© 2017 by Kevin Stewart

Texas Legislative Law Handbook

BY KEVIN STEWART

May 20, 2017

     On May 15th, Kirk Watson tweeted, “With some bipartisan maneuvering, the #TXSenate gave new life to bills that ensure Texans can access public info.” The maneuvering he was referring to was getting SB 407 and SB 408 tacked on to HB 2328 on the Senate floor. On Thursday, HB 2328 was returned to the Senate because of those nongermane amendments.

     Rule 13, Section 5A of the House Rules states:

When a house bill or joint resolution, other than the general appropriations bill, with senate amendments is returned to the house, the speaker, with the permission of the primary author of the bill or resolution, may return the bill or resolution to the senate if the speaker determines that the senate amendments are not germane to the house version of the bill or resolution.

     HB 2328 was the first bill that the Speaker returned to the Senate this session, but the move is far from unprecedented. In the 84th, the Speaker returned HB 1630 because the Senate attached SB 20...

May 16, 2017

     On May 12th, the Texas Supreme Court released its opinion in BankDirect Capital Finance v. Plasma Fab. Back in 2008, Plasma Fab obtained liability insurance financed through BankDirect. Pursuant to their agreement, BankDirect could cancel the policy only after it mailed notice in accordance with Section 651.161 of the Texas Premium Finance Act. The statute requires notice to include a time by which the default must be cured, which "may not be earlier than the 10th day after the date the notice is mailed." In this case, BankDirect sent a notice to cancel coverage to Plasma Fab. Plasma Fab did not pay within 10 days, so BankDirect sent a cancellation notice. This had happened two times in the past, and BankDirect had always reinstated the policy after Plasma Fab's delinquent payment. A few days after the cancellation notice, an apartment complex that Plasma Fab owned burned down. Plasma Fab then tried to pay the delinquent premium and collect for the damage.

     Plasm...

May 11, 2017

     On Tuesday, a point of order was sustained under Rule 8, Section 1: the bill caption is inaccurate. HB 731 by Rep. Bohac would have made certain threats by gang members a third degree felony. The caption referenced an "offense," rather than specifying that it related to a criminal offense. Therefore, the caption violated Rule 8, Section 1(c). This was almost exactly like the point of order that was sustained on HB 1156 by Rep. Sarah Davis that would criminalize the unlawful restraint of a dog (discussed in a post on May 3rd).

     Unlike the point of order on Sarah Davis' bill, though, HB 731 was on third reading. This is a key distinction. When a bill passes on 2nd reading, points of order based on the work of the committee are "scrubbed" from the bill and not eligible to be called on 3rd reading. Thus, if you don’t call such a point of order on second reading, it is waived (see Handbook §6.3). However, points of order based on constitutional provisions have special...

May 9, 2017

     This session has seen a dramatic rise in the popularity of points of order based on the caption rules—Rule 8, Section 1 (§2.2 of the Handbook). This session, the caption rule may exceed the form of reports rule (Rule 4, Section 32) as the most cited rule in the journal.

     It started with the point of order on Representative Leach's bill, HB 486.  On Wednesday, a point of order based on the same rule, Rule 8, Section 1(a), was overruled on CSHB 1102. The caption said "relating to providing a telephone number for certain governmental purposes." The bill actually contained six separate, somewhat unrelated purposes. The chair held that each purpose was properly contained in what is clearly a broad caption.

     Both captions were broad, but there is a distinction. HB 486 is specific to the calculation of a rollback tax rate, but the breadth of its caption—"relating to school district ad valorem tax rates"—obscured that purpose. The c...

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