Bell Alert, Texas Legislative Report

Bell Alert

March 16, 2015

The deadline for filing of bills for the 84th Legislative Session occurred on March 13, 2015. The key bills and issues we are watching, and you will receive an update when things actually move, are listed below. The last day of session is Monday, June 1, 2015.

Electrical Licensing Bills:

HB 1077 Kuempel/SB 548 Campbell - Membership of the Electrical Safety and Licensing Advisory Board - this bill designates one of the public members to be a Master Sign Electrician.

HB 3043 Thompson/SB 1487 Garcia - Journeyman Lineman - This bill expands the work a licensed journeyman lineman may do by adding work involving installation from the electricity’s original source to a substation and from a substation to further distribution. It also adds that their exam be based primarily on information in the Lineman’s and Cableman’s handbook.

HB 2355 Huberty/SB 953 Birdwell - Unlicensed Sign Contractor - This bill exempts a person who sells or offers to sell a sign that requires electrical work to electrical sign work in connection with the construction or installation of the sign if the person does not actually perform that electrical work or electrical sign work. IEC of Texas opposed this issue last session.

HB 3713 Schaefer - Authority of MuniCIPalities to Regulate Occupations - This bill limits muniCIPalities in adopting or enforcing any ordinance, rule, or regulation that: establishes additional, more stringent licensing requirements for an occupation that requires an occupational license issued by the state, keeps muniCIPalities from requiring a person to obtain a local license, and makes a muniCIPal ordinance, rule, or regulation that violates this section of the law void and unenforceable.

HB 3742 Smith - TDLR ReCIProcal Agreements Expansion - This bill will allow the TDLR to adopt alternative means of determining or verifying a person’s eligibility for a license issued by the department and to waive any prerequisite for obtaining a license if the person currently holds a similar license issued by another jurisdiction that are equivalent to those of Texas. It also allows the department with the approval of the governor to enter into reCIProcal agreements with other states.

Construction Bills:

HB 1668 Workman/SB 666 Eltife - Status of a subcontractor for Workers Comp - Unless the general contractor and the subcontractor have entered into a written agreement, this bill would make a subcontractor and its employees NOT employees of the general contractor if the subcontractor is operating as an independent contractor and has entered into a written agreement with the general contractor that evidences a relationship in which the subcontractor assumes the responsibilities of an employer for the performance of work regarding workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

HB 1784 Workman - This bill is a construction defect bill and it would (when it has matured, as it applies only to construction projects instituted after the law comes into effect) serve to reduce the abusive practice of “auditing” construction projects nine years after completion, and shaking down the construction team (starting with the GC and rolling downhill onto subs) for “defects” discovered, most of which are nothing more than normal aging and/or poor maintenance.

HB 689 - Mandatory Workers Compensation - This bill requires contractors and subcontractors to provide workers compensation insurance to each employee on a public jobsite.

HB 434 Thompson - Misclassification of Construction Workers - This bill allows the Texas Workforce Commission to conduct audits and penalize contractors (based on complaints to an 800 number and website) if they do not have workers categorized as employees or contract labor properly.

HB 1208 Bell - Lender Notice of Default - this bill allows contractors and subcontractors to suspend contractually required performance without penalty or liability for damages if a contractor receives notice by the lender if any of the following notices in connection with a default of the loan financing agreement: A notice of attention to accelerate; a notice of acceleration; a notice of set-off; or a notice of foreclosure.

HB 1966 Keffer - Retainage as Trust Funds - This legislation would require retainage to be deposited into a construction trust fund account and are legally considered trust funds. This bill will also allow for a bond in lieu of a trust fund account with specific provisions.

HB 1206 Huberty/ SB 1081 Creighton - CCIP Legislation - This bill would require certain disclosures to be made for a construction project that may be covered by a CIP. In addition, prior to the execution of a construction contract under a CIP, the persons entering into the contract should be provided written disclosures, which would include the scope of coverage and limits for each policy under the CIP.

HB 3148 Rodriguez - Regulation of Construction Contractors - This bill would require all construction contractors to be registered with the TDLR and the TDLR can assess a penalty on a contractor that does not register and a person is not allowed to act as or offer to act as a construction contractor unless the person is registered under this law. The commission shall adopt rules and construct a contractor database that will indicate whether a contractor is in good standing. The Department will also report to the legislature the number of individuals misclassified as independent contractors, penalties assessed, list of contractors not registered, and registrations suspended or revoked. The bill also allows for communication between the TDLR and the Texas Workforce Commission. There is an exemption for licenses held under Title 6, the regulation of engineering, architecture, land surveying; and under Title 8, the regulation of environmental and industrial trades: Plumbers, Air Conditioning and refrigeration, residential service companies, service contract providers and administrators and electricians.

The Texas Workforce Coalition - The Coalition that fought for HB 5 which passed last session is being reformed under a different name to continue to support policies that better align our education system and the workforce. This group will continue working on this issue long term but it is also monitoring the bills on alignment of education and the workforce this session. There are over 40 bills on this subject we are tracking and I will update you when the list gets shorter.

Other Bills of Interest:

Franchise Tax Reform - there are several bills on this issue providing for reform and repeal. Hearings were held the first week of March in the Senate on franchise tax and other tax issues. Governor Abbott has stated that he does want to see franchise tax reform on his desk this session.

Tuition Revenue Bonds - several bills filed, there will more than likely be a comprehensive bill.

Failure to Pay Wages - several bills filed providing penalties

Minimum Wage Legislation - several bills filed providing for a raise in the minimum wage.

E-Verify for Construction - several bills filed, mostly on public work.

Mobile Phone usage while driving