84th Legislative Session Highlights
Thanks to the support of the thousands families and businesses across the state who made calls, signed petitions, sent emails, and shared their experiences, we had our most successful session in years. Together, we worked towards a Safe Texas by blocking dangerous anti-policyholder legislation and supporting bills to improve workplace and community safety. Here’s what our session looked like.
1. Defeated the Insurance Immunity Act (SB1628)
We fought hard this session to beat back efforts to undo decades of policyholder protections. The insurance industry attempted to grab with both hands by pushing SB1628. The bill incentivized low or no pay tactics by insurance companies, immunized their agents, created “gotcha” provisions, and severely limited the amount of time that policyholders have to file a claim.
We actively campaigned against this dangerous legislation. We testified in committee, created videos outlining the bill’s shortcomings and the crippling effect on businesses, and started a petition to spread the word to everyday Texans.
Thanks to the 2,300 policyholders who signed our petition and the dozens of businessesthat wrote their legislators, the Texas House chose to kill the legislation. The bill’s defeat was a crucial win for Texas families and businesses.
2. Promoted workplace and community safety
This session, we supported four chemical safety reform bills. The efforts by legislators to reform ammonium nitrate storage came two years after the West Fertilizer Plant explosion. The catastrophe killed 15 Texans and left upwards of $100 million dollars of damage in its wake.
Many legislators offered bills to prevent another disaster on the scale of the West explosion. Representative Eddie Rodriguez offered a bill that would require high-risk facilities to carry liability insurance. Our Deputy Director Ware Wendell testified for the bill in committee, explaining that the bill would provide market-based incentives to mitigate risk and give communities the resources to rebuild in the wake of tragedy.
We also supported Representatives Kyle Kacal and Joe Pickett’s bills, which regulate the storage of ammonium nitrate. On the two year anniversary of the West explosion, we released a video demonstrating the need for meaningful chemical safety reforms offered by Representatives Kacal, Pickett, and Rodriguez.
Ultimately, the legislature passed Representative Kacal’s HB942, which creates higher standards for storage of fertilizer chemicals.
3. Fought to keep our roads safe
For the third session in a row, former House Speaker Tom Craddick worked to pass a state-wide texting while driving ban. Named the “Alex Brown Act” after a 17-year old girl who tragically died in a distracted driving crash, the bill would prevent 95,000 crashes and 500 fatalities a year.
During House debates, Speaker Craddick distributed our infographic on the the dangers of texting while driving. The bill passed in the House, but did not make it to the Senate floor in time for passage.
We look forward to working with Speaker Craddick next session to pass this important legislation. To see the road to to safe Texas so far, check out our Storify.
4. Worked to ban junk policies
We worked towards meaningful protection for policyholders and others on the road. Currently, more than a million drivers have so-called “named driver” auto policies. These junk policies don’t provide the coverage needed to responsibly operate a motor vehicle on Texas roadways. Representative Ed Thompson carried HB335 to ban these junk polices.
During House floor debates, Representative Thompson personally delivered our infographic on HB335 to each of the members on the House floor. While the bill successfully passed in the House 120-20, the bill did not make it through the Senate in time for passage.
5. Limited the definition of “Health Care Claims”
Two bills this session attempted to limit the definition of a health care liability claim. We testified on behalf of the legislation, which would ensure that health care liability claims actually had a relation to health care.
For example, after a retired doctor’s cow wandered into a road causing a car crash, the case was classified as a health care liability claim since the defendant was a health care provider. Representative Chris Turner filed legislation to limit all health care liability claims to those that actually involve health care.
Ultimately, Representative Chris Turner joined with Representative Kenneth Sheets to pass HB1403, which would exclude worker injury claims, such as a nurse injured on the job, from the scope of health care liability.
6. Supported 3-strikes nursing home bill
In order to improve the safety of nursing home facilities, we supported SB304 by Senator Charles Schwertner. This bill cracks down on the most dangerous and unsafe nursing facilities by stripping the license of any nursing home that commits three violations that threaten the health or safety of a nursing home resident.
News articles: Texas Tribune
7. Improved transparency for policyholders
For several sessions, we have supported legislation to remove the penalty for homeowners and drivers who ask their insurance company a question about their insurance coverage. Senator Kirk Watson has championed this effort, passing a series of bills. With our support, he passed SB188 and SB189 this session, prohibiting all home and auto insurance companies from raising rates or dropping coverage simply because a customer asks a questions about their coverage.
News articles: Dallas Morning News