Email Updates

Capitol Update: Bad News, Good News

August 18, 2017

Dear Friends,

You may know the First Called Session of the 85th Texas Legislature came to an abrupt end on Tuesday night when the House of Representatives adjourned “sine die” a day early.

With that move, negotiations on property tax reform – the Senate’s top priority for this special session – came to a halt. We don’t have to tell
you what a disappointment that is. Property taxes are rising at an unsustainable rate that homeowners simply can’t afford, and something must be done
about it… soon.

We will continue to fight for Texas taxpayers who want, need, and deserve a fiscally responsible government that tackles critical issues like
property tax relief and spending limit reform.

The good news is that a number of excellent bills did pass both chambers this month and were quickly sent to the Governor to be signed into
law:

  • SB 5 (Author) – Improves protections against mail-in ballot fraud by creating signature verification checks and balances. Increases
    penalties for convicted mail fraud offenders.
  • SB 6 (Coauthor) – Ends forced annexation (a form of taxation without representation) by giving property owners a vote before being
    annexed into city limits.
  • SB 11 (Coauthor) – Gives patients and families more control over end-of-life decisions.
  • HB 21 & HB 30 – Together, these bills appropriate more than $500 million toward our public education system including charter school
    facilities funding, autism and dyslexia grant programs, and more affordable health care premiums for retired teachers.
  • HB 214 – Makes elective abortion insurance policies supplemental so pro-life Texans are no longer required to fund these procedures against
    their will and deeply-held convictions.

Sen. Hancock and Rep. Craig Goldman looking on as Gov. Greg
Abbott signs SB 5 into law.

If you would like more information on any of these new laws, please don’t hesitate to contact our Capitol office. Thank you for taking the time to
read this update, and have a good weekend!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

Capitol Update: Round Two

July 10, 2017

Dear Friends,

You may have heard the news that the 85th Texas Legislature is gearing up for round two. We’ve been called back to Austin for a special session that will begin on July 18th.

This became unavoidable when a piece of legislation referred to as a “sunset bill” failed to pass during the regular session. Without that bill, the Texas Medical Board, which oversees the licensing of doctors, would be forced to shut down.

As Governor Abbott put it, if we’re going to have a special session, we’d better make it count!

To that end, our office will carry two of the 20 priority items that were outlined in the special session call…


Strengthening our State Spending Limit

You’ve heard us talk about this issue before, and that’s because this will be the third consecutive session we’ve filed legislation that would limit the growth in state spending based on population and inflation. We believe this bill is worth filing as many times as it takes to pass both the Senate and the House; having it listed on the special session call is an important step in the right direction. After all, in Texas, fiscal responsibility isn’t just a catch phrase, it’s a mandate from the people. Texans can’t spend outside their budgets at home, and our government shouldn’t be able to either.


Cracking Down on Mail-in Ballot Fraud

In North Texas, we have a real and serious problem with mail-in ballot fraud as evidenced by the massive investigation underway at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. It’s time to tackle this problem with stiffer penalties and new and improved safeguards. If you really think about it, voter fraud is just about the worst kind of theft there is. These criminals are stealing other Americans’ identities — and even their ideas and beliefs that they have the sacred right to express by voting. I look forward to working on this issue during the special session with my Tarrant County colleague, Rep. Craig Goldman.

It is a privilege to work for you at our State Capitol — including in overtime!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

Capitol Update: Passed!

May 26, 2017

Dear Friends,

As the 85th Regular Legislative Session winds down, Governor Abbott’s pen is warming up. Below are some noteworthy bills signed into law this week:

  • SB 24 (Joint Author) – Sermon safeguard legislation; protects sermons from court subpoena.
  • HB 455 (Voted Yes) – Allows property owners to participate in an appraisal review board protest hearing remotely; makes it easier for property owners to protest their appraisal.
  • SB 253 (Committee Chair) – Prohibits using Texas public funds to aid Sudan and Iran, governments known to support terrorist organizations.
  • SB 507 (Author) – Expands the availability of mediation assistance for surprise medical bills.
  • SB 680 (Author) – Allows doctors to bypass “step therapy” prescription protocols so patients can quickly begin the treatment recommended by their physician, rather than ineffective medications preferred by their insurance company.

