The Senate Business & Commerce Committee is charged with conducting a thorough and detailed study of the following issues, including state and federal requirements, and preparing recommendations to address problems or issues that are identified.
1. Study and make recommendations relating to the Texas unemployment compensation insurance program, including, but not limited, the following:
- trends in benefit fraud and claim overpayments;
- effectiveness of Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) management and operational practices;
- development and implementation of innovative unemployment fraud detection and collection strategies by the TWC;
- other governmental research on misclassification of workers resulting in underpayments to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund;
- options for leveraging federal funds; and
- the feasibility of targeted audits to detect fraud.
Include recommendations to improve the transition of individuals off unemployment insurance, such as enhancing claimant job search programs and placement strategies.
2. Study the current structure of Texas' usury laws in order to determine how they are effected by federal law and how state law impacts new economic development and job production in the State. Pay particular attention to the relationship between the Constitutional limits on commercial and consumer lending and the location of new financial services companies within Texas. Make recommendations for improving the structure while increasing economic development and enhancing consumer protections. A thorough assessment of the credit counseling and debt management industry should accompany the Committee's examination of this subject, including recommendations for improving services.
3. Study the creation of the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) established by HB 730, 78th Legislature, to determine its effectiveness in reducing lawsuits and improving consumer satisfaction with residential construction services. Issues to be covered shall include, but not be limited to, the:
- registration of homebuilders, including the Texas Start Builder designation;
- state-sponsored inspection and dispute resolution process;
- preparation and adoption of new building performance standards;
- voluntary certification of arbitrators and filing of arbitration awards; and
- consumer complaint procedures and public information efforts.
In addition to those issues, the Committee shall study and make recommendations on improving the activities of the three task forces for which the TRCC has oversight responsibilities: The Mold Reduction and Remediation Task Force, the Task Force for Rainwater Harvesting and Water Recycling, and the Task Force for Residential Construction Arbitration.
4. Study the impact of the changes in home equity lending since the adoption of Proposition 16 and assess whether the changes have increased the number of home equity loans and improved consumer satisfaction with the lending market. The Committee shall examine and make recommendations for improving the home equity administrative interpretations and interpretative procedures, increasing the volume of new lines of credit, collecting foreclosure information since Proposition 16, surveying consumer experiences, and applying lender cures.
5. Study and make recommendations on improving the on-going implementation of SB7 (76th Legislature) with particular emphasis on evaluation of the following:
- "price to beat," and the implementation of claw-back provisions for residential and small commercial customers, including on-going requests to adjust fuel factors;
- adequacy and effectiveness of Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and its management structure;
- cost-effectiveness and fairness of congestion management mechanisms;
- delivery of power in areas outside of the ERCOT network;
- stability of the System Benefit Fund; and
- final calculation of stranded costs under the "true-up" provisions.
6. Study and make recommendations relating to improving the potential for further renewable energy development in Texas and the effectiveness of current policies encouraging the use of renewable energy sources. This study should focus on the State's capacity for wind generation, current efforts by the General Land Office to commercialize wind generation on state lands, and solutions to the constraints on utilizing wind potential to its fullest. Include an analysis of state and federal mandates, federal tax credits, wind potential, transmission constraints, economics of electricity production and delivery, and environmental considerations.
7. Study the implementation of SB 14, SB 127, and HB329, the property and casualty insurance reform and mold remediation measures passed by the 78th Legislature, to determine whether the legislation meets the Legislature's goals of reducing homeowners' insurance costs and stabilizing the market. If not, make recommendations for reducing homeowners' insurance costs. Examine implementation of new policies relating to the use of credit scoring and its impact on consumers and the market. Coordinate activities with the Joint Property and Casualty Insurance Legislative Oversight Committee.
8. Study the implementation of SB 14, 78th Legislature, as it relates to the automobile insurance market to ensure that the legislation meets the Legislature's goals of ensuring a stable market. Make recommendations for improving consumer satisfaction and expanding the market. Coordinate activities with the Joint Property and Casualty Insurance Legislative Oversight Committee.
Joint Interim Charge with the Infrastructure Development & Security Committee
1. Study the possibility of whether a system failure in Texas could occur in a manner similar to the blackout that occurred in the northeastern United States. Include a review of the Texas electric system and make recommendations on ways to enhance the security and stability of the system. Review industry plans and procedures and determine their effectiveness in responding to system disruption. Study the transmission and distribution system in Texas and make recommendations on the policies to plan for and promote investment in future transmission needs.
Coordinate Texas activities with those of the federal government, neighboring states and Mexico to ensure consistent system planning and responses. This study shall include non-ERCOT areas of Texas.
The Committee shall submit copies of its final report no later than December 1, 2004. The printing of reports should be coordinated through the Secretary of the Senate. Copies of the final report should be sent to the Lieutenant Governor (5 copies), Secretary of the Senate, Senate Research, Legislative Budget Board, Legislative Council, and Legislative Reference Library.
The final report should include recommended statutory or agency rulemaking changes, if applicable. Such recommendations must be approved by a majority of the voting members of the Committee. Recommendations should also include state and local fiscal cost estimates, where feasible. The Legislative Budget Board is available to assist in this regard.
The following reports are available for download* :
* You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the reports, click here to download a free copy.
Budget and Staff
Travel costs shall be paid from the operating budgets of Senate members. All other costs shall be borne by the Senate Business and Commerce Committee's interim budget, as approved by the Senate Administration Committee. Due to overall budget constraints, it is recommended each interim committee budget include only critical expenditures and, where possible, reductions from previous spending levels.
The Committee should also seek the assistance of legislative and executive branch agencies where appropriate.
Pursuant to Section 301.041, Government Code, it may be necessary to change the membership of a committee if a member is not returning to the Legislature in 2005. This will ensure that the work of interim committees is carried forward into the 79th Legislative Session.
77th Legislature's Business and Commerce.
77th Legislature's Business and Commerce Subcommittee on Border Affairs.
76th Legislature's Senate Committee on Economic Development.