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Bills in the News: Payday Lending

Bills in the News
In this occasional post, we feature topics receiving widespread media coverage, tips for finding bills filed during the 83rd legislative session, and related resources.
 
Bills in the News: Payday Lending
Texas defines a deferred presentment transaction in Finance Code §341.001(6). Also known as payday loans, these transactions are cash advances against personal checks, usually for a fee. Payday loans are short-term loans that carry high interest rates. Recently, legislation has been proposed that would impose stronger regulations on the payday lending industry.
 
Bill search
 
To find proposed legislation filed during the 83rd Legislature about payday lending, use "PAYDAY LOANS (S0464)" or "DEFERRED PRESENTMENT TRANSACTIONS (S0380)." Related subject searches that may be of interest are "CREDIT SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS (S0165)" and "Consumer Protection (I0080)."
 
Resources
 
Recent news items have discussed proposed legislation regulating the payday lending industry in Texas and payday lending industry regulations considered by federal regulators.
The National Conference of State Legislatures tracks current pending state legislation that would affect the payday lending industry.
 
The Federal Trade Commission provides information about payday loans geared toward consumers.
 
Pew Charitable Trusts has undertaken the Safe Small-Dollar Loans Research Project, a project aimed at finding safe and transparent loan products to meet the immediate financial needs of consumers.
 
 

Bills in the News: Term Limits

Bills in the News
In this occasional post, we feature topics receiving widespread media coverage, tips for finding bills filed during the 83rd legislative session, and related resources.
 
Bills in the News: Term Limits
Statewide elected officials in Texas currently are not subject to term limits, nor are state legislators. A handful of bills have been introduced in the 83rd Legislature that would impose term limits on some state offices.
 
Bill search
 
To find proposed legislation and proposed constitutional amendments filed during the 83rd Legislature about term limits, use "TERM LIMITS (S0105)." Related subject searches that may be of interest are "Elections--Candidates (I0280)" and "State Officers (I0761)."
 
Resources
 
Recent news articles have tracked proposed legislation that would institute term limits.
Terms of office for the Governor, state Senators, and state Representatives can be found in the Texas Constitution.
 
The Secretary of State provides a current list of statewide elected officials and when their terms expire.
 
The National Conference of State Legislatures [NCSL] has created a state-by-state chart of term limits for legislators. NCSL also tracks filed state legislation on term limits.
 
The Council of State Governments' Book of the States 2012 provides a state-by-state table of constitutional and statutory provisions related to executive terms of office and term limits.
 
 

Bills in the News: Dedicated Funds

Bills in the News
In this occasional post, we feature topics receiving widespread media coverage, tips for finding bills filed during the 83rd legislative session, and related resources.
 
Bills in the News: Dedicated Funds
 
The state budget in Texas relies partly on dedicated funds. "Dedicated revenue" is defined in Government Code 403.001(b)(2) as "revenue set aside by law for a particular purpose or entity." More on dedicated revenue can be found in Government Code 403.095.
 
Bill search
 
When searching for bills about dedicated funds on Texas Legislature Online, use the subject "State Finances--Management & Control (I0748)." This will bring up a list of bills about management of the state's finances, including bills allocating revenue from certain taxes or fees to particular funds.
 
Resources
 
Recent news articles have discussed how dedicated funds have been used in the past to balance the state budget.
The Legislative Budget Board provides a page of resources on General Revenue-Dedicated Funds, including a report outlining options to reduce reliance on general revenue-dedicated accounts.
 
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts provides a Fees Schedule of State Revenues and Balances, including a Fees Schedule–General Revenue-Dedicated Accounts. The Comptroller also issues a report after each legislative session on Use of General Revenue - Dedicated Funds, listing which funds were used for budget certification. The Comptroller's 2014-2015 Biennial Revenue Estimate provides a complete fund detail, beginning on page 43 of the report. Details on dedicated funds begin on page 49.
 
The House Research Organization's publication "State budget: Restrictions on spending" includes a section, starting on page 2, about dedicated revenues and funds.
 
The Texas Tribune offers a searchable list of dedicated funds with descriptions of each fund.
 

