district clerk accepts filings; Effective 1/01/2016. Requires the district clerk to collect fees for performing services related to a matter filed in a statutory county court that are the same fees allowed to be charged for performing those services in the district court; Effective 1/01/2016. Requires the district clerk and the clerk of a county court or statutory county court to collect a $40 jury fee for each civil case where there is a request for a jury trial; Effective 1/1/2016. Requires the county clerk to charge a $10 fee for the filing of a Claim Against Estate in a probate court action; Effective 1/1/2016.

HB 1150 by White, James. Relating to the sale of fireworks on and before certain holidays; affecting a provision subject to a criminal penalty. Authorizes a commissioners court to allow the sale of fireworks for the Texas Independence Day, San Jacinto Day, and Memorial Day fireworks seasons. Provides for the following selling periods if authorized by the commissioners court: beginning February 25 and ending at midnight on March 2; beginning April 16 and ending at midnight on April 21; and beginning the Wednesday before the last Monday in May and ending at midnight on the last Monday in May. Additionally, the bill provides specified dates by which a commissioners court must adopt an order regulating the sale or use of restricted fireworks during these new fireworks seasons in certain drought conditions. Effective 9/1/2015.

Indigent Defense
SB 1057 by Hinojosa. Relating to the provision of funding for indigent defense services. Authorizes continuing state grant funding at up to 50 percent of costs for regional public defender offices and authorizes the distribution of grants directly to such offices if each participating county satisfies to the Indigent Defense Commission that the county will provide funds to the office for the duration of the grant for at least half of the office's operational costs and other requirements are met. Effective 9/1/2015.

SB 1517 by Seliger. Relating to the appointment of counsel to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases. Revises provisions regarding the appointment of counsel when a defendant is arrested pursuant to a warrant issued in another county. Requires a court to appoint counsel for an eligible indigent defendant requesting counsel in the county that issued the warrant within a prescribed time frame regardless of whether the defendant is present within the county issuing the warrant. Requires the arresting county to appoint counsel for an indigent defendant for representation in certain habeas corpus and bail proceedings if the defendant has not been transferred to the custody of the county issuing the warrant before the 11th day after the date of the arrest and counsel has not otherwise been appointed for the defendant in the arresting county. Additionally, the bill authorizes the arresting county to seek reimbursement for the actual costs paid for the appointed counsel from the warrant-issuing county if counsel is appointed in the arresting county as required by law, among other provisions. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 549 by Johnson. Relating to certain duties of the Commission on Jail Standards regarding visitation periods for county jail prisoners. Requires the Commission on Jail Standards to adopt reasonable rules and procedures for prisoner visitation that provide each prisoner at a county jail with a minimum of two in-person, noncontact visitation periods per week of at least 20 minutes duration each. This prohibits video-only visitation in county jails and requires counties to plan for the building and staffing to accommodate in-person visitation.

Provides that a county is exempt from the new jail standard if it has already incurred significant design, engineering or construction costs to provide visitation that does not comply with the standard as of Sept. 1, 2015 or if it does not have the physical capability to provide in-person visitation. Effective 9/1/2015.\

HB 875 by Farias. Relating to the verification of the veteran status of inmates and prisoners. Requires the Commission on Jail Standards to require the sheriff of each county to investigate and verify the veteran status of each prisoner by using data made available from the Veterans Reentry Search Service (VRSS) operated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or a similar service and use the data to assist prisoners who are veterans in applying for federal benefits or compensation for which the prisoners may be eligible under a program administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 904 by Smith. Relating to the transfer of certain inmates to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice following pronouncement of the inmate's sentence. Mandates an offender who has been convicted of a felony and who is ineligible for bond to be transferred to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice pending an appeal. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 1140 by Israel. Relating to the confinement of pregnant prisoners in county jails. Requires a county jail to notify the Commission on Jail Standards of any change in the jail’s policies and procedures related to the provision of health care to pregnant prisoners and the placement of a pregnant prisoner in solitary confinement or administrative segregation. Requires each sheriff to report to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards by September 1, 2016, detailed information regarding health care, housing conditions, chemical dependency treatment, OBGYN and prenatal care, nutritional standards and caloric intake, situations requiring restraints, and the number of miscarriages experienced by pregnant inmates; expires February 1, 2017. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 2150 by Alvarado. Relating to the organization of a grand jury. Revises the process for organizing a grand jury. Eliminates the position of jury commissioner. Requires the court to select 12 persons to serve as grand jurors and four additional persons to serve as alternate grand jurors, and specifies certain causes for which a challenge to a grand juror can be made, among other provisions. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 2747 by Landgraf. Relating to qualifications to serve as a petit juror. Amends the general qualifications for jury service. Provides that a juror is required to be a citizen of the United States and resident of the state and the county where the person is to serve. Effective 9/1/2015.


