The 84th Legislature’s regular session ended yesterday. Our lawmakers meet every two years in regular sessions that last for 140 days. Fortunately, the rights of injured people to file and pursue lawsuits for damages were not hampered. And hopefully some of the bills that passed will reduce the number of crashes in Texas. Others our state representatives chose not to approve, like allowing texting while driving, will unfortunately increase collisions.
These following bills are of interest to my clients and attorneys on both sides of the docket.
- HB 80 anti-texting bill: The law that would have imposed a statewide ban on texting while driving passed the House, but was never brought to the floor of the Senate for debate (the bill almost made it, coming up just one vote short). We must wait two more years before this common sense regulation has another opportunity of becoming law. This is bad news for drivers who are directly impacted by the proliferation of dangerously distracted texting drivers. Proponents claimed the law amounted to government over-intrusion. Unfortunately, the rights of reckless motorists to engage in inappropriate driving behavior have trumped the rights of the rest of us to share the road with undistracted drivers.
- HB 2246 ignition interlock device installation law: However we did have some good news at the Texas Capital this session. The Senate approved House Bill 2246 unanimously after the House approved the measure in a 143 to 1 vote. Upon Governor Abbott’s signature, first time DWI offenders must now install an ignition interlock device to qualify for a restricted license, a provision that will keep drunk drivers off the road.
- SB 714 and HB 142 red light camera ban: The Senate voted to impose a statewide ban on use of automated cameras by law enforcement to cite drivers for running red lights. The cameras photograph offending drivers, who then receive a ticket through the mail. However, the House Representative who introduced the bill called a point of order to kill the law because an amendment was added that stripped municipalities of the authority to implement local regulations related to red light camera programs.
- HB 1692 state jurisdiction: In response to the 2014 Texas Supreme Court ruling, In Re Ford Motor, the law deletes the Texas-resident exception in the Texas forum non-conveniens statute by defining “plaintiff” as a party seeking recovery for personal injury or wrongful death, as opposed to a representative, administrator, guardian or next friend, except if a derivative claimant of a Texas resident. The bill has been sent to Governor Abbott for signature.