May 17, 2017

In the Home Stretch of the 85th Legislative Session

Sine Die for the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature will be Monday, May 29, which means the House and Senate have less than two weeks to finish their work this session. 
Currently, three title insurance regulation bills that TLTA has been monitoring closely have not progressed further. HB 4239 remains pending in committee with the House Committee on Insurance, while SB 372 has not been set for a hearing by the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. In addition, SB 2203 remains pending in the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. As the days dwindle, the odds go way down that these bills will progress or show up on another bill. We remain guardedly optimistic but also vigilant.  
Last week, a significant number of bills died in the session. The Texas Tribune reported on the highlights in a May 12 article.
Currently, TLTA staff is working to amend bills dealing with access to public records as well as bills that would impact the title industry. We are also striving to push bills that we support, including our remaining affirmative agenda bills SB 1249/HB 3378. We will continue to report on the results of these efforts as the last days of the session approach.

May 10, 2017

First TLTA Affirmative Agenda Item on Governor’s Desk – Clarifies Lis Pendens Expungement

On Saturday, SB 1995 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (HB 4086 is the companion bill by Rep. John Wray) passed out of the House and is now on the Governor’s desk. SB 1995 has the honor of being among the first 90 bills to pass both chambers this session.

The bill clarifies the lis pendens expungement statute so it can be relied upon by title agents and insurers. The effort was the result of a TLTA Board of Directors' decision made just a few days before the bill filing deadline in response to a case being heard in the Texas Supreme Court and concern about its potential outcome. Sen. Hughes graciously agreed to file the bill on the deadline. Rep. Wray agreed to do the same, championing the Senate bill through the House process and helping to send it to the Governor over the weekend. TLTA is extremely grateful to both of these legislators for their responsiveness and leadership.

Home Equity Constitutional Amendment Will Be on November Ballot

Both the Texas House and Senate have adopted SJR 60, a proposed constitutional amendment that would take effect Jan. 1, 2018 and would apply to a home equity loan made on or after the effective date and to an existing home equity loan that is refinanced on or after the effective date. 
The amendment would:
  • Lower the fee limit from three percent to two percent
  • Exclude three fees from the fee limit
  • Enable home equity loans to be used on homesteads designated for agricultural use
  • Allow a "seasoned" refinance of an equity loan to be a non-home equity loan
  • Change the "Notice Concerning Extensions of Credit" to include these changes
TLTA would like to thank the following organizations for supporting this piece of legislation:
  • Texas Association of Realtors
  • Texas Farm Bureau
  • Texas Bankers Association
  • Independent Bankers Association of Texas
  • Texas Mortgage Bankers Association
  • Texas Credit Union Association
Special thanks goes to the Texas Association of Realtors for putting together this one-pager on the legislation and letting TLTA share it.
Read the TAR One-Pager »
Follow SJR 60 »
Read the Senate Committee on Investments and Financial Services' Analysis of SJR 60 »
Read TMBA's Article on Companion Resolution HJR 99 »

May 3, 2017

Bills Relating to TLTA's Affirmative Agenda Gain Momentum

The bills relating to TLTA's affirmative agenda for the 85th legislative session have been moving through the House and Senate.
SB 1249, which relates to adverse possession amongst co-tenant heirs, passed through the Senate Committee on State Affairs on April 5. On April 18, it was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence. HB 3378, the companion bill to SB 1249, has been left pending in committee while waiting on the Senate bill to arrive.
Meanwhile, the two bills relating to expungement of lis pendens have been picking up steam. SB 1955 passed through the Senate Committee on State Affairs on April 26 and was referred to the House Committee on Business and Industry on May 2. HB 4086, the companion bill to SB 1955, is scheduled to be placed on the General State Calendar on May 4.
In addition, none of the bills directly relating to title insurance have progressed since our last Legislative Update.
TLTA will keep you updated on the status of these bills as they progress.

April 26, 2017

TLTA Witness Lineup Testifies Against HB 4239, Bill Left Pending in Committee

On Tuesday, April 25, the House Committee on Insurance held a hearing for HB 4239 by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, a bill that proposes to upend our stable rate system. TLTA put forth a lineup of expert witnesses to testify against this bill, stating that it would increase costs for Texas homeowners, reduce competition by shuttering small businesses and increase risks and claims. Witnesses also pointed out the differences between title insurance and property casualty insurance, reminding the committee that title insurance is more assurance than insurance, with premiums only paid once.

The hearing drew a large crowd, with 142 people signing in as witnesses, the vast majority of whom registered in opposition. A big thank-you to all the TLTA members who packed the hearing room.

