Advocacy Update: Sprint to the Finish

What a week it was, and it was only the start of our “85th Sprint to the Finish!”

We had six bills that we consider part of our package heard in committee, and a seventh was posted for a hearing on the following Monday, April 24. Monday’s bill is HB 2343, our “Right to Repair” language that was identified on Architects Day back in February as one of our top three priorities. While time is short, we finally have our shot—and intend to make the most of it.

All six bills that were heard had no apparent opposition, which is very important with only five weeks left in the Regular Session. Three of the bills—HBs 2121, 2128 and 3021—were heard in the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence (JCJ) committee, where Austin member Jim Susman (STG Architects) did an excellent job in testifying on 3021, a 2017 refinement of our 2015 push to eliminate “Duty to Defend” clauses in public contracts. Another member, immediate past president Paul Bielamowicz of Page’s Austin office, testified for HB 3434 before the House Public Education committee. This bill would help establish the same Uniform General Conditions reviewed and recommended every five years by a special advisory committee of the Texas Facilities Commission, as the base standards for a new similar adoption requirement assigned to Texas Education Agency (TEA) contracts.

HB 2473, a measure to clarify some confusion created last session by HB 23 regarding Texas Ethics Commission reporting requirements, was heard in the House General Investigating & Ethics committee, and SB 807, which would establish venue in Texas for construction lawsuits brought on Texas-based projects, were both heard and left pending April 20. The latter bill was considered by Senate State Affairs.

On the non-plus side of the legislative ledger, our bill to shorten the Statute of Repose, HB 1053, was not voted out of the JCJ committee as we had been told it would be, and SB 1215, a “Lonergan Lite” bill did make it out of the Senate on April 19. (For a refresher on “Lonergan,” see this advocacy update.) The other YUUUUGE piece of bad news is that HB 3020, one of our most critical bills, still must be set for hearing in Appropriations. (HB 3020 is “technical correction” legislation meant to fix several issues related to public agency construction and procurement.)

Rhetoric between the House and Senate has been less dramatic lately, and major bills are being passed in both chambers, though there are major differences between the two chambers on: 1) the budget; 2) bathrooms; 3) sanctuary cities; and, 4) public education funding, to name just a few of the biggies. Things are moving, nonetheless, so it’s just a matter of time—really, as in “Is there enough time left, for our bills—for the YUUUUGE ones grabbing all the headlines?” Will our lyrical muse be The Stones (“Time is on My Side”) or The Guess Who (“No Time”)? Only time will tell.