The 87th Legislative Session adjourned “Sine Die” on May 31. The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days every two years to conduct the business of the state. The Legislature is required by the Texas Constitution to pass a budget for the next two years, but thousands of other bills are proposed each session, with only about one out of five passing. This session is no different, although several high-priority legislative items were unique to this session, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and devastating winter storms.
Each session, many bills affect the home building industry — bills tracked by our friends at the Texas Association of Builders number in the hundreds, some that would improve our industry, but many that would be detrimental. Fortunately, as we neared the end of the session, many of those “bad bills” have been caught on the wrong side of legislative deadlines, essentially “killing” the bills (although no bill is dead until the Legislature finally adjourns).
Below are highlights of some of the important bills that were working their way through the legislative process:
• HB 738 by Rep. Dennis Paul — This bill requires that cities update their building codes to at least the 2012 International Code Council codes. Some cities are operating on codes from 2001 and this bill would force those cities to modernize their code. The bill has passed out of the Senate and is on its way back to the House for final review before heading to the Governor’s desk to be signed.
• HB 3422 by Rep. Geanie Morrison — This bill increases penalties for scam contractors. After any major disaster, there is a flurry of fly-by-night contractors who take deposits from unsuspecting homeowners and then disappear before the work ever begins. This bill will increase penalties on those scam businesses. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Business & Commerce, where it will need to be heard and voted out before heading to the full Senate.
• SB 877 by Sen. Kelly Hancock — This bill allows for the use of third-party inspectors during times of declared disaster. As we saw during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many city inspection departments were unable to operate at full capacity, leaving thousands of homes waiting for inspections before homeowners could move in. This bill was passed out of the Senate and is waiting to be voted on by the entire house.
• SB 1947 by Sen. Drew Springer — This bill will require a city to approve an application within a 45-day period (which is current law) and prohibits a city from requiring that an applicant waive their right to the 45-day timeline. Although cities are required by law to approve the permit within 45 days, many cities will require waivers or simply not adhere to the timeline. This bill has been voted out of the Senate and now heads to the House Committee on Land & Resource Management to be swapped out with its house bill companion, HB 2590 by Rep. Jeff Leach.
These are a few of the bills that affect our industry. There are many other bills, both good and bad, impacting our industry that will not be signed into law. Oftentimes, these bills are multi-session efforts and could potentially be refiled and debated in future sessions.
The HBA’s advocacy team will continue to work hard and represent our members at the city and county level, as well as the Texas Capitol in cooperation with our state counterpart, the Texas Association of Builders. Advocacy is a core tenant of our association and a tremendous benefit to our members. You can learn more about our advocacy efforts at https://www.hbaaustin.com/advocacy/.