• January 8, 2018

New Year Brings New Laws Part II

New Year Brings New Laws Part II

New Year Brings New Laws Part II 150 150 Elect Todd Hunter

New Year Brings New Laws Part II

With the start of the new year, it is important to know about the laws that went into effect. Certain laws that were passed during the 85th Regular Legislative Session came into effect on January 1, 2018. Last week, we reviewed some new laws and I’d like to continue to review others this week. These new laws range from bills addressing ad valorem taxes to the transfer of motor vehicle titles. Each of the bills that took effect on January 1 went through a 140-day legislative session. During that 140-day period, these bills went before House and Senate Committees before going before the Texas House and Senate as a whole and then going to the Governor’s office.

The laws mentioned below represent some more of those pieces of legislation that passed and went into effect on January 1:

• Senate Bill (SB) 594 relates to the procedure for the approval of rules adopted by the comptroller relating to the appraisal of qualified open-space land and qualified timber land for ad valorem tax purposes. Chapter 23, Tax Code, requires the Texas comptroller of public accounts to develop and distribute manuals that detail how to appraise qualified open-space land and timber land. These appraisal manuals establish eligibility requirements for farm land and timber land to qualify for productivity appraisal and include procedures and methodologies that appraisal districts are required to follow. Under current law, the appraisal manuals must be approved by a majority vote of the governor, comptroller, Texas attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, and commissioner of the General Land Office. The number of actors involved makes the process for approving the manuals cumbersome. Moreover, revision of the appraisal manuals is infrequent. The agriculture manual has not been revised since 1990 and the timber manual was last updated in 2004. SB 594 simplifies the agriculture and timber appraisal manual revision process to allow these manuals to be updated more frequently.

• SB 1062 relates to documentation for the transfer of a motor vehicle title. Current federal law requires disclosure of the odometer reading when ownership of a motor vehicle is transferred. The odometer disclosure is required to be made on a secure form to prevent tampering. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has implemented a carbon copy paper form which complies with the requirements of federal law. However, since the paper form must be mailed, its use adds significant delay and inconvenience to the motor vehicle ownership transfer process, especially for total loss automobile claims. This bill seeks to expedite this process which in turn would allow insurance companies to pay the vehicle owner more quickly and would expedite the process for insurance companies to dispose of salvage claims.

• SB 1767 relates to hearings and protests before appraisal review boards involving ad valorem tax determinations. Property owners who believe their local appraisal district has over appraised their property have the option of protesting this assessment before their local appraisal review board. However, the current protest system is biased in favor of the appraisal district. Many property owners are currently discouraged from protesting their assessment for fear that an appraisal review board could increase the assessed value of their property during a protest hearing. SB 1767 seeks to provide protections for property owners who choose to protest their assessments by preventing additional increases in assessments without consent and guaranteeing an opportunity to respond to the evidence used to determine the value of their property. SB 1767 also seeks to remedy the inherent advantage currently held by the appraisal district by providing a protestor with the option to present his or her evidence and argument before, after, or between the cases presented by the chief appraiser and each taxing unit.

It is important to learn and know about the new laws that were passed by the 85th Texas Legislature. If you would like to view any of the other legislation that was passed during the 85th Session, these websites are great resources:

The Texas Legislature
The Texas House of Representatives.
The Texas Senate.

If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.texas.gov or at 512-463-0672.