TFFA Priority Legislation TFFA Supports Trucking Liability Reform

House Bill 19 by Rep. Jeff Leach (R – Plano) and Sen. Larry Taylor (R – Galveston)
TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Signed by the Governor – Effective September 1, 2021

The TFFA Legislative Council made trucking liability reform the number one legislative priority for the Texas Food & Fuel Association this session. TFFA joined with the Texas Trucking Association, Texans for Lawsuit Reform and over 500 other trade associations and businesses to form the Keep Texas Trucking Coalition. The coalition’s goal was to restore fairness and to develop legislative remedies to address the lawsuit abuse that has plagued not only the trucking industry, but all industries with commercial motor vehicles. When a commercial vehicle acts wrongfully and causes a crash or injury, it should be held accountable and those injured should be fairly compensated. However, unfair litigation tactics are destabilizing the Texas tort system and transforming commercial vehicle accident lawsuits into a profit center for plaintiff lawyers.

TFFA supported two bills put forward by the coalition. HB 19 was the primary bill as it sought to change the way commercial vehicle accident trials are adjudicated. The bill allows the defendant to choose to have a trial to be bifurcated into two phases. In a bifurcated trial the jury hears testimony and evidence to determine liability for compensatory damages from the company and the driver. And then in the second phase of the trial the jury hears testimony and evidence to determine the liability for exemplary damages for the company and the driver. Business groups believe that this will create a fairer trial and potentially result in more fair verdicts for defendants.

The bill also includes provisions stating that the prosecution cannot present evidence of violations outside the scope of the accident at trial. This means that plaintiffs cannot present violations or accident history in the trial that is considered outside the scope of the trial at hand. Again, businesses that use commercial vehicles believe that this will lead to more focused and fairer trials for defendant companies.

TFFA worked with hundreds of stakeholders and in the end claimed a significant victory with the passage of this important tort reform legislation.

Senate Bill 207 by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R – Georgetown) and Rep. Greg Bonnen (R – Galveston) TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Stopped pushing, did not pass

The second bill put forward by the Keep Texas Trucking Coalition was Senate Bill 207 by Sen. Schwertner. SB 207 was designed to change how medical evidence and medical options were presented in commercial vehicle accident lawsuits. Texas has seen a rise of situations where plaintiffs lawyers for accident victims conspire with unscrupulous medical providers in order to exacerbate medical costs for accident victims. The scheme would cause unnecessarily high medical bills for accident victims which

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would then be presented in trial as the only options for care. An unknowing jury would then pass those astronomical medical costs on to the defendant company in the damages of the lawsuit.

SB 207 allows for defendants in commercial vehicle accidents to present cheaper medical options in the trial. As SB 207 was making its way successfully through the Texas Legislature, a series of court decisions made the bill unnecessary as judges in Texas ruled that defendants can present such evidence in jury trials under current Texas law. The Trucking Coalition therefor stopped pushing the bill.

TFFA Supports Covid Liability Protections for Texas Businesses
Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R – North Richland Hills) and Rep. Jeff Leach (R – Plano) TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Signed by the Governor – Effective Immediately

In the fallout of the Covid 19 pandemic, the Federal Government has failed to pass meaningful liability protection for businesses. Coming into the 2021 Texas Legislative Session it became clear that Texas needed to pass new liability protections for businesses coming out of the pandemic. At the behest of Governor Abbott and the Legislature TFFA joined with other business groups and the Texas Civil Justice League to form a Pandemic Task Force to create the necessary legislation.

The centerpiece of TCJL’s proposal is a strong liability shield protecting a person, including the person’s agent or employee, from an action alleging personal injury or death resulting from another person’s exposure to a pandemic disease.

The proposal requires a person alleging the exposure to establish by clear and convincing evidence that:

  1. the claimant’s harm resulted from the defendant’s gross negligence;
  2. reliable scientific evidence establishes that the defendant’s conduct was the cause in fact of the claimant’s exposure; and
  3. the claimant suffered serious bodily harm or death as a result of contracting the disease.

