The 86th Legislative Session saw strong efforts to increase economic freedom by eliminating or reducing unnecessary government regulations. There was particularly outstanding reform in the area of occupational licensing. In fact, the House of Representatives voted down a proposal to create a mandatory registration and regulatory scheme for roofing contractors. The bill (HB 2101), which in many key respects resembled a full-blown licensing proposal, was defeated with 99 Nays and 33 Yeas, for a decisive statement from legislators on unnecessary new regulations. Positive reforms include the following:
Senate Bill 1995 requires regulatory bodies to obtain the approval of the Office of the Governor before re-adopting or issuing any occupational licensing requirements that would have an anti-competitive effect.
Senate Bill 1200 provides reciprocity and expedited licensure for the spouses of military members who are licensed for an occupation in another state. SB 1200 should be a model for all out-of-state licensees who wish to move to Texas.
Senate Bill 37 prohibits a default on student loans from being used to disqualify a person from obtaining an occupational license. The current law makes little sense in that it deprives people of the ability to earn a paycheck in their chosen profession, making the repayment of their loans even more difficult.
House Bill 1342 ensures that persons with criminal history would not be disqualified from obtaining an occupational license if they otherwise satisfy the criteria for licensure and their criminal history does not relate to the duties performed pursuant to the license.
Senate Bill 1531 ensures that criminal history does not serve as an absolute bar in obtaining certain licenses for several occupations, including podiatrists and midwifery.
House Bill 2847 reduces or eliminates licensing requirements for a variety of fields, including prosthetic technicians, used automotive parts employees, and mold assessors. Perhaps more importantly, the bill also preempts local governments from making holders of state licenses meet more stringent requirements.
House Bill 1894 repeals criminal penalties for violating the statute governing “registered” interior designers. Registration is not required in order to practice interior design, making this penalty excessive, unnecessary, and punitive for most practitioners in the industry.
House Bill 2699 streamlines the testing requirements for hearing instrument fitters and dispensers and removes the provision in prior law that a crime involving “moral turpitude” is grounds for denying a license. This bill is one of several this session that removed this vague and unclear standard for licensing.
House Bill 2698 would authorize barber schools, private beauty culture schools, or public secondary or postsecondary beauty culture schools to administer the practical examination requirement for a barber’s license. That authorization was previously restricted to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (or a contractor with TDLR).
Food and Alcoholic Beverage Regulation:
House Bill 234 preempts local governmental and property owners’ associations from regulating or prohibiting the sale of lemonade or other non-alcoholic drinks by children on private property or in a public park.
Senate Bill 572 expands the list of “cottage” foods that may be legally produced at home for sale and permits the sale of them by internet and mail.
House Bill 1545 authorizes “beer to go” sales. Craft breweries will be allowed to sell their own products to-go to visitors and customers at their breweries.
House Bill 2790 repeals a provision in state law that presumes intent to sell alcohol in a dry county when a person possesses more than one quart of liquor or 24 twelve-ounce bottles of beer.
House Bill 2726 authorizes “at-risk” permitting for modifications or changes to existing projects that require an air quality permit. Allowing the permit holder to begin construction at their own risk after the commission has issued a draft permit is a positive change in state law that is likely to provide tangible real-world benefits in terms of making the permitting process less burdensome.
Preemption of Local Building Code Mandates:
House Bill 2439 prohibits local governments from adopting or enforcing regulations that prohibit or limit the installation of a building product or material in the construction or alteration of a residential or commercial building if the product or material is approved for use by a national model code. This helps keep construction costs and renovations more affordable for Texans.