SESSION SUMMARY – 85TH TEXAS LEGISLATURE

85th Legislative Session Summary

As long-time Capitol groupies can attest, each and every legislative session has its own personality.  This one was no different.  Some say it “came in like a lion,” but few would say it “went out like a lamb.”  On the contrary, the atmosphere was acrimonious from the beginning and pretty much stayed that way throughout the 140 days. The reasons are multi-faceted. Depending on who you ask, some blame the perceived direct hostility toward groups like immigrants, women, and transgender children, just to name a few.  Some say it was caused by the state’s revenues shortfalls leaving legislators with less money to spend.  Some point to the emphasis on social issues instead of business and economic concerns. And some say it was just politics, as we have come to know it, from the Big Three (Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker) on down.

Regardless of the reason, the 85th Legislature did pass the only bill that is constitutionally required.  SB 1 — the $217 billion biennial budget — was certified this week by Comptroller Glenn Hegar and is now in the hands of Governor Abbott to sign as-is, or for selective line-item veto.  Other major legislation included critical reform of Child Protective Services (CPS), a ban on sanctuary cities, some ethics reform and a resolution in the case of an Article V Convention of the States.  However, Lt. Governor Patrick’s priorities of tax reform, bathrooms and school vouchers and Speaker Straus’ school finance plan will have to live to fight another day.  The Governor advised today that he will not make any special session announcements before next week, and it appears the failed sunset bill for the Texas Medical Board could possibly be addressed without a special session.

Despite the turbulence of the 85th legislative session, TCJL had a very successful session.  Please contact TCJL staff for any questions or additional information on issues covered below.

 

TCJL Program of Work

ADA Drive-by Lawsuits
Signed by the Governor

HB 1463 by Representative John Smithee (R-Amarillo) and Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) deals with so-called “drive-by” lawsuits in which plaintiff’s attorneys demand specified “settlement” amounts from businesses for alleged violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. These demand letters sometimes allege minor technical violations based on little more than a Google Map search of a business premises, and can be directed at any “place of public accommodation,” whether a physical location or online.

The bill requires a claimant to give 60 days’ notice to a business of intent to file a claim under the state version of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The notice must disclose the name of the individual asserting the claim (no more demand letters from law firms on their own behalf), the nature of each alleged violation, and the time, place, and manner in which the claimant discovered the violation. A notice may not make a demand for damages, request settlement, or offer to settle a claim without a determination of whether the condition stated by the notice is excused by law or may be remedied. The claimant must prove by a preponderance of evidence that the respondent has not remedied an alleged violation, and a respondent can ask the court for an additional 60 days’ abatement of the action to complete corrections already initiated when suit is filed. Finally, the bill allows a respondent to move for dismissal without prejudice or summary judgment if the respondent has corrected violations.

Most claims of this nature are filed under the federal ADA, and the Texas Legislature has no authority to change federal law.  Passage of this bill ensures that expected future changes to federal law will not result in a flood of transfers and filings in state court. Texas law will now provide a procedural framework and an opportunity to make corrections, and will discourage abuse and frivolous litigation. Signed by the Governor.  Effective September 1, 2017.

 

Hail Litigation
Signed by the Governor

Legislation aimed at ending the mass filing of hailstorm and weather-related property and casualty insurance claims finally made it to the Governor’s desk and has been signed into law. HB 1774 by Representative Greg Bonnen (R-Galveston) and Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) originally applied to all first party claims but was narrowed to claims arising from losses caused by a “violent act of nature, including an earthquake or earth tremor, wildfire, flood, tornado, lightning, hurricane, hail, wind, snow, or rain.”

Key provisions include: no application to actions arising under policies issued by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association; lower interest penalty on late payment; required 60-day presuit notice with detailed information about the claim and incurred fees; right of inspection by insurer; immunity for an agent if the insurer accepts liability; and a limitation on attorney’s fees.  Signed by the Governor.  Effective September 1, 2017.

