REVIEW OF THE 85th LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The 2017 Legislative Session has finally ended, and most observers would agree that it was one of the most contentious in recent history. It was evident early on that both sides of the aisle were not likely to agree on many controversial issues --- from property taxes to “the bathroom bill” to sanctuary cities.
One hundred forty days seems like a long time in January when the gavel first hammers in the Session. But beginning in late April and early May, the realization that the Session is drawing to a close becomes reality. The time-consuming process may not allow important bills to pass in the last month or so.
Statutorily, the Legislature only has to pass one bill --- the state budget for the next two years. However, lawmakers end up considering many more potential laws during the Session.
House filed 4333
House passed 654 (15%)
Senate filed 2298
Senate passed 485 (21%)
Total passed 1139 (the lowest number in the last 10 Sessions)
For process servers, the Session was “same song, second verse”. HB 2412 was introduced again, virtually the same bill that has been filed a number of times in the past. Known by those familiar with it as the “18 and Breathing Bill”, the proposed legislation stripped away required training for process servers. Representative Mike Schofield, author of the bill, stated in the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee that he had worked as a process server while in college. Testifying in favor of the bill were Dana McMichael and Tod Pendergrass, longtime opponents of the certification process for servers.
Representative Schofield made a point of stressing to the committee his viewpoint that it is not difficult to deliver a process and that no special education or training is necessary. Present to express their dissatisfaction with the bill were members of both the Justices of the Peace Association and Constable’s Association. Members of the newly formed Texas Professional Process Servers Association (TxAPPS) were also present to voice opposition to the bill. They testified that training and continuing education is imperative to do the job safely, correctly, and well. Training in situational awareness teaches servers how to react during various circumstances.
HB 2412 died in the committee.
Another bill affecting process servers this Session is SB 43, which passed both houses and was sent to the Governor’s office on May 28, 2017. Unless he vetoes it (which seems unlikely), the bill will become law on September 1st of this year. This bill alters the certification period of process servers from 3 years to 2 years. The legislation will standardize process servers into the same fee pay period as the other industries governed by the Judicial Branch Certification Commission (JBCC).
HB 1217 is a bill that will likely affect many process servers as well, as it refers to notaries public. In actuality, nearly 40 bills mentioned notaries public this Session, but as of now HB 1217 is the only bill which substantially changes notary services. It will become law on July 1, 2018, unless vetoed by Governor Abbott. From current information available, it appears that this bill will become law. Many states offer on-line notary services, but until now Texas did not. HB 1217 requires the Secretary of State to develop standards and rules for on-line notarization using two-way video and audio conferencing. Notaries public will apply for an appointment as an on-line notary for a fee. They can notarize on-line for documents: signed by a Texas resident; for real estate transactions; or for a debt payable in Texas. The notary may charge up to $25.00, in addition to regular notary fees. An unauthorized person who obtains, conceals, or damages an enabling certificate would commit a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by 1 year in jail and/or maximum fine of $ 4,000.00).
Governor Abbott has called a special session to convene July 18th. The primary bill to be considered is the Sunset bill (the bill which reviews state agencies and makes recommendations about their operations). Following that, the Governor has added 19 other subjects to his call—including the property tax bill and the controversial “bathroom bill”, so it is possible that the headlines and political hijinks may continue during the summer.
SUBJECTS FOR THE SPECIAL SESSION:
- Retain quality teachers - increase teacher pay by $1000
- Increase school administrator flexibility
- Overhaul school finance system and Texas School Commission on Finance Reform
- School choice for special needs children
- Property tax reform
- Provide neither state nor local spending can exceed growth of population and inflation
- Reduce and restrict regulation by local governments trees on private land changing rules midway through projects speed up permitting process
- Reform of municipal annexation policies
- Prevent cities from passing regulations of texting and driving
- Privacy of women and children
- Prohibit using taxpayer dollars to collect union dues
- Prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion providers by local governments
- Legislation to crack down on mail ballot fraud and toughen penalties
- Extend Maternity Mortality Task Force