Juvenile Justice
HB 2398 by White, James. Relating to court jurisdiction and procedures relating to truancy; establishing judicial donation trust funds; providing criminal penalties; imposing a court cost. Removes the criminal charges for truancy and failure to attend school and makes them civil charges. Entitles an individual previously convicted of a truancy offense or who had a complaint for a truancy charge dismissed to an expunction. Raises the age of mandatory school attendance from 17 to 18 years of age. Authorizes the commissioners court to establish a judicial donation trust fund, as well as the procedures to receive and disburse funds, to assist children and families who appear in court for a criminal offense or truant conduct.

Not later than January 1, 2016, counties with two or more courts hearing truancy cases and two or more school districts must appoint a committee to recommend, by May 1, 2016, a uniform truancy policy and a local plan with strategies to address truancy prevention, intervention and diversion. Establishes truancy courts, which include justice and municipal courts, as well as the constitutional county court in a county with a population of 1.75 million or more. Truancy courts are civil, not criminal, and retain jurisdiction over a person until final disposition. If a school district's truancy prevention measures fail to address the student's conduct, the student may be referred to a truancy court. Authorizes a truancy court to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child in certain circumstances. Certain fines may be assessed to students and parents for their role in failure to attend. Students who are homeless, pregnant, in foster care or are principal earners for the family are exempt from being referred by a school district to truancy court. Effective 9/1/2015.

SB 1630 by Whitmire. Relating to the commitment of juveniles in post-adjudication secure correctional facilities operated by the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and by local probation departments. Requires the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) to develop a regionalization plan that would keep adjudicated youth within their home regions and to identify available capacity at post-adjudication facilities by August 31, 2016. The commitment of youth to TJJD would be limited to determinate sentenced youth unless the court determines that the person has behavioral health or other special needs that cannot be addressed locally. The regionalization plan must include mechanisms to divert an additional 180 youth from TJJD commitment over the next biennium. The bill also expands the duties of the Office of Independent Ombudsman to include oversight of local post-adjudication facilities and any other facilities where youth are placed by court order. Effective 9/1/2015.

Mental Health
HB 1329 by Naishtat. Relating to the payment of costs incurred by the involuntary commitment of persons with mental illness. Clarifies that the county in which a person is originally detained for involuntary commitment with a mental illness is responsible for the costs, regardless of which governmental entity picks up the person and initiates the commitment process. Prevents counties from paying the costs incurred during involuntary commitment proceedings from fees collected under Section 51.704 of the Government Code which are to be used for court-related purposes for the support of the judiciary. Effective 9/1/2015.

SB 1507 by Garcia. Relating to the statewide coordination and oversight of forensic mental health services overseen by the Department of State Health Services, including the appointment of a forensic director. Directs the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to appoint a forensic director to be responsible for statewide coordination, oversight, and delivery of forensic services, including input regarding the regional allocation of mental health beds for forensic patients and other patients with mental illness. Requires DSHS to convene the statewide mental health advisory committee, as established by HB 3793 in the 83rd Session, to develop and make recommendations to the agency regarding the allocation and number of state-funded beds in state hospitals and other inpatient facilities. The bill also requires the development of a training curriculum for judges and attorneys on treatment alternatives to help divert appropriate patients from inpatient hospitalization at state mental health hospitals. Effective 5/28/2015.

Open Government
HB 685 by Sheets. Relating to the production of public information under the public information law. Allows a public information officer of a political subdivision to refer a requestor of public information to the exact Internet location or uniform resource locator (URL) address on a website maintained by the political subdivision if the requested information is identifiable and readily available on that website. If the requestor prefers a manner other than an Internet location, the political subdivision must provide the requested information by inspection or duplication or by receipt through United States mail. Effective 9/1/2015.

