As the 85th legislative session started, we said, “If nothing other than the budget passes this session, we should consider it a success.” That is still a valid concept because the tenor of the legislature is so very tense, and many of the bills filed have been so contentious, that not only are their chances not good but the advisability of them becoming law are questionable, too.
Still, we decided to advocate for several issues, mostly in conjunction with our friends in engineering and contracting. We are well positioned with those jointly sponsored bills, though increasingly nervous about there being sufficient time to achieve passage of any of them.
We have six bills that are the joint effort of the Architect-Engineer-Contractor communities, or the design & construction industry. Those bills are: HB 1053, to shorten the Statute of Repose from 10 years to five; HB 1844, to establish a requirement that Texas be the venue for any construction lawsuit brought on a Texas project; HB 2121, to allow recovery of attorney fees in “smaller” (< $250,000) breach of contracts claims against the state; HB 2343, to establish a “Right to Repair” for construction related claims; HB 2473, to remedy problems in the reporting of potential contracting conflicts created by HB 23 last session; and, HB 3020, to eliminate duplications and make refinements to the Government Code chapter dealing with Alternative Project Delivery methods.
In addition, there are several priority bills being advocated by just Architects and Engineers (A/E), or Architects and Contractors (A/C). These include: HB 3021, to refine “Duty to Defend” requirements in private project contracts (A/E); HB 3110, to refine “Duty to Defend” language in public project contracts (A/E); HB 3270, to loosen the background check/fingerprint restrictions on contractors’ employees working on K-12 projects (A/C); HB 3434, to extend applying the periodic state review of construction contract Uniform General Conditions done by the state Facilities Commission to the Texas Education Agency (A/C).
We have plenty to keep us busy on the advocacy front alone, but defense—not losing ground on what has been achieved in previous sessions—is the greater imperative. There are some bills out there that are potentially devastating. They would reverse years of legislative progress, court precedent and economic stability. A few of these are: HB 2170, to establish an implied warranty on the adequacy, accuracy, sufficiency, and suitability of the plans, specifications, or related documents provided constructors (contractors like this one, designers hate it), HB 3326, to expand the definition of Job Order Contracting, and the maximum threshold for its legal use, and HB 2535, SB 732, SB 898, to eliminate local tree protection ordinances. (Generally, our bill analysts and other advocacy leaders prefer retaining local control to the state dictating local issues like what kind of ordinances can be approved, setting tax rates, frequency of bond elections, etc.)
Other noteworthy legislative mentions are:
Four Interior Designer related bills, three of which IDs like and one they hate. HB 1657/SB 2187 extends their “grandfather” allowance, HB 1909 would give them the right to claim a Mechanic’s Lien (just like architects already have), HB 2721/SB 1932 revises the exam eligibility language, and the one the IDs hate is HB 3878, which would repeal their entire statute. We’re currently neutral on all ID legislation;
Sustainability bills we like (or at least don’t hate): HB 173, related to (commercial) rainwater harvesting, HB 1334, related to (personal) rainwater harvesting, SB 410, related to using LED lights in public buildings, and SB 774, related to a developer’s tree- planting (replacement) credit.
Accessibility bills on our track include: HB 1120, 1121 and 1123 by Springer, which we are trying to help amend before any further action is under-taken to advance them, HB 1463/SB 827, which would establish state requirements for any ADA suits filed in Texas, and SB 296, which would waive state sovereign immunity in ADA suits filed in Texas.
Check out this comprehensive list of bills currently being followed on our legislative tracking system. If you are aware of an issue or specific bill you think we should be covering, please do not hesitate to contact either Sharna Haine or David Lancaster, Hon. AIA.