After hearing almost two hours of testimony, including extensive questioning by the committee members, the committee voted to leave HB 4239 pending. We are very pleased with that outcome and will continue to work to keep the bill from proceeding any further.

During her testimony, Leslie Midgley, CAE, Executive Vice President and CEO of TLTA, discussed how title insurance provides "13,000 quality Texas jobs" for 592 licensed title agencies, including 540 independently owned companies. She also elaborated on the fact that title insurance prices are 15% lower today than they were 25 years ago, stating, "This is a testament to the system we have in place. Today's debate is really about what type of regulatory system the legislature wants. I can tell you that Texas is widely viewed across the country as a model for a successful title system."
Proponents of the bill – which included Doug Deason, Texans for Free Enterprise (TFE); Bill Hammond, Executive Director, TFE; Dr. David Eaton of The University of Texas at Austin; Bill Peacock, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF); and Rod Bordelon, TFE – claimed that this bill was not about regulation and was simply about price. However, they did not dispute that claims could potentially increase if this bill passes.

TLTA would like to thank all members and supporters who took time out of their schedules to attend the hearing, and especially those who testified against this bill (listed in the order in which they were called):
  • Jon Hockenyos, Economic Consultant, TXP
  • Kergin Bedell, Attorney, Burton & Bedell, PLLC
  • Steve Scurlock, Independent Bankers Association of Texas
  • John Fleming, Texas Mortgage Bankers Association
  • Kelly Flanagan, Texas Association of Realtors
  • Todd Boykin, Attorney, Burdett Morgan Williamson & Boykin LLP
  • James H. Dudley, President, TLTA
  • John Dwyer, Trinity Title

TLTA will keep you informed on the status of this bill. We are very pleased with the results of this hearing and were pleased to have the opportunity to share our perspectives and data with the committee.

SB 2203 Also Heard in Committee Yesterday

On April 25, SB 2203 by Sen. Kelly Hancock was heard by the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. The regulatory cleanup language in this bill has been previously vetted and is supported by the TLTA Board of Directors. The bill would do two things:
  1. Codify the Texas Disclosure
  2. Require TDI to promulgate a statistical report that aligns with common accounting practices of title agents
The bill was left pending in committee. TLTA will keep you posted on this legislation.

April 19, 2017

TLTA Member John F. Rothermel, III Testifies on Mechanic's Liens Bill HB 3065

With six weeks to go in the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature, bills are moving quickly and TLTA is closely monitoring all legislation that could impact our industry.

On Monday, April 17, TLTA member John F. Rothermel, III testified against HB 3065, a bill that relates to mechanic's and materialman's liens. Rothermel described the current lien process as "essentially a five-legged has evolved to be reasonably balanced. We just want to make sure, over time, that we don't lose the balance in favor of one side or the other in the process."

Rothermel continued, "Our mechanic's lien bill – the law we currently have – with the long time periods after closing liens to be filed does have a real risk of hidden liens, and it does take a lot of effort to try to minimize those risks."

The chairman expressed the desire to move the bill. TLTA will keep you posted on the bill's status as it changes.

Follow HB 3065 »
Read the Full Text of HB 3065 »

Texans For Free Enterprise Touts Two New Trade Association Allies: Texas Apartment Association and Texas Hotel and Lodging Association

In their recent newsletter, Texans for Free Enterprise announced that two state trade associations have signed on in support of legislation aimed at upending our safe and stable title insurance system: the Texas Apartment Association (TAA) and the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association (THLA). TLTA has already met with TAA leadership and will continue to educate them and others on the pitfalls of these misguided proposals.
Read the Newsletter and TFE's Statement »

April 12, 2017

TLTA Member Roland Love Testifies for Expungement of Lis Pendens in SB 1955; Bill Is Part of TLTA's Affirmative Agenda

On Monday, April 10, TLTA member Roland Love testified before the Senate Committee on State Affairs regarding SB 1955, which would allow for expungement of lis pendens on a property. Love testified in favor of the bill.
"The notice of lis pendens are good," said Love. "They give the world notice of a lawsuit that involves title in that way, and people that are going to buy property are on notice." However, Love explained,sometimes lis pendens is used improperly to create problems and tie up a property, preventing it from being sold.
Love continued, "This [bill] allows the court to take a look at the lawsuit and make sure that it really does involve a claim against title, so in this way, the court can rule after making a determination that notice of lis pendens is expunged, and this clarification makes it clear the property can then be transferred or encumbered, and put back into the stream of commerce."