Bills in the News: Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs

Bills in the News
In this occasional post, we will feature topics receiving widespread media coverage, tips for finding bills filed during the 83rd legislative session, and related resources.
 
Bills in the News: Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs
 
Public assistance programs, like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF] program, act as temporary safety nets for people and families in need of financial help. Many states have recently enacted or proposed legislation that calls for drug testing of people seeking public assistance benefits.
 
Bill search
To find bills filed during the 83rd Legislature about drug testing applicants and recipients of public assistance, visit the Texas Legislature Online, and select "Bill Search" under the Search tab. Click on "select subject criteria" and select Human Services--Direct Assistance (I0900) and DRUG & ALCOHOL TESTING (S0010) from the subject list to find bills.
 
You can also try looking directly under the subjects TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR NEEDY FAMILIES (S0401) or WELFARE (S2341) to find bills related to public assistance programs.
 
Resources
Local news articles have discussed proposed legislation in Texas that calls for drug testing those who apply for or receive public assistance:
Governor Perry has spoken recently about drug screening for those receiving public assistance benefits.
 
The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a state-by-state map and chart of state laws related to drug testing and public assistance programs.
 
Information about the TANF program in Texas is available via the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. At the federal level, information about TANF is available via the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Bills in the News: Gambling

Bills in the News: Gambling
 
Searching for bills about gambling online can be a daunting task, as a variety of different types of gambling has been addressed in legislation pending in the 82nd Legislature. Below you can find a list of the different subject terms used for gambling legislation. The broader terms, such as "Amusements, Games, Sports" will yield more results than the narrower terms, such as "EIGHT-LINERS":
 
 
There is no shortage of speculation about the expansion of gambling in Texas, and a handful of recent news stories explore whether expanded gambling is the right option for Texas:
Gambling is examined more thoroughly in a number of recent reports and resources:

 State statutes related to gaming activities, racing, and gambling can be found in the following chapters:
Some forms of gambling are legal in Texas, and there are state agencies that oversee particular types of gambling. The Texas Lottery Commission oversees the state lottery and charitable bingo, and the Texas Racing Commission oversees horse and greyhound racetracks in Texas.
 
If you need assistance locating bills about gambling, please contact the Library. 
 

Bills in the News: Homeowners' Associations & Property Owners' Associations

Homeowners' associations in Texas enforce their bylaws and deed restrictions, and can levy assessments against homeowners who fail to pay dues or violate the bylaws or deed restrictions. Recent news stories and other publications outline the powers of homeowners' associations, and explore bills introduced in the 82nd Legislature that would limit some of the powers of homeowners' associations. Some powers particularly of interest lately have been related to homeowners' associations' ability to foreclose and their ability to restrict the use of solar panels.
 
Bills filed in the 82nd Legislature related to homeowners' and property owners' associations can be found under the subject Property Interests--Property Owners Association. To view a list of bills related to homeowners' associations' ability to foreclose on assessment liens, use the bill search feature of the Texas Legislature Online and select subject criteria: Property Interests--Property Owners Association (I0618), and Property Interests--Mortgages & Liens (I0605). To view a list of bills related to homeowners' associations' ability to restrict the use of solar energy devices, select subject criteria: Property Interests--Property Owners Association (I0618), and Energy--Solar (I0316).
 
The August 12, 2010 issue of Interim News from the House Research Organization examines the authority of homeowners' associations in Texas.
 
A news story from Austin ABC affiliate KVUE explores homeowners' associations power to foreclose.
 
The Dallas Morning News reports that a homeowners' associations reform bill, SB142, has been approved in the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.
 
The Legislative Reference Library recently added to its collection the Texas Homeowners Association Law: The Essential Legal Guide for Texas Homeowners Associations and Homeowners by Gregory S. Cagle, published in 2010. The book covers laws governing the administration and operation of homeowners' associations in Texas.
 
The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University offers a handful of informative documents related to the powers of homeowners' associations and how the Texas Legislature has limited these powers in recent sessions:
Current law on homeowners' associations in Texas is in Title 11 of the Texas Property Code.

