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2011 Veto Watch: Perry Kills 24 Bills In One Day

The 82nd Legislature has ended its regular session, and that means it's time time to keep an eye out for the bills Gov. Rick Perry dislikes enough to veto.

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The 82nd Legislature has ended its regular session, and that means it's time time to keep an eye out for the bills Gov. Rick Perry dislikes enough to veto. These are measures that have passed both chambers. As the governor pulls out the red stamp, we'll keep a running list of those bills that will not become law after all. We'll also include his statement listing why he objects to those bills. 

June 17, 2011: Perry vetoes 24 bills

SB 1035

Senate Bill 1035 would expand county permitting of motor vehicle title service companies and create a state licensing requirement administered by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The bill would establish additional criminal and civil penalties, including a state jail felony if a service company violated a license requirement.

While the state may benefit from the DMV performing a licensing or oversight function, this bill would not address the burden imposed on motor vehicle title service companies by a state licensing requirement, nor would it address the inherent problems of the creation of 254 different county registration processes. The dual state and county registration and licensing procedures, and different associated fees, are too cumbersome.

Senate Bill 1035 could also have unintended consequences through its definition of a motor vehicle title service company. That definition would include any individual directly or indirectly assisting with the registration process. It would be problematic that a friend or family member who is familiar with the registration process could not assist, if any compensation was received, without being subject to civil and criminal penalties.

Because I appreciate the goal of Senate Bill 1035, I am requesting the DMV to work with the motor vehicle title service industry and county governments to find a reasonable solution that does not add layers of government, but protects Texans against individuals operating with the intent to defraud consumers or the state.

SB 1807

Senate Bill 1807 would allow the 444th District Court of Cameron County to have concurrent jurisdiction in Willacy County. However, this bill was not thoroughly discussed with all affected entities in Willacy and Cameron counties. While I appreciate any attempt to improve the efficiency of Texas courts, all parties affected by this change should be involved in determining the best methods for making such improvements.

SB 40

Senate Bill 40 would make a number of changes to the enabling statute of the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation (TGSLC), a state-chartered nonprofit corporation that serves as the guarantor for subsidized student loans originated under the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). FFELP was terminated last year by the federal government.

Many of the changes in Senate Bill 40, such as allowing TGSLC board members to attend meetings via teleconference or requiring TGSLC's to appoint an ombudsman for internal complaints, are good for TGSLC and the state. However, their benefits are outweighed by other parts of the bill.

Senate Bill 40 gives TGSLC much broader authority to enter into revenue-generating activities, but does so at a time when TGSLC loan portfolio will shrink, limiting the resources available for new ventures and exposing TGSLC's operating fund to additional risk.

TGSLC also faces uncertainty at the federal level. TGSLC is a strong guarantor, but it would be unwise to commit scarce resources without additional clarity as to future policies regarding guarantors and the residual FFELP portfolio.

Senate Bill 40 also contains language regarding the governor's appointments to TGSLC that conflicts with TGSLC language in other bills that are moving toward passage in the special session.

SB 167

Senate Bill 167 suffers from technical citation problems and a need to correct language. House Concurrent Resolution 177, which sought to correct the problems in Senate Bill 167, did not pass both houses. The intent of Senate Bill 167 is covered in House Bill 351.

SB 191

I am vetoing Senate Bill 191 because I have serious concerns regarding overreliance on the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) in the disposition of contested case hearings at the Texas Medical Board. This provision is also included in House Bill 680.

The board is charged with regulating the practice of medicine in Texas by, among other things, enforcing physicians' standards of conduct and imposing appropriate sanctions when those standards are violated. When the board is unable to resolve a case, it is referred to an administrative law judge (ALJ) at SOAH. Senate Bill 191 requires the board to accept an ALJ's findings of fact on whether a physician has committed a violation.

This provision weakens the board's authority to oversee physicians, and vests that authority instead in the ALJ. This bill treats the Texas Medical Board differently from every other occupational licensing agency by mandating that the board accept the ALJ's findings.

The responsibility for deciding whether a physician has violated a standard of conduct should belong to the multimember board, and not to a single ALJ. ALJs serve the important role of providing an independent forum for conducting adjudicative hearings to determine the facts, but their role is to assist agencies in reaching a proper decision, not to supplant them or relieve them of that duty.

HB 2327

House Bill 2327 would allow transit buses to use highway shoulders to pass traffic backups during peak traffic hours in certain urban counties. Currently, highway shoulders may only be used by motorists to pull out of the main lanes of the roadway in the case of a mechanical malfunction or emergency, and to allow the bypass of traffic by emergency vehicles.

House Bill 2327 is similar to Senate Bill 434, which I vetoed in 2009. While there are new provisions in this bill that attempt to address concerns, including additional training for bus drivers and a provision allowing the Texas Department of Transportation to suspend the program in some instances, allowing highway shoulders to be used by transit buses would leave no emergency lane, confuse drivers as to the purpose of highway shoulders, and endanger motorists, emergency personnel and transit bus passengers.