The proposed legislation also creates an affirmative defense to liability if the defendant acted in compliance or consistent with one of the following: federal or state law or regulations, a presidential or gubernatorial executive order or declaration, an action of a local government entity, or recommendations or guidance of a public health authority.

The Governor declared the proposal as an ‘emergency item’ for the session and worked with our group to swiftly move the bill the through the process. Ultimately SB 6 passed with broad support from both sides of the aisle. The bill was among the first signed by the Governor and is effective immediately.


TFFA Supports Statewide Standards for Employment Regulations
Senate Bill 14 by Sen. Brandon Creighton (R – Conroe) and Rep. Phil King (R – Weatherford) TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Not Passed

TFFA is a member of the ASSET business coalition that is working to maintain a business friendly regulatory environment that encourages statewide employment standards in lieu of local labor regulations that are increasingly being imposed in a patchwork of city ordinances across Texas. The ASSET coalition tried to pass similar legislation in the 2019 Session but came up just short due to strong opposition from LGBTQ+ groups.

This session ASSET proposed Senate Bill 14 to address a package of employment issues: city regulation of employment benefits, city regulation of employment scheduling, city regulation of paid sick leave, and city regulation of interview questions regarding a potential employee’s criminal history which is typically referred to as a ‘ban the box’ ordinance. The bill addressed the concerns of the LGBTQ+ groups who in turn backed off of their opposition. The bill was again strongly opposed by labor groups and the labor unions, resulting in over twelve hour marathon hearings.

The bill passed both the House and the Senate, however in the final reconciliation steps between the House and the Senate, the bill got caught in the crossfire (AGAIN!) of the contentious Election Integrity bill and died as a casualty of the House Democrats walkout on the second to last day of session.

TFFA continues to prioritize this legislation and ASSET is working to get Governor Abbott to add the issue as eligible topic for any proposed special sessions.

TFFA Supports Texas Skimmer Regulation 2.0
House Bill 2106 by Rep. Mary Ann Perez (D – Houston) and Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D – Laredo) TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Signed by the Governor – Effective September 1, 2021

In the 2019 Legislative Session TFFA members agreed that the #1 problem that our industry needed to address was credit card skimming. TFFA supported House Bill 2945 by Rep. Mary Ann Perez which created 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 directed the Attorney General’s office to create a list of guidelines for best practices for retailers to defend against credit card skimmers. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, much of what HB 2945 sought to accomplish was delayed or never happened.

This session Rep. Perez filed legislation to move the skimmer program from the Texas Attorney General’s Office to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). TFFA supported the idea of moving the program over to TDLR which now handles the regulation of motor fuel metering and fuel quality programs. TFFA worked with Rep. Perez’s office and various stakeholder groups to secure appropriations funding for the skimming fusion center and we look forward to working with the center to combat credit card skimming in Texas.

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Electric Vehicle and Electric Vehicle Charging Bills

The TFFA Legislative Council and the TFFA lobby team spent a lot of time and energy this session working on electric vehicle and electric vehicle charging related issues.

Due to the covid pandemic the Legislature did not spend much of the interim working on ‘interim charges’ which are basically work-study groups on ideas and proposals that need to be legislated in the coming session. Because the Legislature had not done this work before session, a lot of the ‘electrification’ ideas were ad-hoc and shooting from the hip. TFFA worked with legislators and committees to make bills better, but in the end most of the bills were stopped as it became apparent that more study needs to be done in this arena before laws are passed. TFFA anticipates that there will be several interim charges and interim committee hearings on electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging leading into the 2023 Legislative Session.

House Bill 2221 by Rep. Terry Canales (D – Edinburg)
TFFA Position: Opposed/Neutral STATUS: Did not pass

Rep. Terry Canales (D – Edinburg) was the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee this session. As Chairman, he filed HB 2221 to be to the major legislation regarding electric vehicles this session. The bill primarily came from a group called Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance (TX- ETRA) which is a green energy think tank sponsored by Tesla, Volkswagen, and other interested parties.