Bills in the News: Concealed Handguns on College Campuses

Allowing concealed handguns on college campuses is a topic that has been hotly debated in Texas and in other states.  The issue has come up again this session, and the Texas Legislature has introduced 6 bills on the subject to date. To view a list, use the bill search feature of the Texas Legislature Online and select subject criteria: Education--Higher--Institutions & Programs (I0223), and CONCEALED HANDGUNS (S0241).
 
Here are a few current stories that provide detailed information about the issue in Texas:
·        "Texas poised to pass bill allowing guns on campus." Associated Press, carried by The Dallas Morning News, February 20, 2011.
·        "Possible campus gun law spurs questions from area school officials." The Longview News-Journal, February 23, 2011.
·        "UT chancellor warns against guns on campus." The Austin American-Statesman, February 26, 2011.
·        "Aggies reject guns on campus". The Bryan Eagle, March 2, 2011.
·        "Texans divide over guns on campus." The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2011.
 
Texas law on concealed handguns is available via the Texas Department of Public Safety (last updated Nov. 2010).
 
Currently, Utah is the only state that allows concealed handguns on campus. The Supreme Court of Utah issued an opinion, clarifying the statutes that allow concealed handguns on campuses.
 
To learn more about various state weapons laws on college campuses, try the National Conference of State Legislatures, which provides "Guns on Campus: Overview" and "Guns on Campus: Resources."

 

Bills in the News: Synthetic Cannabinoids

The street names vary: K2, Spice, Genie, fake marijuana. The chemical compositions vary as well, making synthetic cannabinoids dangerous for users because they don't know what mixture of chemicals and herbs comprise what is sold over the counter.
 
Regardless of their name or composition, synthetic cannabinoids are catching the attention of legislators across the country. National Conference of State Legislatures provides recently updated information on legislation related to synthetic cannabinoids.
 
Health Day provides an article and a brief video about K2 and the threat it poses to users.
 
"Texas lawmakers move to ban synthetic marijuana," an Associated Press article carried by the El Paso Times, explores legislation that seeks to ban chemicals that mimic THC.
 
"Texas lawmakers consider possible ban on forms of synthetic marijuana," from the Longview News-Journal, explains that municipal bans of synthetic cannabinoids already in effect haven't stopped some teenagers from experimenting with K2.
 
Synthetic cannabinoids have also been addressed by the federal government, in a Drug Alert Watch from the U.S. Department of Justice and in a press release from November 2010, by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
 
Find bills filed during the 82nd Regular Session by searching "Synthetic Cannabinoids" on the Texas Legislature Online.  
 
K2 isn't the only substance sold over the counter that people are using for marijuana- or cocaine-like highs. Although they are not synthetic cannabinoids, Salvia divinorum and some products sold as "bath salts" are catching the attention of law enforcement agencies and lawmakers.
 
To date, HB470, HB1011, and SB348, relating to Salvia divinorum, have been filed during the 82nd Regular Session. National Conference of State Legislatures provides a list of state laws on Salvia divinorum.
 
The Washington Post reports "Officials fear bath salts becoming the next big drug menace." Bath salts have also caught the attention of the federal government, and are explained in a recent Drug Alert Watch from the U.S. Department of Justice.
 

Bills in the News: Cyberbullying

Bills in the News
In this occasional post, we will feature topics receiving widespread media coverage and bills filed during the 82nd legislative session on these topics.
 
Bills in the News: Cyberbullying
 
Bullying in schools is nothing new, but cyberbullying is gaining attention. Parents and teachers may find it as alarming and frightening as the children who are victims of it. Recent news stories have indicated that the consequences can turn deadly.
 
"Lawmakers trying to take on bullying again" from the Houston Chronicle, explains that bullying and cyberbullying can lead to tragic results, but children may be unwilling to speak up.
 
"From lockers to lock-up" from Newsweek, explores the difficulties of defining bullying, and when to consider bullying a crime.
 
"Bills on bullying filed by Texas legislators" from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, addresses bullying and cyberbullying, and how the Texas Legislature plans to tackle the issue.
 
A number of bills have been filed in the 82nd Regular Session relating to bullying and cyberbullying in schools, and you can find them under the subject "Bullying" at the Texas Legislature Online.
 
Below, you can find a list of links to resources related to cyberbullying:   
 

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