The 86th legislature concluded in May, and it has taken awhile for me to put together a list of the bills and their impact on Garland. This is not strictly a city council obligation on my part, but I usually try to track what the Texas legislature is doing and let friends and family know what types of changes to expect. There are a number of sources for this type of information. I’m using a mix of personal research, the presentation made to the Garland council by staff, TML, articles from both partisan, nonpartisan, and government sources, TFN, Empower Texas, The Texas Tribune, TDLR, the NAACP, etc. I’ll throw in a few additional comments to help clarify the practical impact of the bill, and I may leave less relevant details out. When in doubt, read the bill! Most new legislation will be effective on 9/1/2019.
Keep in mind that this is just my interpretation of the legislation that was passed. If you want legal advice about this legislation, please seek competent legal counsel. When it comes to state legislative matters, I’m just another guy with a website. It should go without saying, but I’ll repeat it anyways: my opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the city council.
To read the full text of these bills, visit the state’s bill lookup website at:
I’ve broken everything out by category, and each bill number is a link to the state’s website.
HB 380 – Property Tax Appeals
Cleans up the process for appeals to the property-owner’s benefit by keeping you out of legal limbo in case you goof up on your paperwork.
HB 492 – Property Tax Exemption
If your property is partially or fully destroyed by a natural disaster (and the governor declares the area as a disaster area), you no longer pay the full appraised value of the property for its pre-disaster state. This keeps you from paying full taxes for a home that is no longer there. This was filed in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
This one was tough because cities and counties will be on the hook for extensive costs for cleanup and public infrastructure. However, cities and counties will get state and federal assistance to recoup city/taxpayer costs. Depending on your insurance, you may or may not be able to rebuild what you had before. Either way, the legislature decided that you shouldn’t pay property taxes on property that you don’t have, or property that has been significantly devalued. This has some very interesting consequences when tied into SB2.
HB 1060 – Appraisal Review Notifications
Notice of a protest hearing has to be delivered by email if the taxpayer requests it.
HB 1313 – Property Tax Appraisal
If you protest and get your value lowered, they can’t come back and raise it in the next tax year unless they have “clear and convincing evidence” for the increase. That legal distinction is one shade lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt”, so it imposes a fairly significant legal burden on the taxing authority.
HB 1885 – Delinquent Property Taxes
This gives homeowners that pay property taxes on their own (without an escrow account) a bit more flexibility on timing and waives certain late fees.
SB2 – Property Tax Reform – effective Jan 1, 2020
* Sets the rollback rate for city income to 3.5% instead of 8% (unless we are in a disaster area, then it stays at 8%)
* If our income exceeds 3.5% of the previous tax year, an automatic election is called in November to ratify the new rate.
* In fiscal year 2020 (Oct 2020 – Sep 2021), the city is not allowed to lower the total compensation of any first-responder. (The legislature feared that cities would punish first-responders financially in response to the new revenue caps). First-responders account for roughly 2/3 of Garland’s annual budget.
* Prevents a person from being employed by both the appraisal district AND an entity that they oversee (this is an attempt to eliminate conflicts of interest).
* Shortens the amount of time the city will have to prepare, discuss, and pass a budget IF we choose to exceed the 3.5% cap. We must call a tax ratification election 71 days before the election, so it compresses our timelines
* Removes the ability of the city to challenge appraisals.
* Prevents the appraisal board from raising your property value in response to a protest, removing the risk that you might protest and end up owing more.
Transportation and Traffic
HB 2048 – Driver Responsibility Program
The program is repealed. The auto burglary / theft prevention fee on your insurance bill will go up to $4 to cover the revenue loss to the state.
HB 3163 – Handicapped Parking Signs
Signs have to list applicable penalties for cited/towed vehicles.
HB 1631 – Red Light Cameras
Red light cameras are now outlawed, with grandfather clauses in place for cities that are in long term contracts. Garland has discontinued its program.