The bill had some good parts which TFFA could support and then several bad parts that all branches of the oil and gas industry largely opposed. The good was that the bill created a new state council to study and support the electrification of the Texas transportation network. The council was to consist of both relevant government entities such as TxDOT, TDLR, and the PUC as well as private entities such as TFFA, electricity provider companies, and any other relevant stakeholder group. Looking forward TFFA agrees that this council would be very beneficial for sharing ideas and creating an intelligent framework looking forward. In addition, the bill called for a $100 fee annual fee on electric vehicles. TFFA generally supports a fee on electric vehicles for fairness in shared road maintenance costs, however TFFA supported a number closer to $200 per vehicle per year.

The bad parts of HB 2221 were that the bill called for a $4000 state incentive to purchase an electric vehicle. This incentive would have been paid for from the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP) Fund. All of the oil and gas industry and chemical industry that pays into the TERP Fund opposed this idea and together opposed the bill. Also, the bill proposed to build electric vehicle charging stations at rest areas along state highways. The fuel industry has long opposed any refueling at or commercialization of rest areas, so TFFA also loudly opposed this section of the bill.

Ultimately, the bill passed out of the House Transportation Committee but died in the House Calendars Committee. The Chairman repeatedly tried to tag pieces of the bill onto other bills about electric vehicles but in the end all of the bills died as a result of an impasse over the amount of the electric vehicle fee.

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Senate Bill 1728 by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R – Georgetown) TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Did not pass

SB 1728 called for an annual $200 fee on electric vehicles under 6000 lbs. and $250 fee on electric vehicles over 6000 lbs. The bill was supported by the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Robert Nichols (R – Jacksonville) and by all of the aforementioned branches of the oil and gas industry. TFFA strongly supported the bill as a fair way to share the costs of highway and road maintenance between electric vehicles and ICE vehicles that pay gas taxes.

The bill passed out of the Senate and moved over to the House. In the House, Rep. Canales held the bill hostage as part of his negotiation over his HB 2221. He wanted a fee closer to $100 per year while the Senator wanted a fee closer to $200 per year. In the end they could not come to an agreement and both bills died.

TFFA anticipates further hearings and debate and for similar legislation to be filed next session. TFFA will continue to advocate for an annual fee of $200 for electric vehicles.

House Bill 3963 by Rep. Ken King (R – Canadian)
TFFA Position: Opposed/Neutral STATUS: Did not pass

The bill proposed to allow for electric vehicle charging stations to be built in Texas state parks and rest areas along state highways. The fuel industry has long opposed any refueling at or commercialization of rest areas, so TFFA opposed the bill. The bill author agreed to take rest areas out of the bill as he meant for the bill only to address electric vehicle charging stations in state parks. With the removal of charging stations TFFA changed its position to neutral on the bill. The bill ultimately ran out of time and died, but we expect it to be filed again next session.

Senate Bill 1202 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R – North Richland Kills)
TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Signed by the Governor – Effective September 1, 2021

Similar to the food and fuel industry, electricity generation companies and electricity distribution companies across the country are trying to prepare for the electrification of transportation networks. SB 1202 was put forward by the electricity industry to define their position as ‘providers’ and ‘retailers’ of electricity in their role with electric vehicle charging stations. The relationship between a household or business purchasing electricity and the power company is very different that the relationship between a power company and an electric vehicle driver buying thirty minutes worth of charge at a retail outlet. This relationship and market is part of the larger, complicated conversation about electrification, but TFFA supported the definitions outlined in SB 1202.

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TFFA Bills of Interest Alcohol Bills

House Bill 1518 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D – Houston)
TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Signed by the Governor – Effective September 1, 2021

Retailers across Texas have long asked for the ability to be able to sell beer and wine before Noon on Sundays. HB 1518 allows for the sale of beer beginning at 10am on Sundays.

House Bill 1024 by Rep. Charlie Geren (R – Fort Worth)
TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Signed by the Governor – Effective Immediately

During the pandemic, with restaurants and all food establishments suffering from the lack of indoor dining, Governor Abbott declared that restaurants could serve alcohol to-go during the disaster. The change was very successful and HB 1024 makes alcohol to-go permanent in Texas. It was the first bill signed by Governor Abbott this session.