 

Foreign Money Judgment Act
Signed by the Governor

A bill with significant implications for businesses doing business in foreign jurisdictions, SB 944 by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and Representative Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches). SB 944 adopts the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act and repeals the current law governing enforcement of foreign judgments (Ch. 36, CPRC). The bill adds two provisions to current law allowing a Texas court to decline to recognize a foreign judgment if: (1) the foreign judgment was rendered in circumstances that raise substantial doubt about the integrity of the rendering court with respect to the judgment; or (2) the specific proceeding in the foreign court leading to the judgment was not compatible with the requirements of due process of law. The bill responds to a U.S. 5TH Circuit Court of Appeals decision declining to enjoin enforcement of a judgment obtained against a Texas business in a Moroccan proceeding with serious due process irregularities. The bill applies to a pending suit in which the recognition of a foreign judgment has been raised, regardless of when the suit was filed.  Signed by the Governor.  Effective September 1, 2017.

 

Chapter 18 Medical Affidavits
Dead in committee

Chapter 18, Civil Practice & Remedies Code, governs the submission of medical expenses in litigation involving personal injuries. The intent of Chapter 18 is to provide a streamlined process by which plaintiffs can submit medical records to the court without having to bring witnesses to testify regarding the accuracy of the records or the reasonableness and necessity of the charges. Problems arise under current law, however, because of the timeframe in which a defendant may file a controverting affidavit to contest the reasonableness and necessity of the charges is so short that the defendant runs the risk of either hiring an unnecessary expert to review the records or failing to controvert unnecessary or unreasonable medical expenses. Furthermore, some plaintiff’s attorneys contract with health care providers or use third party factors to defer billing third party payers until after the litigation, making it appear that medical expenses—particularly those covered by insurance—have not been paid. The use of these tactics clearly frustrates the purpose of the paid or incurred rule and have become the subject of litigation. Finally, some courts have interpreted the affidavit of medical expenses to create a presumption that the charges themselves are reasonable and necessary, even though the affidavit can be executed by a custodian of records with no actual knowledge of the charges themselves.

Based on these concerns, TCJL and a number of other parties sought legislation to reform Chapter 18. As filed, HB 2301 by Representative Mike Schofield (R-Katy) amended §18.001, CPRC, to extend the date of service of an affidavit of medical expenses to the earlier of 60 days before trial or the date the offering party must designate experts in order to give a defendant more time to verify the records and determine whether to controvert them. The bill required a party intending to controvert the affidavit to serve a copy of the counter-affidavit by the earlier of 30 days before trial or the date the party must designate experts and allowed a party or the party’s attorney to make the counter-affidavit. Finally, it provided that the affidavit of medical expenses does not create a presumption that the amount charged was reasonable or the service necessary. HB 2301 was heard in House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on April 11 but did not advance from committee.

TCJL worked with other stakeholders to negotiate a compromise on HB 2301. The parties tentatively came up with a substitute that would have moved the deadline to the earlier of 90 days before trial or the date the offering party must designate experts. A controverting affidavit would have to be filed by the earlier of 60 days before trial or the expert designation date. In either case, an affidavit could not be used as evidence of proximate cause. Finally, a party could supplement the affidavit 30 days before trial to reflect continuing services, with a controverting affidavit due 14 days before trial. Unfortunately, the proposed compromise did not receive sufficient support and time ran out before further changes could be crafted to satisfy lingering concerns with the bill. Dead, though this issue will certainly be back next session.

 

Effort to Raise Medical Liability Caps
Dead in committee

For the first time in several sessions, legislation was filed to raise the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in health care liability claims. HB 719 by Representative Gene Wu (D-Houston) would have indexed the cap by cumulative changes in the Consumer Price Index between September 1, 2003 and the date of the final judgment or settlement. Indexing would also apply to the liability limits and financial responsibility amounts in §74.302, CPRC. The bill was heard in House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on March 28 and left pending for the remainder of the session. TCJL and others vigorously opposed this legislation.