HB 1140 – Governmental Vehicle Storage Facility
Impoundment fees can be adjusted every 2 years for inflation- both upward or downward.
HB 339 – Work Zones
If there is a lower speed set in a construction zone, there has to be another speed limit sign at the end of the zone to let people know what speed to go back to.
HB 771 – Wireless Communication Devices
Specifically allows school bus drivers to use their wireless 2-way radios in the performance of their jobs inside of school zones.
HB 2188 – Bicycles
Preempts all electric bicycle regulation by cities.
HB 3171 – Mopeds and Motorcycles
Mopeds (designed for less than 30 mph) no longer require a class M license endorsement.
HB 3871 – Speed Limits
Charter schools are now allowed to request public hearings on local speed limits
SB 604 – Digital License Plates
Allows government vehicles to have digital license plates as the pilot program. Requires study for general passenger vehicle use, and requires wireless connectivity.
Economy, Jobs, Sales Tax
HB 1342 – Occupational Licenses
This makes it easier to get your professional license back if it was revoked for either purely administrative reasons (failure to renew) or if you were convicted of a crime unrelated to your license. The idea is that the legislature wants it to be easier for you to make a living with your skills even if you made a mistake in some other area of your life. The practical effect of this bill is more licensed contractors.
HB 1525 – Sales Tax / Marketplace Providers – effective Oct 1, 2019
If the item is purchased online and shipped to you, you pay sales tax based on where it was shipped to.
HB 4542 – Brewpub Reporting
Subjects craft breweries and places like “Intrinsic” in downtown to the same sales tax reporting requirements that breweries have to go through.
SB 1200 – Military Spouse Professional Licenses
Occupational licenses for spouses of members of the military who are based in Texas and are on active duty will be honored by the state, limited to 3 years.
HB 1325 – Hemp Production
Hemp growing, cultivation, handling, transportation and sale is legal, and cities cannot prohibit it.
SB 1232 – Alcohol Delivery
Stores licensed to sell beer and wine can currently deliver beverages with 5% or less ABV. This allows them to sell beverages with greater than 5% ABV.
HB 2439 – Building Materials (pay attention to this one folks)
* The city must allow ALL construction methods detailed in the 2012, 2015, and 2018 (the last three published) national building code guidelines. We cannot DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY prohibit this construction.
* This means “strawbale” building where you literally use bales of hay/straw for your walls, is allowable by right, and there is no legal mechanism for the city to prevent it. No, I’m not kidding.
* Tin shacks? Yep, those are okay too.
* This does not apply to TDHCA (section 42 affordable housing programs) or our historic districts
HB 3167 – Land Development Applications / Replats
* We have to act on all plan and plat requests within 30 days or they are automatically approved.
* The city council has to approve/deny all plats/plans within 30 days of it being heard by the plan commission or it is automatically approved.
* Only the applicant can request an extension.
* We have to cite the law used as a basis to deny a plan/plat. The law used may in no way be ‘arbitrary’.
* If the applicant satisfies the reason that the application was disapproved, the city MAY NOT STOP the plan/plat for being approved.
* If the law does not provide a clear and convincing reason for denying an application, we no longer have the ability to deny any development the right to go into anywhere that they want, and their building can look like whatever they want it to, provided that they use some form of the international building code from the past three cycles.
HB 2840 – Right to Speak at Open Meetings
If an item is on the agenda, everyone that shows up to speak must be given an opportunity to speak (Garland already does this).
If someone speaking needs a translator, that amount of time allocated to speak is doubled. (Garland has always been flexible when a speaker has difficulties. This will not be a problem for us.)
SB 1640 – Open Meetings Act
Keeps elected officials from establishing a ‘walking quorum’, where decisions are made before the meeting or outside of an open meeting with a quorum of the voting body.
HB 81 – Public Information and Parades, Concerts, Entertainment
The city has to disclose how much it spends on events (Garland does this already).
