TFFA Legislative Report
The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature concluded on Monday, May 27th. This was a different session than in the recent past because Representative Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) was the new Speaker of the Texas House. Additionally, the relationships between the big three, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Bonnen seemed to be in sync on key legislative issues from the beginning of session, which was a bit different than recent legislative sessions. The Texas Legislature passed important legislation for increased state spending on public education, while at the same time providing significant property tax cuts and property tax reform.
Overall, 7,324 bills were filed during the 86th Texas Legislature and 1,429 of them were passed. TFFA actively tracked over 600 bills and hundreds more amendments directly impacting the fuel industry.
TFFA delivered victory by passing landmark bills on both credit card skimming and moving the regulation of motor fuels from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).
In particular we are proud of coming together as an Association to pass the TDA to TDLR transfer bill this session with TFFA Chairman Cary Rabb saying, “Thank you to all of the members who utilized their relationships with legislators to assist in passing such an important piece of legislation for our industry. Thank you to everyone who came to the Capitol on our Legislative Day and who came to testify in the tense committee hearings. It was a group effort and this is why we are the Texas Food & Fuel Association.”
Texas Fuel Programs Moved from TDA to TDLR
Senate Bill 2119 by Sen. Carol Alvarado was the top priority legislation for TFFA this session. The bill transfers the regulatory programs for both motor fuel metering and motor fuel quality testing from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).
On June 14th, 2019 Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 2119 into law, effective immediately.
The bill’s passage is big news for the fuel industry as it marks the end of 90+ years of regulation by TDA and the beginning of an important relationship with a new state agency in TDLR. There were a lot of risks with trying to make the move at the Texas Capitol, but in the end with the signing of the bill, TFFA can declare a major legislative success.
SB 2119 includes a fifteen-month transition period where TDA, TDLR and TFFA will work together to smoothly transfer the registrations, program fees, penalty policies and all other regulatory operations from one state agency to another. TFFA will be reaching out to member companies from all sides of the fuel industry to assist in this transition process over the next few months. TFFA is pushing to make the transition as quickly as possible for the benefit of both the industry and the state agencies involved.
Texas Skimmer Legislation
TFFA members agree that the #1 problem that our industry needed to address this session was credit card skimming.
House Bill 2945 by Rep. Mary Ann Perez creates a credit card fusion center, in conjunction with the Department of Public Safety, to be the central intelligence unit for fighting credit card skimming in Texas. The center will have the responsibility of educating consumers, retailers, service technicians, and law enforcement on how to best combat the spreading problem of credit card skimming. In addition, the bill directs the Attorney General’s office to create a list of guidelines for best practices for retailers to defend against credit card skimmers. TFFA testified before both the House and Senate Committees in favor of the bills.
House Bill 869 by Rep. Cole Hefner strengthen penalties for criminals engaged in credit card skimming at fuel pumps by including credit card skimming in the list of predicate charges for prosecution of organized crimes.
House Bill 2624 by Rep. Mary Ann Perez amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to authorize the prosecution of a credit or debit card abuse offense in any county in which the offense was committed or in the county of residence for any person whose credit or debit card was unlawfully possessed or used by the defendant. Perpetrators of credit card or debit card abuse work in groups and may travel to commit their crimes and that the card account holders may be in a different state or counties. Law enforcement groups and District Attorneys asked for this bill to better pursue card skimming crimes.
House Bill 2625 by Rep. Mary Ann Perez establishes greater penalties for unlawfully possessing multiple credit or debit cards. Many individuals arrested for such an offense have multiple counterfeit cards in their possession in addition to numerous victims' account numbers. Furthermore, prosecutors hoping to levy more severe punishment for such an offense often find themselves pursuing the offense as fraudulent use or possession of identifying information, which can require contacting each account holder. The bill addresses these issues by creating the offense of mass fraudulent use or possession of credit or debit card information.
Texas Tobacco 21+
Senate Bill 21 by Sen. Joan Huffman, The Texas version of the Tobacco 21+ Bill, passed easily in the House and the Senate and was signed by the Governor to become effective across Texas September 1, 2019. Last session TFFA fought against the bill, but TFFA supported the Texas Tobacco 21+ bill this session. The bill prohibits the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and all other tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 in Texas.
The bill includes an important provision for our industry that says that local governments cannot make their own local ordinances based on age. For instance, the city of Austin cannot implement an ordinance of Tobacco 25+ or any other age related ordinances regarding tobacco.
- There is an exception for active military personnel who are aged 18-20 who must present a military identification card at the time of purchase.
- There is also a grandfather clause meaning that anyone who is 18-21 years old on September 1, 2019 is still eligible to buy cigarettes. Anyone who is 17 years and 364 days old on September 1, 2019 will have to wait until they are 21 to buy tobacco products.