Right now the Texas legislature is proposing to pass several bills that could be troublesome in the proper screening of applicants for rental housing. The pending deadline for these bills of May 11th means that opponents are pushing heavily to get them reported out of Committee as soon as possible. We encourage you to read each of the proposed bills below, and make your voice heard.
- S.B. 1874, The Modern Electronic Records in Texas Act ("MERIT Act"), introduced by Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) will be heard on Tuesday, April 28 in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice which Whitmire chairs. The bill would, among other things, prohibit bulk transfer of criminal records databases and prohibit the purchase and sale of non-conviction records.
- TX S.B. 1960 / H.B. 2700 introduced by Sen. Chuy Hinosa (D-McAllen) and Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) would limit bulk access to certain local criminal repositories. Our trade association, NAPBS, is working with other stakeholders on alternative language.
- TX S.B. 128 introduced by Sen. Royce West (D-Houston) seeks to prevent the dissemination of criminal record information for employment, housing and other purposes unless that information has been verified first. The bill has several other components for reporting criminal record information that add significant complexity. It is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.
- TX H.B. 4114 introduced by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio) would impose a series of onerous requirements on businesses that publish, republish or otherwise disseminate criminal record information and arrest photographs, including attesting to the accuracy of the information and notifying the individual whose criminal record information is being published, among others. This bill was heard in the House Committee on Business and Industry on April 21 and was left pending before the Committee. Our trade association, NAPBS, is working with stakeholders and the bill sponsor to provide substitute language.
- TX H.B. 1118 introduced by Rep. Mike Schofield (R-Houston) would allow state agencies to deny public record requests from out of state individuals or businesses. The bill was heard on April 22 in the House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation Committee where it was left pending. We will continue to actively monitor this bill for any indication of further consideration.
The impact any of these bills would not only affect Texas rentals but also out-of-state property owners and managers screening applicants coming from Texas. Voice your opinion to the state legislature to maintain the freedom of public record access.
By: Laura Mowry