HB 440 – Local Debt
The city cannot spend bond money on items whose life span is shorter than the amount of time it takes to pay off the debt. For instance, we cannot buy library books (3 year life) with 20 year bond money. We traditionally match the appropriate length of debt to the item that we are purchasing, but this will make it a formal legal requirement.
HB 3371 – Battery-Charged Fences
We can’t restrict the use of electric fences within the city. Shocking, I know.
HB 2584 – Code Enforcement Officers
Code enforcement may carry clubs to deter aggressive animals while on duty. They must complete training prior to using them.
SB 969 – Mobile Delivery Devices
Preempts all mobile delivery device regulation by cities. What are mobile delivery devices? They really aren’t in use yet, and we aren’t 100% sure, but the legislature has decided that the state will be the regulatory body for them.
SB 1152 – Telecommunications / Cable Right of Way Rental Fees
Currently when a telecommunications company (telco) runs an underground line on a public right of way (taxpayer owned land), they have to pay a franchise fee for renting that land. Under current law, data and voice are treated as separate services, so a telco would pay a separate fee for each use. Under the new law, a telco running a single line that handles both voice and data would only pay one of the two fees, whichever is larger.
The fee brings in around $8M / year today. The effective financial hit from this change for Garland will be about $1.5M / year, or 1% of our city’s annual income. It would be difficult to calculate the cost of maintaining our rights of way (which includes medians, streets, and park land), so I don’t know if we’re breaking even, making a profit, or losing money.
There is a current legal argument between cities and the state on whether or not this change constitutes us giving away public land (which is unconstitutional per the state constitution) or if we are simply renting space out in the right of way without regard for the value of the business being conducted across public land. We’ll see how this shakes out in the courts.
Human and Animal Health
HB 2828 – Public Information Act – Animal Adopters
All personally-identifying information (name, address, etc) for animal adopters from a government-run shelter is considered confidential and may only be shared under very specific circumstances.
HB 234 – Lemonade Stands
Kids can ‘occasionally’ legally sell non-alcoholic beverages on private property or public parks. HOAs are not liable for any damages resulting from such sales.
HB 541 – Breast Milk Expressing
If you are allowed to be in a place, then you are legally allowed to breastfeed your baby or pump milk there.
SB 21 – Cigarettes, E-Cigarettes, Tobacco Products
Smoking age raised to 21
Cities cannot pass rules around tobacco that are more stringent than state law
SB 476 – Dogs at Restaurants
Provides that dogs can join their owners on outdoor patios at restaurants.
SB 568 – Child-Care Facilities and Family Homes
Daycares will need to follow new ‘safe sleeping’ standards
Requires written notification to parents if the daycare is lacking certain liability coverage
Increased incident reporting
SB 572 – Cottage Food Industry
Adds additional labeling, storage, and delivery requirements. If you make and sell goods from home, make sure you check out the requirements in this bill.
SB 1264 – Insurance, Out-of-Network Providers, and Surprise Balance Billing
This requires prior disclosure of costs associated with procedures where hospitals contract out with out of network providers. I’ve received a surprise bill after a surgery where the anesthesia was billed separately, and an out of network doctor was used without my knowledge or permission. This should prevent that sort of situation from occurring. If it’s an emergency, billing is limited to the rates cited in a number of state plans, and your HMO is expected to pay out at that customary rate.
SB 751 – Deceptive Videos
If you create a fake video of a political candidate doing something that they didn’t do during an election season, there is a criminal penalty. It is not clear to me from reading the bill if parody is covered, but as it is generally a protected first amendment right, I would imagine this law will be challenged.
SB 1978 – Religious Beliefs Bill (the Chick-fila bill)
Prohibits a governmental entity (including a city) from taking any adverse action against a person based wholly or partly on the person’s membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation, or other support provided to a religious organization.