TLTA sought the introduction of this bill as part of our legislative agenda for the 85th session.
As of press time for Dateline Austin, the Senate committee voted to place SB 1955 on the local calendar. TLTA will keep you posted on the bill's status as it progresses.
In addition to SB 1955, TLTA's affirmative agenda includes SB 1249, Sen. Royce West's bill on adverse possession against co-tenants. As we reported in last week's Dateline Austin, that bill passed out of the Senate on Wednesday, April 5. We will continue to keep you informed about this bill as well.

April 6, 2017

Aaron Day Testifies on HB 1974; SB 1249 Passes Senate and Moves on to House

On Tuesday, April 4, Aaron Day, director of government affairs and counsel for TLTA, testified against HB 1974.
"It is our understanding that the bill will remove the discretion that's very fundamental for the underwriters and independent agents to take into account whether or not they're going to accept a power of attorney," said Day. "We are in a position of suspecting fraud often times, and it's that circumstance we're most concerned about."
Day added, "We're simply opposing this filed version of the bill. We are ready to negotiate with the other stakeholders, including the probate section of the bar, and we are very confident we have a good steward in the bill author, so we look forward to those conversations."
Filed by Rep. John Wray, HB 1974 would amend the durable statutory power of attorney. TLTA supports this bill as long as it has amendments to clearly provide the discretion for title agents to reject powers of attorney. The bill has been left pending in committee.
Meanwhile, SB 1249 – Sen. Royce West's bill on adverse possession against co-tenants – passed out of the Senate on Wednesday, April 5. It will now move on to the House.

TLTA Creates Web Page of Bills We Are Following

 To keep our members informed about our legislative advocacy efforts, TLTA has created a web page listing all of the 104 bills we are following and our position on them (if one exists). The list is in order by topic.
View the Full List of Bills TLTA Is Following »
To review the process that House Bills go through in the Texas Legislature, click the picture to the right (courtesy of Texas Legislature Online).
To review the process that Senate Bills go through in the Texas Legislature, click here.

March 29, 2017

TLTA Member Roland Love Testifies for Adverse Possession v. Co-Tenants Bill

On Monday, March 27, TLTA member Roland Love testified on SB 1249, which would allow for adverse possession against co-tenants.

“This bill arose out of a situation where we had natural disasters such as hurricanes like Katrina,” said Love during his testimony. “It's been patterned largely after bills that are laws that already exist in New York and Louisiana; however, it is more stringent.”

Added Love, "Typically there is one person who's taken care of the property for many years, even multiple generations paid the taxes, and yet they don't have the clear title to allow them to get financial aid to mortgage the property, to improve the property and otherwise deal with the property, and this bill addresses that situation. It's good for the economy, it's good for the taxpayer base and it's good for the families that have this property, and their families."

As TLTA reported on Feb. 1, our affirmative agenda for this legislative session includes seeking the introduction and passage of a bill that will provide a statutory means of adversely possessing real property against co-tenants. Currently, no such mechanism exists. The need for such a path was discovered when lower-income individuals and families could not obtain disaster relief assistance from the federal government because they could not prove up their property ownership.

TLTA will keep you posted on the status of this bill as it changes.

TLTA Adopts Positions on Several Bills

During a Board of Directors conference call on Monday, March 27, TLTA voted to adopt official positions on several bills.

Read the Full List of Positions and Bills Being Followed »

March 22, 2017

Texas Legislature Is Busy – More Bills Filed This Session

The deadline to file bills during the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature was Friday, March 10. Just how active was bill filing during this session? Let’s break it down by the numbers.
  • Total bills filed: 6,517
  • House bills: 4,273
  • Senate bills: 2,244
  • Sine Die: Monday, May 29
  • Veto period ends: Sunday, June 18
Comparatively, the 84th session saw 6,276 bills filed, while 5,868 were filed in the 83rd session (not including the three special sessions).

Updated: TLTA Takes Position on Two Bills, Actively Following 104 Bills

On Monday, March 20, the TLTA Board of Directors approved motions to take positions on two bills:
  • SB 2203, by Sen. Kelly Hancock: Relating to title insurance
  • Motion approved by board to support bill with no amendments
  • HB 4239, by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr.: Relating to regulation of title insurance rates
  • Motion approved by board to oppose bill
In addition, TLTA has updated the list of bills we are actively tracking now that the legislature’s bill filing deadline has ended. The number of bills has increased to 104. Check out the new updated list below; the new bills and topics are in italics.
Read More »

March 15, 2017

Legislation on Lis Pendens Filed in Texas Legislature; Amicus Brief Filed by TLTA in Related Case