SB 408

Senate Bill 408 includes a provision that would prohibit the use of boats or other crafts that use an aircraft-type propeller for propulsion on approximately 113 miles of the John Graves Scenic Riverway. Attempting to balance private property rights with water conservation and recreational use of this riverway is laudable. However, I am vetoing Senate Bill 408 at the request of the bill's sponsor, and I am directing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to study and report the potential effects of a prohibition of the commercial or recreational use of these types of boats on the riverway. This review will be part of TCEQ's biennial report to the legislature.

SB 978

SB 978 would allow the entire City of McAllen and members of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3 to vote for the dissolution of the district. This bill puts the district at a clear disadvantage because the overwhelming majority of votes would come from outside the boundaries of the district, effectively allowing the city to take the district's water rights and property. This would set a troubling precedent.

HB 2972

HB 2972 would restrict Texans’ power to vote on whether to maintain or increase a street maintenance tax. HB 2972 would allow municipalities to delay voter input by limiting the tax elections to once every eight years rather than the current four-year period. Texans should have the right to vote on tax measures sooner rather than later.

HB 2996

HB 2996 would create the Texas Urban Agricultural Innovation Authority, Urban Farmer Interest Rate Reduction Program and Urban Farmer Grant Program in the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). At a time when state agencies have been asked to tighten their belts in response to difficult budget times, HB 2996 would likely necessitate an entirely new division within TDA. While the Texas Urban Agricultural Innovation Authority is not appropriated state funds, it is given broad power and would likely require substantial agency staffing.

HB 242

Texting while driving is reckless and irresponsible. I support measures that make our roads safer for everyone, but House Bill 242 is a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults. Current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving. I believe there is a distinction between the overreach of House Bill 242 and the government's legitimate role in establishing laws for teenage drivers who are more easily distracted and laws providing further protection to children in school zones.

The keys to dissuading drivers of all ages from texting while driving are information and education. I recommend additional education on this issue in driving safety and driver's education courses, public service ads, and announcements, and I encourage individuals and organizations that testified in favor of the anti-texting language included in this bill to work with state and local leaders to educate the public of these dangers.

HB 335

House Bill 335 would require state agencies to submit a report relating to the implementation and requirements of federal health care reform laws. While Texas should make every effort to assess the impact of federal legislation on the state, I do not think the mandate required by House Bill 335 is necessary, as this information would be available upon request of state leadership. As such, I will be working with state leaders to direct state agencies to provide information necessary to assess the impact of overreaching federal health care legislation on Texas. 

HB 2997

HB 2997 would create the Select Committee on Urban Farming and the Urban Farming Pilot Program, to be administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture. While the goals of the pilot program are laudable, creating new unfunded programs in TDA at a time when the agency’s budget is being significantly cut is neither responsible nor acceptable. The select committee’s tasks can be addressed by the Senate and House Agriculture committees through interim studies in preparation for the next legislative session.

HB 397

HB 397 would create a new Bureau for Economic Development of the Border Region. The administration of this bureau would rotate every two years among a private university and five public universities. This legislation does not provide any additional funding to the institutions of higher education to administer this bureau, and would therefore put a fiscal burden on the universities, potentially redirecting their funds away from their primary purpose of education. In addition, several state organizations, both public and private, currently perform similar economic development functions, and there are tools in place to encourage job creation throughout the state, including the border region. This bureau is an unfunded mandate on institutions of higher education and duplicates the work several other organizations already perform.

HB 990

HB 990 would change the terms by which Travis County may participate in a homestead preservation reinvestment zone with the City of Austin in East Austin. Although the stated purpose of HB 990 is to encourage Travis County to participate in the zone, the county has not expressed support for the bill. This bill would exempt Travis County from regulations established for reinvestment zones under Chapter 311 of the Tax Code by allowing the county to exceed the 15-person limit set for reinvestment zone boards and reducing the share of tax revenues the county must contribute to the zone fund. The purpose of a reinvestment zone is to provide financial avenues for redevelopment in blighted areas, yet the zone in question is not in a blighted area.

HB 992

HB 992 would exempt community college semester credit hours, other than those required for a baccalaureate degree, from counting against the excess semester credit hour cap, which is 30 hours above the degree requirement. HB 992 removes important incentives for students and community colleges to focus on degree completion. HB 992 would encourage students to waste time and money, along with taxpayer dollars, and would prevent students and community colleges from being held accountable for responsible academic planning and advising. Rather than exempt non-required community college courses from the excess semester credit hour cap, a better solution is to improve matriculation agreements and student advising so students can transfer more hours that do count toward degree completion.

HB 1429

HB1429 would create a new cause of action allowing residential tenants to file suit against landlords who fail to provide tenants with a copy of their lease in certain circumstances. This legislation would expose landlords to private legal claims, including damages, attorney fees and costs, for failure to turn over the lease as required. Although HB 1429 requires a tenant to provide notice to a landlord before filing suit, the notice requirement does not give the landlord time to address the violation before a lawsuit is filed, thus having no effect on preventing litigation. Furthermore, HB 1429 provides that a tenant may be awarded attorney's fees in a lawsuit filed under the bill's provisions, creating an incentive for attorneys to seek out and file such suits. The litigation expenses incurred by landlords as a result of this bill could be significant, and would likely be passed on to other tenants through higher rents and fees. Thus, although the bill seeks to protect tenants in rare cases where they are not provided with a copy of their lease when it is signed, I believe it would do more harm than good.