 

Eminent Domain… Again
Dead in committee

In 2007, and then again in 2011, the Legislature passed what was thought to be sweeping changes to the condemnation process making the laws more favorable to Texas landowners.  Most notably, in 2011, the Legislature passed SB 18 by Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), requiring condemning authorities, among other requirements, to provide property owners with the “Landowner Bill of Rights.”

Despite those changes, groups representing large numbers of landowners, including the Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Wildlife Association, believe that “condemning entities continue to hold an unfair advantage over landowners who are forced to sell their property without truly being made whole when their property is taken.”  In response, a number of bills focusing on various aspects of the eminent domain process were filed.  The most comprehensive were SB 740 by Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and HB 3284 by DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne).   Elements of these comprehensive bills were also included in HB 3687 by Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin); HB 2694 by Kyle Kacal (R-College Station); HB 3170 by Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia); HB 2556 by Justin Holland (R-Rockwall); HB 528 by Mike Schofield (R-Houston); HB 2076 by Leighton Schubert (R-Brenham); SB 626, 627 and 628 by Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown); and HB 2090 by Gary VanDeaver (R-Bowie).

Going into the legislative session, passage of eminent domain reform appeared inevitable given the momentum surrounding anecdotal stories shared by landowner groups.  While we acknowledge the landowners’ frustrations, it was imperative for the Legislature to hear from the industries responsible for building critical infrastructure in Texas.  In an unprecedented display of cohesiveness, industry came together and created the Coalition for Critical Infrastructure.  Due to the fee component (discussed below) and past experience managing project coalitions, TCJL was selected to coordinate the effort.  The Coalition’s role was to ensure that changes to the eminent domain laws were done in a balanced way recognizing the growing needs in Texas for roads and highways; oil, natural gas and water pipelines; electric transmission and distribution lines; and other important infrastructure. The Coalition included both public and private entities, all with statutory or common law condemnation authority.

As evidenced by its inclusion in the Texas Constitution, the use of eminent domain is essential to meeting the needs of millions of Texans. However, having one’s property taken under the threat of eminent domain is not a desirable outcome for a significant number of property owners.  With this understanding, the Coalition endeavored to negotiate a bill with the landowner groups in an effort to address the perceived grievance of an unequal playing field between the landowners and the entities with condemnation authority.

From late January through early May, TCJL and coalition attorneys spent hours with the landowner groups and interested legislators working in good faith to strike a balance and further ensure that the process was transparent, efficient, and just. The goal was to achieve a strong and durable framework that would treat property owners respectfully and fairly, promote the efficient and timely resolution of disputes, and strengthen long-term relationships between property owners and infrastructure developers.

From the beginning, stakeholders knew there were some areas of fundamental disagreement.  The most significant, from the outset, and the main reason TCJL became initially involved, was the landowner position that the condemning entities should be responsible for landowner attorney fees in some circumstances.  Having been intimately involved in tort reform and lawsuit abuse fights over the past 30 years, TCJL was well-positioned to share this established fact:  a fee proposal would only increase the overall cost of projects, resulting in additional money going to lawyers, and not necessarily to actual landowners.  Virtually all projects with condemnation authority are ultimately paid by average citizens, whether directly through tax-funded projects, or indirectly through rates paid for utility and energy infrastructure. With the understanding that the attorney fee proposal was unacceptable, the Coalition worked to find other meaningful areas of agreement. Despite these efforts, just prior to striking a final deal, the landowner groups withdrew from discussions and declined to move forward.  Regardless of the coalition effort, many existing TCJL members would be affected by changes to eminent domain law, and TCJL remains committed to having open and productive dialogue with all stakeholders, including landowners, going forward.  Dead in committee.