TLTA was instrumental in getting two bills filed last week – SB 1955 and HB 4086 – which would clarify that title insurance companies could rely on an expungement of lis pendens when evaluating a transaction. A recent combined case heard before the Supreme Court has begun to shed doubt on this previous certainty. If the Supreme Court were to decide that actual knowledge of the action in the lis pendens denied a purchaser the ability to rely on an expungement, this would have the practical effect of removing any ability of the title insurance industry to rely on an expungement, as each case would become a fact issue.
In addition, TLTA recently filed an amicus brief on lis pendens in these two cases combined and heard before the Supreme Court of Texas.
Read More »
Read the Amicus Brief »

Two More Title Insurance Bills Filed on Friday Bill Filing Deadline – TLTA Analyzing Impact

As TLTA reported in our Breaking News alert on Saturday, March 11, Friday was the deadline for bill filing at the Texas Legislature and, as we anticipated, there were additional bills filed dealing with the regulation of title insurance.
HB 4239 by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr. (D-Palmview) proposes a flex band rate system as well as some other regulatory cleanup items dealing with transparency in reporting. SB 2203 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) does not address title insurance rate making at all, but mimics the other regulatory cleanup proposals in Muñoz’s bill.
Read the Breaking News Alert »

Texas Counties Rally Against Statewide Court Records Portal

Note: TLTA has been following this proposed legislation closely and working with stakeholders on both sides of the issue to ensure there are no negative unintended consequences for our industry. Aaron Day, director of government affairs and counsel for TLTA, testified at a hearing last week about this issue. The Texas Tribune covers this story in the link below.

The Texas Supreme Court, through its Office of Court Administration, has worked for years on a one-stop legal records shop. Called re:SearchTX, the project is coming out in phases, with plans to eventually provide widespread public access.
The public portal would be funded through fees that attorneys pay to use the system. It would function like PACER, a widely used federal portal that charges subscribers small fees for access.

But county and district clerks are fuming. They’re pushing to kill the project in a wonky battle involving local control and privacy concerns, multimillion-dollar contracts and confusion about how the portal would ultimately work.

Read the Texas Tribune Story »

March 8, 2017

Bill Filing Deadline Friday, March 10

The deadline for filing bills for the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature is this Friday, March 10. TLTA is monitoring this very closely to see what bills of interest or concern are filed this week, including any possible additional proposals regarding our regulatory system.  We will release news about any relevant bills once they are filed.

Updated: Bills TLTA Is Following This Session

The number of bills TLTA is actively tracking has increased to 57. Check out the new updated list. The new bills and topics are in italics.

Read More »

Home Equity Reform Constitutional Amendment Filed

(Reprinted with permission from the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association)
On Tuesday, House Chairman Tan Parker filed HJR 99, the Constitutional Amendment that amends the Home Equity provisions of the Constitution. It is expected that the Senate will file a companion joint resolution sometime today or tomorrow.

HJR 99 reflects extensive work over the last year by Texas Mortgage Bankers Association, Texas Bankers Association, Independent Bankers Association of Texas, the Texas Association of Realtors and the two credit union trade associations to make some common-sense reforms to home equity lending in Texas.  
Read More »

March 1, 2017

TLTA Begins Process of Developing Legislative Positions

As many bills are still in the process of developing, TLTA has not yet taken an official position on most of the bills we are monitoring. However, there are two items on which we have taken a specific position.

Read More »

Powers of Attorney: Should Title Companies Be Required to Accept Them?
 A significant discussion currently taking place involves the question of whether financial institutions and title companies should be required to accept a durable power of attorney. These bills include HB 1974, by Sen. John Wray and SB 926, by Sen. Eddie Rodriguez.

Read More »

Feb. 22, 2017

Bills TLTA Is Following This Session

It’s less than two months into the legislative session, and more than 3,000 bills have already been filed. Lawmakers have until March 10 to file proposed legislation so that number will continue to grow. Out of those more than 3,000 bills, TLTA is currently actively following 44 bills on topics including:
  • Title insurance regulations
  • Eminent domain
  • Partition of real estate
  • Powers of attorney
  • Real estate transactions
  • Mineral interests
  • Foreclosure
  • Access to public records
  • Privacy issues
  • Franchise tax
  • Tax issues
  • Electronic filing
  • Remote e-notary
  • Sales price disclosure
TLTA has compiled a list of the bills we are actively following, a brief description and links so you can track them as well. Throughout the session, we will continue to update the status of these bills and add new ones we are tracking so you can stay informed and follow the progress of these proposed new laws that would affect your business.

