Vol. I, Issue 19 June 2, 2009
This is the last weekly Legislative Bulletin of this biennium (unless we have a special session). I will have a more complete report after the period ends for the Governor to veto bills. There will also be a shorter recap in the July issue of Texas Merit Shop Journal. I will also be making the rounds and giving updates when invited by the Local Chapters.
Texas Governor Rick Perry held a press conference at 11:30 a.m. this morning (Tuesday, June 2). I have attached the release that the Governor’s office sent to me. You will note that Governor Perry “commended the Legislature for passing the biennial state budget with less than 1 percent growth in general revenue spending. The Legislature also left the state’s Rainy Day Fund intact, providing an expected balance of $9.1 billion to address future state needs.” “There are a lot of people in other states who are still dealing with record deficits and layoffs of employees, while here in Texas, we woke up this morning with a balanced budget and a Rainy Day fund that remains untouched,” Governor Perry said.
We were able to get those loose ends tied down—trying to keep a good Senate amendment on a House bill (HB 987) that allows recovery of attorney’s fees when prevailing in a breach of contract lawsuit with local governments and keeping some favorable “safe schools” language (contractors are responsible for background checks on their own employees) adopted in the Senate in HB 2730 (Department of Public Safety Sunset Bill).
HB 3, the Public Education Accountability Bill which contained some favorable CTE language in the House version retained some of the features from the House bill, but not all. But, as mentioned last week, due to the delay of implementing 4X4 for 3 years, we will enter the next legislative session one year ahead of where we started this year! We are working on some outreach to perceived adversaries and allies to be in a stronger and more prepared position in 2 years.
In an end of the session email, Dick Weekley, Chairman of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, said “personal injury trial lawyers leveled the most aggressive and sustained attack on lawsuit reform in our 15 year history, including almost 900 bills that would have rolled back existing reforms, created new ways to sue or expanded existing causes of action. When the Legislative Session ended last night at midnight, every bad piece of trial lawyer legislation had been defeated.
“Personal injury trial lawyers spent almost $9 million in last year’s election to elect lawmakers who would support the roll back of important lawsuit reforms. The trial lawyer agenda included legislation that would have essentially shifted the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the defendant in Asbestos/Mesothelioma cases, curtailed our effective multi-district litigation courts and allowed plaintiffs to sue for medical ‘expenses’ that were not actually paid or owed to anyone.
“Personal injury trial lawyers also tried an ‘end-around’ strategy in the Legislature, pushing bills that would overturn sound decisions by the well-respected Texas Supreme Court. The Entergy Bill would have allowed trial lawyers to exploit third party lawsuits against property owners, but it was stopped before it made it to the Senate floor.”
He singled out Senators Joan Huffman and Tommy Williams and State Representative Todd Hunter (a member of our Coastal Bend Chapter) for special praise.
Below is a brief summary of action or relevant information on ABC of Texas’ Priority Legislative Issues that remained active:
Alternative Delivery Systems—SB 1110 by Senator Mike Jackson died on the House Major State Calendar.
Indemnification/Workers’ Compensation/Third Party Liability—SB 555 (Indemnification) died on the House Major State Calendar. HB 1657 (Entergy) was never brought up in the Senate (not enough votes—our blockers held!) and died.
Trust Funds—HB 1513 by Rep. Wayne Smith and Senator Mike Jackson has been sent to the Governor.
Prevailing Wage—HB 1042 by Rep. Tan Parker was heard in the House Committee on Technology, Economic Development and Workforce. The author, Rep. Tan Parker, is Vice Chair of the committee. A late hearing spelled doom for the bill. Rep. Parker is considering proposing an interim study which could give us traction for some changes in the future.
Trades Legislation—Thanks to the efforts of ABC of Texas members, we killed all the bad trades legislation. One bill dealing with electrical apprentices was amended to allow our NCCER craft training programs to qualify as apprentice training. That bill passed. Bills to regulate cranes, sheet metal workers, roofing contractors, fire sprinkler technicians and disaster remediation contractors failed to pass.
The ABC of Texas Board of Directors will meet in Austin on July 8.
I want to give special thanks to those who responded to our requests through VoterVoice. The flood of emails on HB 1657 (Entergy) and the late request on concurring in Senate amendments to HB 987 (attorneys fees for local government breach of contract lawsuits) helped. I had several legislators comment.
Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas
P.O. Box 1891
Austin, TX 78767-1891
823 Congress Ave., Suite 230