 

COURTS & JUDICIARY

Expedited Trial Expansion 
Dead in the House

HB 2574 by Representative Andrew Murr (R-Junction) proposed to raise the damages limit for an expedited trial from $100,000 to $200,000, excluding attorney’s fees. Following negotiations between TCJL, TADC, TTLA, and TLR, Representative Murr agreed to a committee substitute that maintained the $100,000 limit, exclusive of attorney’s fees, which could not exceed $50,000. The bill was reported favorably as substituted from House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on May 1, but did not advance to the House floor before the deadline for consideration.  Not received in Calendars.  Dead.

 

Elimination of Straight Ticket Voting
Signed by the Governor

The Legislature made an important and somewhat surprising change this session that could significantly affect voting in judicial (and other) elections. HB 25 by Representative Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) and Senator Hancock eliminates straight ticket voting in all elections effective September 1, 2020. Part of the impetus for this change is the partisan sweeps in some metropolitan counties in presidential elections years.  Democrats have signaled that they will challenge this new law in court as an impermissible burden on minority voting rights.  Signed by the Governor. Effective September 1, 2020.

 

Judicial Qualifications and Terms
Dead in the Senate

More specific to the judiciary, HJR 10 by Representative Smithee and Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) would have changed the qualifications for election to the Supreme Court to require 10 years of law practice in Texas or 10 years of service on a state or statutory county court. The resolution also strengthened the qualifications for district court judges from four to six years of law practice or judicial service. HJR 10 passed the House and made it out of Senate committee, but died on the Senate Intent Calendar. Proposals to lengthen the terms of office of district judges from four to six years and appellate justices from six to eight years likewise did not survive this session.  TCJL supported these changes and will encourage another attempt in 2019.  Dead on Senate Intent.

 

Judicial Petitions
Signed by the Governor

Fortunately, the legislature did restore the petition requirement for a place on the ballot for a judicial office in a county with a population of at least 1.5 million. SB 44 by Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and Representative Schofield requires the petition to contain at least 250 signatures (500 if the candidate chooses not to pay the filing fee), except that candidates for the supreme court or court of criminal appeals must gather at least 50 signatures from each court of appeals district. Signed by the Governor.  Effective immediately May 23, 2017.

 

Political Contributions by Judicial Candidates
Sent to the Governor

HB 3903 by Representative Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale) and Senator Huffman lifts the limitation in current law that restricts a judicial candidate’s ability to make contributions to a state or county party executive committee for goods and services, including campaign advertising and communications, that benefit the candidate.  The bill addresses recent Ethics Commission rulings that sanctioned certain judicial candidates for making contributions for such services in excess of the candidate’s “pro rata share” of the committee’s overhead, administrative, and operating costs. This vague standard did not adequately reflect the value of the goods and services to the candidate, so the legislation seeks a more flexible rule. HB 3903 should allow judicial candidates to use party services more effectively. Moreover, the potential elimination of straight ticket voting will put down-ballot judicial candidates at a disadvantage, which may make a coordinated campaign with the parties an even more important means of getting the judicial candidate’s name before the voters.

The bill also clarifies that judicial candidates can use political funds to purchase tickets or sponsorships for party and affiliated entity events and fundraisers. At the request of many members of the judiciary, TCJL became involved in the bill late in the process when it appeared that it would subject judicial candidates to unlimited fundraising appeals from party affiliates. In response to our concerns, Senator Huffman amended the bill on the Senate floor to specify the nature of the permissible contributions.  Sent to the Governor May 24.  Effective September 1, 2017 if signed.

 

Supreme Court Jurisdiction
Signed by the Governor

This session, TCJL supported modernization of the statutory provisions governing the jurisdiction of the Texas Supreme Court. HB 1761 by Representative Smithee and Senator Hughes revises the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to apply to any appeal that presents a question important to the jurisprudence of the state. The bill eliminates the archaic language referring to a writ or error and clarifies that an appeal to the court is carried by a petition for review. Finally, HB 1761 repeals obsolete jurisdictional provisions in the Government Code.  Signed by the Governor. Effective September 1, 2017.