We’re also glad to share that the following bills carried by our office have now passed both chambers:

  • HB 3921 (Sponsor) – Protects against elder financial abuse and exploitation.
  • HB 3220, HB 2437 & SB 1073 (Sponsor/Author) – Package of Texas Department of Insurance reform legislation that will bring new jobs to Texas and lower premium costs statewide.
  • SB 2087 (Author) – Provides flexibility to create a high-risk pool or a reinsurance program so Texans with preexisting conditions don’t fall through the cracks when Obamacare is finally repealed and replaced.
  • SB 2205 (Author) – Paves the way for the safe testing of driverless cars in Texas.

If you’d like to learn more about any of these bills, please feel welcome to contact our office. You can also read the bill text and analysis at Texas Legislature Online.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

Capitol Update: Property Insurance Reform Passes

May 19, 2017

Dear Friends,

Back in February, we wrote to you about a bill we were working on, SB 10, to bring some common sense reforms to the property insurance litigation process and prevent skyrocketing premiums.

Governor Abbott mentioned the problem in his State of the State Address earlier in the year:

“One reason Texas attracts so many jobs is because of the strides we’ve made on tort reform. But our work is not done. Hailstorm litigation is the newest form of lawsuit abuse. To reduce the economic havoc, I want legislation on my desk that limits abusive hailstorm litigation.”

That legislation is now headed to Governor Abbott’s desk, as requested, in the form of its companion bill HB 1774.

The op-ed below details just why this reform is so important to Texas homeowners and business owners alike. We hope you’ll find it to be a useful explanation.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

Lawsuit abuse is costing consumers, and new ‘storm chasers’ are to blame

BY KELLY HANCOCK
Special to the Star-Telegram

Texas homeowners pay some of the highest property insurance premiums in the country.

With our wide-ranging severe weather, these rates are an unfortunate fact of living in a state otherwise known for its impressive economy and reasonable cost of living.

The Texas Legislature can’t control the weather, but we can crack down on lawsuit abuse that’s pushing insurance costs even higher than they need to be.

The public face of this problem is a practice called “storm chasing.”

These storm chasers are lawyers, roofers and public adjusters who work together to recruit homeowners in a neighborhood affected by severe weather, convincing them to file unnecessary lawsuits instead of moving through their insurers’ claims process.

Of course, they fail to mention that it takes on average eight times as long for a claim to be settled when a lawsuit is involved, drastically delaying repairs.

This kind of storm chasing started in the Rio Grande Valley, and we’ve seen it spread statewide to West Texas, San Antonio, Houston and right here in North Texas.

In fact, you may have seen recent news reports about a roofer who solicited cases for a lawyer and then ran off with people’s insurance money in Arlington, Dallas and Fort Worth.

The real root of the storm chasing problem is lawsuit abuse, and the Texas Department of Insurance recently released a report confirming just how severe that abuse is.

The report shows the lawsuit-to-claim ratio increased a staggering 15 times immediately after storm-chasing lawyers created this litigation explosion in 2011. That’s a 1,400 percent increase!

As a result, at least a dozen companies have raised rates for homeowner’s insurance and at least seven companies — that we know of — limited or stopped writing policies in Texas altogether.

After all, trial lawyers who know how to play the storm-chasing game in Texas aren’t concerned about the long-term effects of making a quick buck.

We saw this all too well with asbestos litigation and then the black mold crisis.

Insurance companies, like any other business, pass the costs of doing business on to their customers, and today insurance companies don’t even cover black mold because of litigation abuse.

We simply can’t let that happen with other property insurance coverage. We know from experience the only way to stop it is with principled legislation.