Senate Bill 757 by Sen. Charles Schwertner (R – Georgetown) TFFA Position: Opposed STATUS: Did not pass

Companies like Amazon are looking to sell alcohol products directly to consumers in Texas. SB 757 was filed this session to allow companies to do this and skip the retailer in the three tiered system. The Texas Package Store Association flagged this bill and asked TFFA to help oppose the bill. TFFA co-wrote a letter opposing the bill and the bill quickly died without a hearing.

Tobacco and E-Cigarette Bills
SB 248 by Sen. Nathan Johnson (D – Dallas)
TFFA Position: Opposed STATUS: Passed – Effective January 1, 2022

In the 86th Texas Legislative Session, TFFA worked with the Legislature in support of the passage of Texas Tobacco 21, increasing the age of sale for all tobacco products and e-cigarettes to the age of 21. In the two years since, data has not been collected to show the effects of Tobacco 21 in Texas.

Senate Bill 248 is yet another nickel and dime, ‘gotchya’ regulation that is long on virtue and lacking in measurable need. We believe the intent of the bill was to introduce some regulation over the ‘vape shop’ or ‘vapor store’ industry. However, in the end the bill reached too far creating redundant and unnecessary permits and fees on our industry. TFFA worked with the legislature on Tobacco 21 two years ago, but TFFA was not consulted in SB 248’s drafting and were ignored when we asked for amendment consideration.

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As is referenced in the fiscal note of the bill, there are about 20,000 tobacco retailers in Texas. Gas stations make up about 15,000 of those tobacco retailers while the remaining 5,000 are mixed between classic cigar shops, liquor stores and the aforementioned vape shops.

Currently, in order to have a tobacco retail permit a retailer must pay $180 for a two-year permit. Senate Bill 248 includes a new, additional $90 two-year permit for a retailer to be able to sell e- cigarettes. We do not see the need for this additional permit and fee. The current tobacco retailer fee added together with regular cigarette sales taxes raise enough money to pay for the various tobacco programs in the Comptroller’s office. This additional $90 permit for a retailer who already has a tobacco license is unnecessary and redundant.

TFFA voiced its opposition to the bill author and wrote a letter requesting the Governor Abbott veto the bill. In the end the bill has passed and will be effective January 1, 2022. The bill requires that all retailers obtain a $90 two-year permit in order to sell e-cigarette products.

House Bill 211 by Rep. Shawn Thierry (D – Houston) TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Did not pass

House Bill 211 was one of many bills field this session relating to taxation and regulation of e-cigarettes and vapor products. TFFA recognizes the need for regulation of these new products and agrees that they should be taxed similarly to normal tobacco products. TFFA and Altria/JUUL worked with Rep. Thierry to create a fair bill to tax e-cigarette and vapor products similarly to tobacco products. Rep. Thierry accepted amendments to her bill to tax e-cigarettes at the wholesaler level and to tax by volume rather than by individual unit sold.

The bill died in partisan wrangling between the House and the Senate, however we anticipate very similar legislation to be filed and passed next session.


Motor Fuel Regulation Bills
SB 2062 Menendez – TDLR Motor Fuel Advisory Board
TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Signed by the Governor – Effective Immediately

HB 3408 Goldman – SB 2119 Clean-up bill from TDLR TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Did not pass

HB 3474 Thierry – Motor Fuel Tax Code Clean-up bill from Comptroller TFFA Position: Supported STATUS: Did not pass

Miscellaneous Bills
HB 4296 Burns – Automatic dyed diesel waiver in declared disasters TFFA Position: Opposed/Neutral STATUS: Did not pass

HB 2629 Thompson – ‘White Label ATM’ statewide registration system TFFA Position: Opposed/Neutral STATUS: Did not pass

HB 1199 Metcalf – Allows for front license plates on all cars TFFA Position: Opposed STATUS: Did not pass

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