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Senate Committee on Business and Commerce - 78th R.S. (2003)

Committee Members
Troy Fraser, Chair
Kip Averitt, Vice Chair
Ken Armbrister
Kim Brimer
John Carona
Craig Estes
Mike Jackson
Eddie Lucio
Leticia Van de Putte
Tommy Williams
Charges
• 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.
• 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.
• Study the creation of the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) established by HB 730, 78th Legislature, Regular Session 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.
• 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.
• Study and make recommendations on improving the on-going implementation of SB7, 76th Legislature, Regular Session, 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.
• 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.
• Study the implementation of SB 14, 78th Legislature, Regular Session, SB 127, 78th Legislature, Regular Session, and HB 329, 78th Legislature, Regular Session, 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.
• Study the implementation of SB 14, 78th Legislature, Regular Session, 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 and 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.

Note:
Charged by the Lieutenant Governor 1/21/2004. (Press Release, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, January 21, 2004.)
John Carona appointed April 19, 2004. (Press Release, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, April 19, 2004.
Tommy Williams removed April 19, 2004. (Press Release, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, April 19, 2004.

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