That’s why we filed Senate Bill 10 and why both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have stated their strong support for passing hailstorm lawsuit abuse reform this session.

Texas property owners deserve to be protected from all bad actors involved in the process.

Sometimes insurance companies don’t pay on time or in full, and SB 10 maintains some of the strongest consumer protections in the nation against insurance companies that act in bad faith.

As both a homeowner and a business owner, I know how crucial those protections are.

But there are other bad actors involved in this process, and it’s time to provide protection against the storm chasers, too.

That’s exactly what SB 10 does.

Capitol Update: Good Bills, Good Policy

May 16, 2017

Dear Friends,

There’s no way around it: A lot of bad bills are filed each legislative session. Part of our job as legislators is ensuring those don’t make it to the Governor’s desk.

Of course, from time to time we get the opportunity to work on good legislation, too. Here are a few noteworthy bills that have passed both the Senate and the House this session.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about SB 507, our balance billing legislation, this Dallas Morning News article from the weekend provides a good explanation.

Capitol Update: A Lasting Friendship

May 2, 2017

Dear Friends,

This morning, Governor Abbott signed into law one of the first bills to reach his desk, House Bill 89.

HB 89 is a pro-Israel bill that came through the Senate Business & Commerce Committee, which I’m honored to chair this session.

At the end of 2016, Robin and I had the life-changing privilege of visiting Israel. We stood on land of deep historic and Biblical significance and also had the opportunity to meet with members of the Israeli legislature, the Knesset, who explained the effects of concerning BDS practices.

BDS stands for boycotting, divestment, and sanctions. It’s a discriminatory trade practice that a number of companies employ against businesses based in Israel. The goal of the BDS movement is to disrupt and isolate the Israeli economy. Texas and Israel are not only friends, we’re trade partners. We can’t sit by and watch that happen.

In response, HB 89 prohibits state agencies from contracting with any business that’s guilty of BDS trade practices targeted at Israel. HB 89 also prohibits investing state dollars with these BDS-practicing companies through state employee retirement plans.

No Texas taxpayer dollars should go to companies that are actively targeting the economy of one of our closest allies.

While a great deal of work remains to be done in the final weeks of the 85th Legislative Session, we’re glad to report that this important bill is now the law of the land.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

Capitol Update: Property Tax Problems

April 11, 2017

Dear Friends,

Property taxes are a problem, and that’s putting it mildly. Have you received your 2017 appraisal notice? Some appraisals here in Tarrant County are downright shocking, like the ones discussed in this WFAA story.

As an immediate course of action, if you think your appraisal is too high, don’t hesitate to file a protest by the May 31 deadline. The protest form should have been included in your notice, and you can also print a copy off the appraisal district website.

On a broader scale, we’re looking at ways to reform property taxes statewide. Last year, the interim Senate Committee on Property Tax Reform & Relief traveled the state holding public hearings and listening to more than 50 hours of citizen input about ways to improve the property tax system.

As a member of the committee, I was struck by how similar the testimony was whether we were in Arlington or Harlingen, Lubbock or Plano: property taxes are rising too fast… just about everywhere.

Property taxes are local taxes, but to the extent that we can, the state has a duty to step in and help govern the process. Here are two pieces of legislation you can follow this session aimed at keeping those rates from skyrocketing year-to-year.

  • SB 2, the Property Tax Reform & Relief Act of 2017, is the major bill that came out of our interim hearings around the state. This legislation lowers what’s called the “rollback rate” from 8% to 5%. That means a city that wants to increase its tax rate by more than 5% has to hold an election to get voter approval. This bill has passed the Senate and is now in the House.
  • SB 2207 is a bill we authored to strengthen the burden of proof requirement a chief appraiser must meet when increasing a property value. This bill was heard in the Senate Finance Committee this week.