SB 26 – Parks Funding
The sporting good sales tax revenue that was originally designed to fund parks but was instead diverted into the general fund for other expenditures has been restored to parks.
SJR 24 – Parks Funding, Constitutional Amendment
Sets the revenue to automatically go into parks as per SB 26 and requires a 2/3 vote of each legislative house to divert it in a given biennium.
HB 292 – Peace Officer Minimum Curriculum
Requires police to be educated in detection and handling of human trafficking
HB 2143 – First Responder’s PTSD
Expands the definition and coverage for PTSD-related medical issues
HB 2164 – Peace Officer Weapons
Peace officers can carry weapons into public businesses whether they are on duty or not.
HB 2195 – Active Shooter Training
School district police have to complete an active shooter training response program.
SB 586 – Peace Officer Training Requirements
Requires police to be educated in detection and handling of child abuse or neglect, family violence, and sexual assault.
SB 971 – Assault Training
Requires police to be educated in recognizing and recording cases of strangulation or suffocation.
SB 1582 – Peace Officer Disease Presumption
* Officers and their immediate family members are entitled to free vaccines for diseases that they might be exposed to during the course of their duties
* Employment benefits are applied if the officer has an adverse reaction to a vaccine.
* Respiratory diseases are presumed to be workplace injuries and are covered accordingly.
* Heart attack or stroke are presumed to be workplace injuries and are covered accordingly.
SB 2551 – Firefighter and EMT Disease Presumption
The following cancers are presumed to be workplace injuries and are covered accordingly:
Stomach, Colon, Rectum, Skin, Prostate, Testis, Brain, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Malignant Melanoma, Renal Cell Carcinoma
SB 370 – Jury Service
Prohibits an employer from firing, threatening to firing, intimidate, or coerce any permanent employee in connection with their jury service.
HB 435 – Uncollectable Fees and Cost
If you die or are in prison for life, you don’t have to pay your speeding tickets.
HB 8 – Public Safety
* Removes the statute of limitations on sexual assault under certain circumstances
* Sets DNA preservation rules at 40 years
* Enforces the timely and responsible processing of DNA/biological evidence
HB 121 – Licensed Carry
If you are carrying a licensed weapon in a business where you aren’t allowed to, they ask you to leave, and you do so promptly, then there is no problem. If you do not comply, you are subject to the penalties laid out in sections 30.06 and 30.07.
HB 979 – DNA records
If you are convicted of a class A misdemeanor for unlawful restraint or assault, you have to give a DNA sample to a law enforcement agency, and have that information stored in a state database.
HB 1177 – Carrying Handguns During Disaster
If there is a disaster, you can carry a handgun for 7 days after the disaster, either concealed or openly, whether or not you have a license to carry. This does not apply to people who aren’t allowed to carry one at all already (felons, etc). The governor can extend the time as necessary.
HB 1399 – DNA Records
If you are acquitted, the case is dismissed, or the court orders it, the DNA sample you gave and the record of it have to be destroyed
HB 1518 – Dextromethorphan Sales to Minors
Because kids have been getting high off of cough syrup, we have to be over 18 and show ID now.
HB 1552 – Retired Peace Officers + Handguns
Retired officers that demonstrate continued weapon proficiency will be allowed to carry their weapons with the same rules as currently employed peace officers.
HB 1769 – Missing Adult Alert System
We currently have the following alert systems:
Amber Alert – Under 18
Silver Alert – 65 and over.
The state will develop a third alert system for those between ages 18 and 65.
HB 3231 – Firearms Regulations
Cities will have no control over firearm sales, manufacturing, ownership, or distribution in any meaningful way other than in our zoning rules. State law will supersede most local regulations. This means that while cities in Texas can set where a gun range or gun store is allowed to be based on traditional zoning rules, we cannot institute a Chicago-style hand gun ban for example.
HB 3540 – Peace Officer’s Authority
Officers may release people that have intellectual or developmental disabilities back to their group home if they believe that a correctional facility is inappropriate given the circumstances of the case.