 

New District and County Courts
Sent to the Governor

Despite state budget challenges, the Legislature created a number of new district and county courts-at-law to handle increasing population in several parts of the state. SB 1329 by Senator Huffman and Representative Smithee creates new district courts in Fort Bend, Travis, Denton, and Hidalgo counties.  It also creates new statutory county courts in Fort Bend, Denton, Grimes and Hays counties.  Sent to the Governor May 30.  Effective September 1, if signed.

 

Administrative Judicial Regions
Sent to the Governor

SB 1893 by Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) and Representative Smithee expands the number of administrative judicial regions in the state from 9 to 11. The changes take counties out of the First and Second Regions and create new regions in East Texas (Tenth) and Harris and surrounding suburban counties (Eleventh). The Governor has until September 1, 2017 to appoint presiding judges for the new regions.  Sent to the Governor May 28.  Effective September 1, 2017 if signed.

 

CONSTRUCTION LAW BILLS GENERATE CONTROVERSY

This was an extremely active session for bills proposing significant changes to construction law and contracting practices. Some proposals focused on construction of public works, while others dealt with the allocation of risk in construction projects more generally. The focus of controversy was SB 1215 by Senator Hughes, which provided that a contractor was not responsible for defects in, and may not warranty, the adequacy, suitability, accuracy, or sufficiency of plans, specifications, or other documents provided to the contractor by the client entity or client representative, including design professionals.  The bill as filed also barred the waiver of this provision so that it cannot be waived by contract, although a House committee amendment authorized a waiver if the contractor expressly agreed to it.

Faced with increasing opposition from property owners and others, SB 1215 was amended on the House floor to substitute an interim study on risk allocation in construction contracts in place of the original language of the bill. The study committee will be composed of members of the appropriate standing committees of the House and Senate appointed by the Speaker and Lt. Governor. Issues within the purview of the interim committee include indemnity, insurance, contract relations, allocation of responsibility, standards of care, warranties, civil actions, dispute resolution, and remedies.  Sent to the Governor May 28.  Effective September 1, 2017 if signed.

Other construction law bills:

HB 2121 by John Cyrier (R-Lockhart) – SB 1950 by Hughes: Allowed a contractor to recover attorney’s fees in a breach of contract action against the state if the claim is for engineering, architectural, or construction services (or materials relating to those services) and the amount in controversy if less than $250,000 (excluding penalties, costs, expenses, prejudgment interest, and attorney’s fees).  Sent to the Governor May 27.

 

HB 2128 by Cyrier – SB 1947 by Hughes: Waived sovereign immunity for a breach of contract claim against the state (current law requires breach of an “express provision” of a contract in order to waive sovereign immunity). Allowed a contractor to recover consequential damages for additional work performed at the direction of the agency. Allowed a contractor to recover attorney’s fees that are just and equitable (current law limits recovery to hourly rates, but only if recovery of attorney’s fees is permitted to all parties to the contract). HB 2128 was added as an amendment to a state agency contracting bill (SB 533) on the House floor on May 16, but the amendment was removed from SB 533 in conference committee.  Dead in Conference.

 

HB 2170 by Kyle Kacal (R-College Station): Created an implied guaranty and warranty of adequacy, accuracy, sufficiency, and suitability for plans, specifications, and related documents for the construction or repair of improvements to real property. Did not apply to a design professional, defined as registered architect or licensed engineer.  Not heard in committee. Dead.

 

HB 2343 by Paul Workman (R-Austin): As filed, the bill required a person with an interest in real property with an alleged construction defect to obtain a written report from an independent third-party licensed professional engineer prior to filing a lawsuit. Required the claimant to notify each party subject to the claim at least 10 days prior to the inspection and gives each party the right to attend the inspection. Creates a right to correct a construction defect or related condition identified in the report within 150 days. Tolled the statute of limitations for one year if the claim is brought in the final year of the limitations period. Provided for an abatement of a lawsuit for up to one year on a showing of non-compliance with the inspection requirement and dismissal with prejudice if the claimant does not comply. Excepted from the inspection and right to correct requirement: (1) a claim asserted by a contractor, subcontractor, supplier, or design professional; (2) a claim for personal injury, survival, or wrongful death; (3) a claim involving construction of residential property governed by Ch. 27, Property Code; (4) a defect or design claim covered by §82.119, Property Code (Uniform Condominium Act); (5) a contract entered into by TXDOT; or (6) a project that receives money from the state or federal highway fund. The bill was amended in committee to apply only to commercial property, specifically excluding industrial and residential property.  HB 2343 cleared House committee late in the session and was on the last House calendar, but time ran out before the bill could be considered.  Dead on the Calendar.