We encourage you to follow these bills using the Texas Legislature Online website and let your family, friends, and neighbors know to contact their representatives to show their support. With just 50 days remaining in the 85th Legislative Session, it’s time to get these taxpayer priorities passed!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

Capitol Update: A Look at the Numbers

March 24, 2017

Dear Friends,

We’re half-way through the 85th Texas Legislative session, and it has been another productive week in the Texas Senate.

For the past three months, those of us who sit on the budget-writing Finance Committee have conducted hearings and held late-night “workgroup” meetings to take a detailed, line-by-line look at each government agency or program that receives state funds.

This week, that work culminated in the unanimous, bipartisan committee passage of a conservative budget that fully funds our state’s K-12 education and health care needs and significantly increases funding for Child Protective Services — all without hiking taxes or dipping into our state savings account, the “Rainy Day Fund.”

All this focus on the budget has our office spending a lot of time thinking about numbers. Here are a few we thought might interest you:

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chairman, Business & Commerce

Capitol Update: Your Insurance Policy

February 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

Did you know that Texas homeowners pay some of the highest property insurance premiums in the country? With our wide-ranging severe weather, these rates are an unfortunate fact of living in a state otherwise known for its strong economy and reasonable cost of living.

The Texas Legislature certainly can’t control the weather, but we can crack down on a commonplace practice called “storm chasing” that’s making your insurance costs even higher than they need to be. Storm chasers are unethical lawyers, roofers, and public adjusters who work together to recruit homeowners in a neighborhood affected by severe weather, urging them to file unnecessary lawsuits instead of moving through their insurers’ claims process. Sometimes these lawsuits over a hail-damaged roof, for example, result in payouts higher than the value of the home. Explain that one! Why should this matter to you? Because this small group of bad actors end up driving up costs for everyone.

Governor Abbott mentioned the problem in his recent State of the State address:

“One reason Texas attracts so many jobs is because of the strides we’ve made on tort reform. But our work is not done. Hailstorm litigation is the newest form of lawsuit abuse. To reduce the economic havoc, I want legislation on my desk that limits abusive hailstorm litigation.”

Our office, working together with House and Senate colleagues alike, intends to put that legislation on Governor Abbott’s desk. This week, we filed Senate Bill 10 to bring some common sense reforms to the property insurance litigation process.

As seen in the picture above, Lieutenant Governor Patrick joined us at the press conference announcing this new legislation. We appreciate the Lieutenant Governor’s leadership on this issue and encourage you to watch his video statement about the bill.

Thank you for taking the time to read about this issue, and as always, please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have questions or feedback on the legislation. Have a wonderful weekend!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

P.S. In Fort Bend County, storm chasing is happening as we speak. This video clip from a local news affiliate explains.

Capitol Update: Two Steps Forward

February 10, 2017

Dear Friends,

The Texas Senate passed two important pieces of legislation this week. Without a doubt, each is a significant step forward for good governance. Here’s a little bit about what each bill does:

SB 4 – Eliminating Sanctuary Cities

  • Requires state and local law enforcement departments to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers issued on arrested persons
  • Cuts off state grant funds to any city or county that violates that law
  • Allows any Texas citizen to file a complaint with the Attorney General if they have evidence of unlawful “sanctuary” policies

SB 14 – Comprehensive Ethics Reform

  • Removes felon politicians from office and cuts off their state-funded pension
  • Increases reporting requirements for lobbyist wining and dining
  • Creates a 2-year cooling off period before a legislator can become a lobbyist,
    a.k.a “revolving door reform”

Sen. Hancock joined Governor Greg Abbott for a live teletownhall after his State of the State Address last week. In that speech, the Governor declared a sanctuary cities ban and ethics reform emergency items for the 85th Legislature.

Having passed the Senate, these bills are headed to the House before they can become state law. If you’re interested in reading the text of the legislation or looking up who represents you in the House so you can share your support for these common sense reforms, Texas Legislature Online should be a helpful resource. Thank you for your engagement in the legislative process.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9


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