HB 4544 – Municipal Coyote Control
Based on our city’s density, Garland may capture, relocate, or euthanize coyotes.
SB 340 – Opioid Antagonists
This is a state grant fund for outfitting officers and EMT with Naloxone shots, which can counter opioid overdoses.
SB 976 – Notification to Peace Officer
This allows you to check a box when renewing your driver’s license that says you have a condition that may prevent you from communicating well with a peace officer. The information will be stored in the officer’s system so that if you are pulled over or otherwise detained they can handle the situation better. This is especially helpful for those that are hard of hearing.
SB 1827 – Administration of Epinephrine
Allows officers to carry and use epi-pens in the field, assuming they have completed the appropriate training course. This requires program oversight from a physician and a prescription. There is also a reporting requirement along with basic oversight rules.
Like every legislative body in every government, about 10% of their work makes the news and causes controversy. The other 90% is house keeping or common sense. I did my best to look past the big news items and consider the entire body of work that the legislature produced. There will always be the standard political fights about guns, abortion, and immigration; and there are better news sources than this blog to get those types of updates. I also left out most school legislation, because my focus is more about business and city governance.
There are some very good things that were passed this session. SB 976 helps law enforcement and the public interact in a better way. HB 440 helps keep local debt sane. Military spouses can practice their trade even while on the move. Supplying and funding of opioid antagonists and epi-pens will help save lives. HB 81 requires cities to tell the taxpayers what they are spending on entertainment, and there are a number of other solid transparency bills that address public lobbying. There was a great deal of work on reshaping the emergency management plan for the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and much of that enabling legislation was passed this term. I argued for elimination of red lights cameras, and that program was ended. The property tax appeals process was made more friendly to the taxpayer, and certain conflicts of interest were eliminated. They added common sense reforms to our elections by adding provisions for deceased candidates and cybersecurity, along with stricter requirements for posting voting locations. They also guaranteed the rights of the taxpayers to speak during open meetings.
On the other hand, people that have worked their entire life to afford a house might find that the guy next door is allowed to redo his walls with bails of straw. Our plan commission will only have 30 days to figure out a plan before the state deems it ‘approved’ even when a 30 day time limit may not make any sense whatsoever. The city cannot legally write an ordinance that requires a restaurant to immediately clean up a dog’s poop off of the floor in its patio area, because of language in the bill that says we can’t. The state has also once again intruded on a city’s constitutional protections and provisions against giving away public land- in this case to the telecom companies.
Apart from the standard work done in any session, the recurring theme of this legislative session appears to have been an attempt to rein in cities that had gone completely overboard with their local regulations (I’m looking at you, Austin). The governor and the city routinely irritate each other, and the rest of us end up paying the price. The flip side of stronger regulation and preemption of local control by the state is a loss of the flexibility that we’ve generally enjoyed to address problems unique to Garland. Where we can remove legal obstacles and address new concerns in as little as two weeks, a legislative solution at the state level usually takes a minimum of two YEARS. It is my opinion that the legislature needs to take a harder look at future legislation and do their best to not lump us all into one group. For the few bad actors out there, there are a lot of cities just trying to do right by their citizens and provide a predictable, stable, flexible, and affordable local government. One-size-fits-all bills can be a great tool when used wisely, especially in cases of standardized reporting or establishing ethics and meeting rules for public officials. When they are overused or are used to punish one or two cities, then they become oppressive and fail to serve the citizens in the way that they were intended to. I really hope that we can do better when it comes to preserving local control in the 87th.
Garland is currently served by the following State Representatives and Senators:
HD 102 Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos
HD 107 Rep. Victoria Neave
HD 112 Rep. Angie Chen Button
HD 113 Rep. Rhetta Andrews Bowers
SD 2 Sen. Bob Hall
SD 16 Sen. Nathan Johnson