Legal Related »

HB 590 by Delisi/Zaffirini –Relating to standards of conduct for and conflicts of interest of state officers and employees.   HB 590 clarifies and strengthens ethical standards that apply to state officials and employees by promoting consistent ethical policies among state agencies.  TAMUS already has in place an ethics policy that fulfills the requirements of the current statute and these proposed changes.  However, HB 590 requires that the ethics policy be distributed to each new employee and officer within three business days upon hire.

HB 1268 by Van Arsdale/Ellis- Relating to the award of attorney's fees under the terms of certain contracts with a governmental entity.   HB 1268 requires that if a contract between a governmental entity (including an institution of higher education) and another party requires the other party to pay the governmental entity's attorney's fees if the governmental entity prevails in a dispute, then the contract must also provide that the governmental entity will pay the other contracting party's attorney's fees if the other party prevails.  The term "Contract" includes construction contracts, as well as contracts for services, public works, and the purchase of supplies, materials or equipment.

HB 1497 by Van Arsdale/Williams - Relating to the consequences of the failure by a person requesting information under the public information law to timely respond to certain written communications from a governmental body.  Previously, if a governmental body made a permissible inquiry under Section 552.222, Government Code, to a requestor about the requestor’s request and the requestor did not respond, there were no means by which the request could be closed out or complied with.
HB 1497 provides certain conditions by which a written inquiry communication to which a requestor does not respond is considered to constitute a withdrawal of the request by the requestor. The bill also prohibits the requestor's request, if it included the requestor's physical or mailing address, from being withdrawn in such a manner unless the applicable entity sends the permissible inquiry to that address by certified mail.

HB 2248 by Van Arsdale/Williams - Relating to the ability of a governmental body under the public information law to request a redetermination from the attorney general on dismissal of litigation relating to the same issue. HB 2248 would amend Government code, ch. 552 to allow for the dismissal of a suit when a requestor withdrew a request for information under the Public Information Act.  If, while a suit was pending against the attorney general, a requestor voluntarily and expressly withdrew or abandoned the request for information, a court could dismiss the suit if all parties agreed to the dismissal. The attorney general would determine whether the request was voluntarily withdrawn or was abandoned. This determination then would be represented to a court, and if the court consented to the dismissal, a governmental body could ask for new decision, or reconsideration, of the attorney general concerning the same information that was at issue.

HB 2564 by Hancock/Wentworth - Relating to the authority of a governmental body to require the payment of a charge before complying with certain requests for the production of public information or for copies of public information.  HB 2564 authorizes a governmental body to establish a reasonable time limit (36 hours during a 12 month time frame) on the amount of time that personnel are required to spend producing information in compliance with a request for public information. The bill also provides a process in which the governmental body may charge a fee if the time limit required for information production is exceeded.  The bill also lists entities that are exempt from such requests, such as radio and television stations and newspapers.

HB 3291 by Otto/Averitt - Relating to a prohibition against the governing board of a public institution of higher education entering into certain contracts relating to permanent improvements at the institution.  HB 3291 requires the governing board of an institution of higher education cannot enter into a contract with a person relating to a permanent improvement project at the institution under which the institution makes contractual payments to the person that are not reflected on the institution's financial statement unless the board: (1) is specifically authorized to enter into the contract by other law; or (2) receives prior approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

HB 3382 by Naishtat/Uresti - Relating to providing certain computerized instructional material for blind and visually impaired students at public institutions of higher education.  HB 3382 requires textbook publishers to make electronic copies of textbooks and other assigned written materials promptly available to universities, if requested, for use by visually impaired students.  The bill also prohibits publishers from charging an entity for the material and subjects publishers who fail to comply with the law to administrative penalties imposed by the Coordinating Board.
To protect against copyright violations, students will purchase textbooks and the university will provide proof of purchase for the actual textbooks from the bookstore.  Furthermore, publishers will not have to provide electronic copies of the textbook if copyrights prohibit it, the publication is out of print, or the publication is a format that cannot be converted into an electronic file.