HB 1768 

HB 1768 would encroach upon the rights of private enterprise and property owners while fundamentally altering and expanding the role of county government. HB 1768 would allow the commissioners court of a county with a population of 450,000 or more to regulate vendors in the right-of-way of a public road or highway, and in a parking lot. It would be unfortunate if, through regulation, we unintentionally prevented, for example, the owner of a peach orchard with baskets of fruit or a Girl Scout troop with cartons of cookies from reaching their consumers. As a state, we should not raise barriers of entry into the marketplace, stifle competition or hinder the entrepreneurial spirit. Because I appreciate the goal of HB 1768 to protect the health and safety of the public on our roadways, I am directing the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Transportation to work together with county governments to assist them in fully utilizing the existing tools at their disposal to balance public safety and free enterprise.

HB 1616

Although HB 1616 contains several commonsense changes to Texas' campaign finance reporting statutes, an amendment added late in the process would inadvertently cripple the Texas Ethics Commission's authority to enforce compliance with state campaign finance laws. The amendment's author requested a veto of HB 1616. I urge the Texas Legislature to closely examine our system of campaign finance reporting during the Ethics Commission's upcoming Sunset Commission review and craft legislation that will continue and improve our state's 20-year history of open, honest and efficient campaign finance reporting.

HB 2499

House Bill 2499, the Department of Information Resources sunset bill, contains a number of substantive changes to the operation of the agency, including important ones, such as the hiring of an internal auditor.

However, House Bill 2499 seems to ignore the progress DIR’s new leadership has made in improving agency operations and efficiencies. The bill also undermines executive branch authority by removing a single state agency from data center consolidation, removing qualified and hardworking board members from their positions without cause, and removing DIR’s important procurement function during the ongoing re-procurement of data services.

I do not take lightly the impact this veto could have on the future of important state information resources functions. Therefore, I have asked the legislature to include legislation during the ongoing special session to extend DIR operations through 2017.

I also request DIR to closely examine the Sunset Commission report, as well as House Bill 2499, to help implement additional operational improvements, and to work closely with its agency customers and experts in the Office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts and office of the Attorney General, to constantly improve procurement efficiency and effectiveness.

HB 2608

House Bill 2608 is the sunset bill for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). This bill would adopt the majority of the changes recommended by the Sunset Commission, most of which are technical clarifications on administrative procedures. The bill would continue the operations of the agency until 2023.

However, overly prescriptive language was added to House Bill 2608 that would impose a new layer of bureaucracy that makes unrealistic demands of the state, delay assistance to communities hit by disasters and duplicate disaster planning conducted by the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

While this language may have been well-intentioned, in many instances it would require the state to issue plans for expenditure of federal disaster recovery funds before federal agencies have announced the rules governing the expenditure of those funds.

I do not take lightly the impact this veto may have in potentially shutting down TDHCA over the next year. That is why I have asked the legislature during this special session to amend language in pending legislation to continue the operation of TDHCA.

HB 2889

HB 2889 creates a potential conflict with other bills related to the expunction of a person’s arrest in a criminal history record. The author of HB 2889 has requested a veto to avoid this conflict.

HB 3125

HB 3125 would require promoters and artists to comply with the terms of a contract for the distribution of recording revenue or event proceeds for a performance at a live entertainment event. The promoter and artist also would be required to agree to and secure permission in writing for the recording of a live entertainment event before it is recorded. It is unnecessary to enact legislation to require two private parties to comply with a contract that the parties have freely entered into themselves. Existing contract law more aptly applies to such agreements, and in the event of a contractual dispute, there are more appropriate forums to resolve disagreements between the parties. Furthermore, this bill ambiguously places its requirements among criminal offenses and penalties.

HB 1 Line-Item Vetoes

The governor signed HB 1, but outlined a series of line-item vetoes. Click on the link above to see the list. 

May 31, 2011: Perry vetoes HB 2403

HB 2403 would have taxed online retailers doing business in Texas. State officials estimate the state of Texas is losing $600 million every year on taxable products that are sold online. (The Tribune's Ross Ramsey covered the state's dispute with internet giant Amazon in February.) It passed the House in April and the Senate on May 13. Perry's official objection is as follows: 

I have serious concerns about the impact and appropriateness of House Bill No. 2403. In particular, I believe this legislation risks significant unintended consequences. My strong preference is to conduct a thorough policy discussion with Texas lawmakers, consumers, retailers and technology experts – and with other states and even the federal government – about interstate commerce and the structure of state sales taxes in the 21st century. That conversation is underway, and I believe that a consensus can and should be reached that balances the competing interests, respects federalism, and is fair and equitable. I call on the legislature to review this issue further while we reach out to our federal delegation and our friends in other states to build consensus.



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