May 31, 2017


TLTA Emerges From Session Victorious, Our Safe and Stable System Preserved

The 85th Session of the Texas Legislature concluded with Sine Die on Monday, May 29. TLTA had a very successful session, highlighted by the defeat of proposals to upend our Texas regulatory system and the passage of all of our affirmative agenda items, as well as some very important positive amendments to bills affecting our industry. A more in-depth and comprehensive legislative report listing all bills of interest will be published after the veto period, but here's a quick recap of the bills TLTA was following and what to expect moving forward.

Victory in Attack on Safe, Stable Title Insurance System 

TLTA can now confidently announce that our industry has emerged from this long and challenging session victorious over those special interests who proposed to dismantle our Texas title system. 

As reported on April 26 in Dateline Austin, the hearing on HB 4239 – a bill that proposed to upend our stable rate system – received a lineup of expert title industry witnesses, who stated that it would increase costs for Texas homeowners, reduce competition by shuttering small businesses and increase risks and claims. The hearing drew a large crowd, with 142 people signing in as witnesses, the vast majority of whom registered in opposition. After hearing almost two hours of testimony, including extensive questioning by the committee members, HB 4239 was left pending, was never brought up for a vote, and eventually died in committee. 

In addition, as reported on May 17, SB 372 by Sen. Bob Hall, that proposed a file-and-use rating system, was never set for a hearing by the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. 

Finally, SB 2203 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, dealing with disclosure and reporting in title insurance, was left pending in the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.  

We are extraordinarily pleased with this outcome and very grateful for the work and support of the TLTA membership in achieving this critical victory.

TLTA's Affirmative Agenda – One Bill Becomes Law, Other Pending Governor's Signature

 SB 1955 – a bill clarifying the lis pendens expungement statute so it can be relied upon by title agents and insurers – was signed into law on Friday, May 19. It had the honor of being one of the first 40 bills signed by Gov. Abbott. The bill was the result of a TLTA Board of Directors' decision made just a few days before the bill filing deadline in response to a case being heard in the Texas Supreme Court and concern about its potential outcome. Sen. Bryan Hughes graciously agreed to file the bill on the deadline. Rep. John Wray agreed to do the same, championing the Senate bill through the House process and helping to send it to the governor over the weekend. TLTA is extremely grateful to both of these legislators for their responsiveness and leadership. 

SB 1249, which relates to adverse possession amongst co-tenant heirs, passed the House on May 24 and is headed to the governor's desk. This bill was drafted a few sessions ago by TLTA volunteers Richard Black and Roland Love at the behest of Sen. West who learned of the fate of many rural and inner city lower income individuals and families who could not receive Disaster Relief Assistance because they could not prove up title. After the bill failed to pass two sessions in a row on its own devices, TLTA made it a priority this session by adding it to its affirmative agenda. If the governor signs the bill, individuals and family members will now be able to adversely possess against co-tenants who are no longer in the picture. Often, property is passed down informally generation after generation and clear title is no longer possessed by a single or few individuals. Under the process outlined in the bill, clear title can now be achieved after a certain period of time. This will further bolster certainty in the Texas title system as this new mechanism becomes available and is implemented. TLTA is grateful for the leadership of Sen. West for initiating the discussion and filing the bill in the Senate and for Rep. Schofield for filing and championing the bill in the House.

Cyber Crime News: Who Hacked My Cyber Insurance Policy?

American Land Title Association | May 2017
Hardly a day goes by without news of some new cyber attack. Less reported – but equally as concerning – are coverage denials under cyber-insurance policies for losses that were plainly caused by computer hackers. In the most recent issue of Title News, ALTA published an important article on some examples of this, and the lessons that can be learned from them. TLTA is grateful to ALTA for letting us share this crucial article.
 
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CFPB News: Trump Budget Cuts the CFPB, Judges Divided in Hearing on CFPB Power

The impact of Trump’s 2018 federal budget proposal would certainly be felt in the housing industry via the 13% cut to the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but that’s hardly the only impactful move that the budget proposal holds. Buried on the second-to-last page is a move sure to please Trump’s fellow Republicans and many in the housing industry as well – gutting the CFPB. Currently, the CFPB gets its funding from the Federal Reserve, but Trump’s budget would shift the CFPB’s appropriations process to Congress, a move that other Republicans have long pushed for.
 
Read "Trump Budget Surprise: Gutting the CFPB" (HousingWire) »
 
Meanwhile, federal appeals judges are divided as they hear arguments over whether the president should be able to more easily fire the head of the government's consumer finance watchdog agency. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a rare hearing by a majority of its judges, recently took up the politically charged case involving the CFPB and the power of its director. The judges are reconsidering a three-judge panel's 2-1 ruling last fall that would make it easier for Trump to fire CFPB director Richard Cordray, who was appointed in 2011 by Obama.
 
Read "Judges Divided in Hearing on Consumer Agency Power" (New York Times) »

GSE News: U.S. Looks to Get Mortgage Giants Fannie and Freddie Out of Conservatorship

NPR | May 23, 2017
Many years have passed since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got into financial trouble and had to be placed in conservatorship. The mortgage giants are stable now, but nine years later there is still the question of how to get these companies out of conservatorship and on their own again.
 
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TLTA has scheduled several live webinars for spring and summer 2017. Register now, or reserve your On-Demand version today!