SB 129 by West/Smith - Relating to reporting of gifts of cash or a cash equivalent to public officials.  SB 129 would require that a gift of cash or cash equivalent reported on a personal financial disclosure filed with Texas Ethics Commission include in the description of the gift a statement of the gift’s value. Previously, a person subject to personal financial disclosure has to report a gift only as a “check” or “money order” without disclosing the face value. SB 129 would close this loophole.

SB 276 by Wentworth/Rose – Relating to student members of the board of regents of a state university or state university system.   SB 276 removes the requirement that the student's name be removed from an application for student regent before consideration by the university's chancellor or president. SB 276 updates the eligibility requirements for appointment as student regent by requiring the student to be in good academic standing throughout the person's term and by setting a minimum grade point average of 2.5. SB 276 provides that a student regent is entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses.
The term of a student regent on the board of regents of a state university system or state university that under the law in effect immediately before the effective date of this Act was to expire February 1, 2008, is extended to expire on May 31, 2008.
The changes in law made by SB 276 apply to a student regent on the board of regents of a state university system or state university serving on or appointed after the effective date of this Act.  SB 276 is effective 5/23.

SB 175 by Wentworth/Parker - Relating to the calculation of certain deadlines under the public information law.   Various current statutes, including the Public Information Act, use a variety of terms referencing a day in which a person is generally required to work. This variation in terms can, at times, cause complications to arise in the calculation of certain deadlines.  SB 175 clarifies that the term "business day" is to be used to calculate certain deadlines and makes conforming changes to other sections currently using the term "working day."  Effective 6/15/07

SB 300 by Ellis/Paxton - Relating to the duration of judgment liens in favor of the state.  SB 300 prevents a judgment in favor of the state or a state agency, including an institution of higher education, from becoming dormant and extends the life of a judgment lien from 10 to 20 years, thereby reducing the time and costs associated with the renewal process.

SB 592 by Wentworth/Parker – Relating to special notice to the news media of the meeting of a governmental body in certain situations under the open meetings law.  This bill would modify and broaden the methods that may be used to provide notice of an emergency meeting of the governmental body or the addition of an emergency item to an agenda of a meeting of the governmental body to members of the media who have made a request for such notice in accordance with the statute.  Currently the notice methods permitted are telephone or telegraph.  This bill would permit notice by telephone, facsimile transmission or electronic mail.  Effective 6/15/2007

SB 608 by Ellis/Callegari - Relating to restrictions on state contracts with certain contractors.  SB 608  amends the Government Code to prohibit a state agency from accepting a bid or awarding a contract, including a contract for which the purchasing authority is delegated to a state agency, that includes proposed financial participation by certain persons who were involved in certain contract violations or assessed penalties in certain enforcement actions with regard to the relief, recovery, or reconstruction efforts as a result of Hurricane Katrina, as defined, or any other disaster, as defined, occurring after September 24, 2005.

SB 1046 by Wentworth/Morrison - Relating to the provision of notice to institutions of higher education of meetings of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and to telephone conference meetings of the board.  Currently, the Coordinating Board is required to mail an agenda to the chairman of each governing board and the chief administrative officer of each institution of higher education at least 30 days before a meeting. This requirement has not been changed since the Coordinating Board's inception in 1965.

Current law authorizes governing boards for institutions as well as the Board for Lease of University Lands to meet by telephone conference call under certain circumstances. However, the Coordinating Board is not provided with similar privileges.

SB 1046 includes the Coordinating Board under the same provisions as governing boards of institutions with regard to holding telephone conference calls.  This bill also decreases the advance notice required for the board meetings from 30 days to seven days

SB 1325 by West/McCall - Relating to the eligibility of relatives of public college and university board members to receive certain scholarships; providing a criminal penalty.  SB 1325 prohibits relatives of public college and university board members from receiving certain scholarships from the institution or system whose board the member serves, with certain limited exceptions.

SB 1306 by Wentworth/Goolsby -Relating to the attendance by a quorum of a governmental body at certain events under the open meetings law.  Senate Bill 1306 clarifies existing law to include ceremonial events and press conferences within the exceptions to meetings under the Texas Open Meetings Act. This clarification provides that no formal action may be taken at these events, in conformance with the current requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act.  SB 1306 is effective 5/22.