Property Tax
HB 1933 by Darby. Relating to installment payments of ad valorem taxes. Intends to provide clarity, consistency and flexibility for both property owners and tax offices in the implementation and administration of installment plans for property taxes. Clarifies when each installment is due when the delinquency date is February 1 and when the delinquency date is a date other than February 1. Replaces the word “amount” with “installment” in order to clarify that any potential application of penalty and interest on a delinquent installment is assessed against each separate installment payment as opposed to the entire outstanding amount. This change clarifies the original intent of this language and reduces the potential amount of penalty and interest a property owner would pay. Monthly installment payments are not required to be equal providing flexibility to property owners and tax assessor-collectors to structure payments that balance the needs of property owners and the taxing units.  Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 1953 by Bonnen, Dennis. Relating to the deadline for counties and municipalities to provide notice of a proposed property tax rate. Extends the deadline by which a county or municipality must provide notice of a proposed property tax rate and post that notice on the county's or municipality's website from September 1 to the 30th day after the first date that the county or municipality has received each applicable certified appraisal roll, provided that date is later than September 1. Effective 1/1/2016; applies only to an ad valorem tax year that begins on or after the effective date of this bill.

SB 1 by Nelson/SJR1 by Nelson. Relating to certain restrictions on the imposition of ad valorem taxes and to the duty of the state to reimburse certain political subdivisions for certain revenue loss; making conforming changes. Requires a school district to exempt $25,000 of the value of a residence homestead from taxation. Requires a provisional tax bill to be sent that includes a statement detailing how much will be saved on that tax bill due to the passage of this bill. A tax bill sent in accordance with this bill is considered a provisional tax bill until the canvass of votes on the constitutional amendment proposed by SJR 1. If the amendment is approved by voters, the tax bill is considered to be a final tax bill for the 2015 tax year. If the amendment is not approved, a supplemental tax bill must be sent. SJR 1 also makes any law that imposes a transfer tax on a transaction that conveys a fee simple title to real property unconstitutional. Effective on the date on which SJR 1 takes effect, except for certain sections. If SJR 1 is not approved by voters, this Act has no effect. Constitutional Amendment Election Date 11/3/2015.

SB 1760 by Creighton. Relating to the transparent and equitable application of ad valorem taxation procedures. Amends Chapter 26 of the Tax Code, regarding property tax assessment, to provide that for taxing units other than school districts at least 60 percent of the members of the governing body must vote in favor to adopt a tax rate that exceeds the effective tax rate. For a school district, a vote setting a tax rate that exceeds the sum of the effective maintenance and operations tax rate and the current debt rate must be a record vote, and at least 60 percent of the members of the governing body must vote in favor of the ordinance, resolution or order.
Permits a court to give preference to testimony regarding excessive or unequal property appraisal of an appraisal district employee who is authorized to appraise real estate under Section 1103.201 of the Occupations Code. Modifies the interest rate on a refund to a taxpayer after a court determination that lowers the taxpayer's tax bill from 2 percent plus the prime rate (capped at 8 percent) to an annual rate of 9.5 percent.
Provides that the newspaper and internet tax rate notice for cities and counties proposing a tax rate that exceeds the lower of the effective tax rate or the rollback tax rate must be provided not later than the later of September 1 or the 30th day after the date the taxing unit received each applicable certified appraisal roll, rather than not later than September 1. Effective 1/1/2016 except Section 9 takes effect 1/1/2020.

HB 1295 by Capriglione. Relating to the disclosure of research, research sponsors, and interested parties by persons contracting with governmental entities and state agencies. Prohibits a governmental entity, including a county, from entering into a contract with a business entity that requires an action or vote by the governing body before the contract may be signed or has a value of at least $1 million unless the business entity submits a disclosure of interested parties to the governmental entity. An interested party is defined as a person who has a controlling interest in a business entity with whom a governmental entity contracts or who actively participates in facilitating or negotiating the terms of the contract. The required disclosure of interested parties must be submitted on a form prescribed by the Texas Ethics Commission. Additionally, the governmental entity must submit a copy of the disclosure to the Texas Ethics Commission not later than the 30th day after the date the governmental entity receives a disclosure. Applies to contracts entered into on or after January 1, 2016. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 283 by Fallon. Relating to the requirement that certain governmental bodies make audio and video recordings of open meetings available on the Internet. Requires certain political subdivisions, including a county with a population of 125,000 or more, to make a video and audio recording of each regularly scheduled open meeting and post an archived copy of the recording on the Internet. Effective 1/1/2016.