 

HB 2422 by Schofield: Required an affiant who produces a certificate of merit in an action against a licensed architect, engineer, surveyor, or landscape architect to establish the affiant’s familiarity or experience with the practice area at issue such that they establish the affiant’s to render the opinion on the issue. Required the affiant to attach a CV to the affidavit. HB 2422 was reported favorably from House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence in mid-April but was never scheduled for floor debate.   Not received in Calendars.  Dead.

 

SB 807 by Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) – HB 1844 by Workman: Defines “construction contract” for purposes of Ch. 272, Business & Commerce Code (contract provision that provides for venue, choice of law, or arbitration in another state voidable by the party obligated to perform the work) and includes in the provision collateral agreements to a construction contract.  Sent to the Governor May 28.  Effective September 1, 2017 if signed.

 

HB 1053 by Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas): Reduced the statute of repose for construction defect claims against architects, designers, or engineers from 10 to 5 years. HB 1053 was heard in House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on March 28 and left pending.  Dead in committee.

 

GUN LIABILITY

 Several bills were filed this session dealing with the consequences of a premises owner’s decision to allow or prohibit licensed handguns on the premises. The bill that finally emerged from House committee, HB 606 by Representative Drew Springer (R-Muenster), provided that no cause of action exists against the owner, lessee, or manager of property based on that person’s decision “not to exercise the option to forbid the carrying of handguns by a license holder on the property” by providing statutory notice. TCJL expressed concerns about this bill because it suggests a cause of action could lie against a business owner that exercises the legal option to forbid guns; only to have a third party incident give rise to liability — for a duty that does not actually exist. The possible unintended consequences and unforeseeable effects of this bill on premises liability law created an undue risk to property owners. The bill was reported from House Judiciary late in the session, but did not advance to the floor.  Not received in Calendars.  Dead.

ATTORNEY FEES

Attorney’s fees were a hot button item this session. Generally speaking, the Legislature looked more favorably on bills allowing the recovery of attorney’s fees in actions against local governments than it did on fee recovery in private actions. We’ve already mentioned HB 2121. Another example is HB 1704 by Representative John Kuempel (R-Seguin) and Senator Huffman, which authorizes a court to award attorney’s fees and court costs against a municipality in an action to enforce uniform permitting requirements under Chapter 245, Local Government Code.  Signed by the Governor.  Effective immediately May 29, 2017.

On the other side of the ledger, HB 744 by Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) would have amended §38.001, CPRC, to clarify that attorney’s fees cannot be recovered in the enumerated actions under the statute from the state, a state agency or institution, or political subdivision of the state. The bill also clarified that attorney’s fees can be recovered under this section against any legal entity, in addition to individuals and corporations. HB 744 was one of the first bills to pass the House this session (on March 15), but languished in the Senate. It was not referred to Senate committee until May 18, and no action was taken.  Not heard in committee. Dead.

Similarly, HB 2457 by Representative Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) and HB 2843 by Representative Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) proposed to amend §38.001, CPRC, to include business organizations (in addition to corporations) for purposes of fee recovery under the statute. HB 2457 was voted out of House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on May 2, but did not advance.  Not received in Calendars.  Dead.

 

CYBERBULLYING GOES TO GOVERNOR

The Legislature responded to recent horrifying incidents of cyberbullying by enacting SB 179 by Senator Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) and Representative Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio). As originally filed, SB 179 established a new cause of action for mental anguish damages against the parent or person responsible for a minor engaged in cyberbullying. The bill also authorized a court to issue a pre-suit subpoena to investigate a potential claim involving the death or injury of a minor or to perpetuate or obtain records or testimony related to a potential claim.