See Bills We're Following »

Remote E-Notary Bill Filed in Texas – TLTA Working With Stakeholders

Rep. Tan Parker, Chairman of the Investment and Financial Services Committee, has filed HB 1217, a bill establishing the framework for remote e-notarization in Texas. The Texas Mortgage Bankers Association is championing this bill and working closely with the notary industry, the Secretary of State’s office and the title industry to craft a bill that will address the concerns of all the stakeholders. There will be subsequent revisions to the filed bill incorporating this feedback.
TMBA is also working with ALTA to take into account the feedback from the national title insurance industry, in addition to TLTA members. ALTA recently sent a letter to the National Association of Secretaries of State offering support of efforts to promote the understanding of remote electronic notarizations. The organization has also formed a work group establishing principles for legislation creating remote e-notary procedures. Additionally, the ALTA work group is currently focusing on HB 1217 as a potential model bill for the nation.
Virginia and Montana have recently enacted remote e-notarization laws that have been met with concern by the national title industry. Additionally, in many state legislatures around the country, bills have been filed to create a remote e-notary option. The goal of the current stakeholders is to craft a bill that can serve as a national model and address some of the problems identified with the new statutes in other states.
In addition, Dateline Austin published a story on Jan. 19 (second story down) about e-notaries and Texas, referencing Quicken's recent push for e-notarization.

Feb. 15, 2017

Record Numbers Attend TLTA's 2017 Day at the Capitol

More than 225 title insurance professionals – triple the usual attendance – packed the halls at the Texas Capitol for the 2017 Day at the Capitol, meeting with more than 160 legislators as well as networking with one another. This was by far the largest Day at the Capitol that TLTA has ever hosted.
“The unprecedented size of the event was great to see, and these conversations will
have a significant impact this legislative season on ensuring that Texas’ title insurance system stays safe and stable for homeowners,” said Leslie Midgley, CAE, Executive Vice President and CEO of TLTA.
Thanks again to everyone who came out to Austin and made Day at the Capitol such a huge success!
View the 2017 Day at the Capitol Photo Album on Facebook »

Real Estate Stakeholders Support TLTA and Texas Title Insurance System

On Feb. 14, a coalition of associations sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus, asking them to reject any legislation that would reverse regulation of our industry. The letter was co-signed by eight associations, including the Texas Land Title Association, the Texas Association of Realtors, the Texas Association of Builders, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association, the Texas Bankers Association, Independent Bankers Association of Texas and the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association.

Read More »

Read the Full Text of the Letter »

Feb. 9, 2017

House Committee Assignments Announced

Speaker of the House Joe Straus announced committee assignments today for the Texas House of Representatives. The Insurance committee appointments are particularly important, as that is the committee that hears title insurance bills. It is worth noting that the chair and the committee member makeup of that committee are significantly different than last session. Other bills that we follow are typically heard in the Business and Industry committee or the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence committee. Below is a link to view the makeup of all the committees.

Business and Industry

Chair: René Oliveira
Vice-Chair: Hugh Shine
Seniority appointments: Nicole Collier and Hugh Shine
Speaker appointments: Ramon Romero, Jr., Jonathan Stickland, Jason Villalba and Paul Workman

Insurance Committee

Chair: Larry Phillips
Vice-Chair: Sergio Muñoz, Jr.
Seniority appointments: Scott Sanford, Chris Turner and Hubert Vo
Speaker appointments: Rodney Anderson, Lance Gooden, Tom Oliverson and Dennis Paul

Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee

Chair: John Smithee
Vice-Chair: Jessica Farrar
Seniority appointments: Jodie Laubenberg, Matt Rinaldi and Mike Schofield
Speaker appointments: Roland Gutierrez, Ana Hernandez, Andrew Murr and Victoria Neave
Read the full list of House committee assignments.

Read Dateline Austin's Jan. 25 article with the full list of Senate committee assignments.

Feb. 8, 2017

Gov. Abbott Announces Priorities

This week, TLTA will cover Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities for the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature.

Read More »

Feb. 1, 2017

Most of our correspondence so far about the legislative session has been focused on the attack on our industry’s regulatory system. In this week's Legislative Update, however, we're covering TLTA's affirmative legislative agenda for the 85th session of the Texas Legislature, as well as other issues we expect to see come up this session. We anticipate a very busy session with many bills that we will be actively working on or monitoring. As always, our goal is to support legislation that promotes efficient real estate commerce and oppose or work with the authors to amend legislation that does the opposite. We will keep you updated as bills of interest get filed and work their way through the legislative process.

TLTA's Affirmative Agenda for the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature

TLTA will be seeking the introduction and passage of a bill that will provide a statutory means of adversely possessing real property against co-tenants; currently, no such mechanism exists. The need for such a path was discovered when lower-income individuals and families could not obtain disaster relief assistance from the federal government because they could not prove up their property ownership.
Read More »