HB 1378 by Flynn. Relating to the fiscal transparency and accountability of political subdivisions. Requires a political subdivision to annually compile and report certain debt information. Requires a political subdivision to ensure that the report is posted on the subdivision’s website and made available for inspection. As an alternative, the political subdivision may instead provide the information to the Comptroller for posting on the Comptroller’s website. If the political subdivision has a website, it must link to the information on the Comptroller’s website. The bill also prohibits, except under certain circumstances, a governing body of certain political subdivisions from authorizing a certificate to pay a contractual obligation if an issuance of bonds for the same purpose failed to be approved by voters within the preceding three years. Effective 1/1/2016.

HB 1709 by Harless. Relating to the closing, abandoning, and vacating of a public road by a county; authorizing the imposition of a fee. Allows a county to recoup administrative costs and reimbursement for the market value of any property interest conveyed to the owner as a result of the county closing, abandoning, and vacating a public road. Requires the county to notify appropriate public utilities or common carriers of the proposal. Effective 6/16/2015.

HB 1949 by Springer. Relating to the annexation of certain roads and areas adjacent to those roads. Requires a municipality that proposes to annex any portion of a county road, regardless of whether the road is paved, or territory that abuts a county road, to also annex the adjacent right-of-way on both sides of the road, clarifying responsibilities for maintenance of the road area. Provides that if the annexed road is a gravel road, the county retains control of granting access to the road and its right-of-way from property that is not located in the boundaries of the annexing municipality and is adjacent to the road and right-of-way. Effective 9/1/2015.

HB 2521 by Coleman. Relating to the allocation and use of payments received under oil and gas leases of land owned by the state for a county road. Transfers from the state to a county the revenue derived from oil and gas leases owned by the county. Beginning September 1, 2017, the bill dedicates payments received from leases of the state’s mineral interest from land under county roads to the new County Road Oil and Gas Fund, held outside the state treasury. Funds from the account will be paid to the county at least twice annually by the Comptroller for only road maintenance purposes. Prior to 1960, counties used revenue from county road right-of-way (ROW) oil and gas leases for constitutional purposes. Based on AG Opinion WW-870, revenue from county ROW leases is currently deposited into the State General Fund. The bill seeks to return that revenue to the county of origin. Effective 9/1/2017.

SJR 5 by Nichols. Proposing a constitutional amendment dedicating a portion of the revenue derived from the state sales and use tax and the tax imposed on the sale, use, or rental of a motor vehicle to the state highway fund. Dedicates revenues from portions of the state sales tax and motor vehicle sales tax to road infrastructure. The constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would direct up to $2.5 billion of the revenue derived from the general sales tax that exceeds the first $28 billion collected to the State Highway Fund beginning in fiscal year 2018. It would also direct an amount equal to 35 percent of the revenue from the motor vehicle sales tax that exceeds the first $5 billion collected to the same fund beginning in fiscal year 2020. Furthermore, the resolution limits the use of the money to maintain, construct or acquire right-of-way for public roads other than toll roads and for the payment of debt. Election Date 11/3/2015.

SJR 17 by Perry. Proposing a constitutional amendment relating to private road work by certain counties. Raises the population threshold and authorizes a county with a population of 7,500 or less to construct and maintain private roads if it charges a reasonable fee for the work. Election Date 11/3/2015.

Vital Statistics
SB 983 by Bettencourt. Relating to restrictions on the assessment of the fee charged for issuance of certain birth records. Prohibits the state registrar, local registrar, or a county clerk from charging a fee to an applicant requesting a birth certificate for the purposes of obtaining an election identification certificate. Entitles the local registrar or county clerk to payment from the Department of State Health Services of all or a portion of the fee that they would otherwise be entitled to retain for issuing the birth record. Effective 5/27/2015.

SB 1485 by Garcia. Relating to the availability of death records of unidentified persons. Establishes that a death record of an unidentified person is public information and available to the public after the first anniversary of the date of death. Effective 6/1/2015.