Senator Bob Deuell
Texas Senate, District 2
P.O. Box 12068 Capitol Station, Austin, Texas 78711

DATE: February 7, 2002
CONTACT: Don T. Forse, Jr.
(512) 463-0102

Deuell Files Bill to Limit Chamber Members Liability

AUSTIN -- On Wednesday, Texas State Senator Robert F. Deuell filed legislation that assures local chamber of commerce leaders are not held liable for the activities of the chamber.

Currently, local chambers of commerce are not included under the definition of a "charitable organization," making volunteers subject to potential litigation. Senate Bill 360 would limit the civil liability of chamber officers or volunteers who act in good faith.

Senator Deuell said the bill will allow qualified people to serve without fear of litigation.

"Our local chambers rely on local volunteers to serve as officers and board members," Deuell said. "We don't want our local people, who perform such valuable service to our communities, hesitant to serve because they are scared of being sued."

"We need our chambers to promote their communities, attract jobs and improve the quality of life," Deuell said. "We need out best and brightest leaders serving in that capacity."

Many chambers participate in festivals and community recognition days to assist in their economic development efforts. According to Deuell, chambers may have difficulty recruiting volunteers because of the fear of liability.

"Local chambers, especially those in small rural communities don't have the resources to buy liability insurance," Deuell said. "The result is fewer people willing to fill those slots and help out."

In 1997, the U.S. Congress passed the Volunteer Protection Act, which specifically cited the work of chamber volunteers. The federal law does allow states to opt-out of the protection. Deuell said this bill will clearly state that Texas encourages local business leaders to serve on local chambers of commerce.

"We need to recognize the great service chamber members do as ambassadors for our community," Deuell said. "We need to assure them that serving their community will not make them liable for their personal assets."

Also, Senate Bill 360 is supported by the Texas Association of Business on behalf of their 220 chamber of commerce members.