TCJL and others expressed concerns regarding the potential for lawsuits against providers of electronic devices or communications services and the possible conflict between the presuit subpoena power and federal law governing the privacy of certain electronic data maintained on personal devices. We are very grateful to the bill’s sponsors and supporters for hearing our concerns and working with us to address them while preserving a strong deterrent against these appalling attacks on young people. The final version of the bill establishes an action for injunctive relief against a parent, guardian, or other person standing in the place of a parent to enjoin cyberbullying. It also creates the criminal offense of cyberbullying against a person under 18 years of age. Both the civil cause of action and the presuit subpoena power were removed from the bill.  Sent to the Governor May 28.  Effective September 1, 2017 if signed.

 

IMMUNITY FROM CIVIL LIABILITY

Several bills affecting immunity from liability for various activities passed and were sent to the Governor.  Some of the more notable of these include:

HB 435 Relating to the application of certain weapons laws to and liability for certain actions of volunteer emergency services personnel licensed to carry a handgun.

HB 1978 Relating to physician assistant services performed as volunteer care.

SB 1193 Relating to the adoption of the Texas Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. Signed by the Governor.

SB 2190 Relating to the public retirement systems of certain municipalities. Signed by the Governor.

 

NEW CAUSES OF ACTION

Of particular importance to TCJL are bills that create new causes of action.  This session, approximately 130 bills fell into that category.  Of those, only 21 made their way to the Governor’s desk.

HB 53 Relating to settlement of claims and actions against a governmental unit.

HB 89 Relating to state contracts with and investments in companies that boycott Israel. Signed by the Governor.

HB 240 Relating to evidence in a suit to abate certain common nuisances.

HB 931 Relating to liability of certain electric utilities and political subdivisions that contract for certain uses of land that the electric utility owns, occupies, or leases.

HB 1166 Relating to liability of certain electric utilities that allow certain uses of land that the electric utility owns, occupies, or leases.

HB 1433 Relating to suspending the statute of limitations in the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act during a lawsuit.

HB 1508 Relating to notice to applicants to and enrollees in certain educational programs regarding the consequences of a criminal conviction on eligibility for an occupational license.

HB 1774 Relating to insurance claims and certain prohibited acts and practices in the business of insurance. Signed by the Governor.

HB 1974 Relating to durable powers of attorney.

HB 2121 Relating to damages in certain contract claims against the state.

HB 2552 Relating to prostitution and trafficking of persons and to certain criminal and civil consequences of that conduct.

HB 2950 Relating to the continuation and functions of the Texas Board of Nursing and to the regulation of the practice of nursing.

SB 4 Relating to the enforcement by certain governmental entities of state and federal laws governing immigration and to the duties of law enforcement agencies concerning certain arrested persons. Signed by the Governor.

SB 179 Relating to student harassment, bullying, cyberbullying, injury to or death of minor.

SB 341 Relating to the consequences of the possession of illegal synthetic cannabinoids on a holder of or applicant for certain alcoholic beverage licenses and liability of a person who provides, sells, or serves a synthetic.

SB 560 Relating to surcharges imposed for the use of a credit card. Signed by the Governor.

SB 813 Relating to recovery of damages, attorney’s fees, and costs related to frivolous regulatory actions by state agencies.

SB 830 Relating to the provision of accounting statements by mortgage servicers for certain loans secured by a lien on residential real property.

SB 877 Relating to liability of certain political subdivisions in certain workers’ compensation actions. Signed by the Governor.

SB 1052 Relating to debt cancellation agreements offered in connection with certain loans and retail installment contracts and to amounts charged for certain agreements offered in connection with certain loans and retail installment. Signed by the Governor.

SB 2065 Relating to liability of certain political subdivisions in certain workers’ compensation actions.

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