Interim Charges for Texas House Committees Focus on Harvey’s Impact

In laying out the interim committee charges for the next legislative session, which will begin in January 2019, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus focused on Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the state.

Almost every House committee received at least one charge related to the state’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey, according to an announcement released by Straus on Oct. 23.

Committees are to study the issues assigned to them and report their find­ings to the House before the next session begins.

“This is an opportunity for the Legislature to better understand the impact of the storm, to evaluate the response of state agencies and to pre­pare for future disasters,” Straus said in announcing the interim charges. “Hurricane Harvey will impact just about every major issue in the next legislative session, and the House should be fully prepared for that moment.”

In total, Straus issued more than 230 interim charges. Those that may affect the property/casualty insurance industry in the state include:

House Committee on Insurance

• Examine the effect of Hurricane Harvey on the insurance market in Texas. Include an evaluation of the status of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and Texas FAIR Plan Association, and of the impact of Harvey on the ability of these residual markets to achieve their statutory goals and meet the needs of their policy­holders. Examine possible gaps and vul­nerabilities in insurance coverage brought to light by Harvey and recommend ways to address these issues.

• Study the coverage provided by the most common homeowners insurance policy forms in Texas, and methods to provide more clarity to Texas consumers about this coverage and the possible need for endorsements or other types of insurance.

• Study the use of appraisal processes under property insurance policies in Texas, including the effects of court decisions on the use of these processes and the impact of their use on insurers and policyholders.

• Examine the impacts of changes in pre­scription drug coverage and drug formu­laries on patients, particularly those with chronic conditions.

• Evaluate recent efforts in Texas and in other states to enhance transparency regarding the practices of pharmacy bene­fit managers.

• Review Texas’ financial responsibility laws for automobile insurance, including the minimum liability limits required by state law.

House Committee on Business & Industry

• Evaluate the adequacy of the work­force currently available to the industries responsible for rebuilding the state’s key infrastructure as well as residential and commercial properties damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Specifically, examine the labor needs within the construction industry and skilled trades and deter­mine if local or state licensing require­ments and regulations are an unneces­sary barrier to the ongoing success of post-Harvey recovery.

• Review all existing law concerning con­sumer rights and protections, including but not limited to statutes that address deceptive practices, landlord/tenant agree­ments, and homeowner/contractor dis­putes. Determine whether the provisions offer adequate guidance and protections in disaster and recovery situations.

• Review the increased use of third party data gathering, particularly individual background information and history, by Texas employers and businesses. Examine the standards for accessing, providing, and updating accurate background information used for employment purposes.

• Study the impact of data breaches or theft on Texas consumers and business­es. In particular, study the consequences of recent data breaches and subsequent mitigation efforts. Review the existing standards of risk as well as the current best practices in securing sensitive and per­sonal information held or used by private industries. Determine if existing rules and regulations offer adequate consumer pro­tection while allowing continued economic success for businesses in the state.

• Monitor the status of the Texas workers’ compensation system, including existing policies on compounded pharmaceuti­cals and designated doctor assessments. Review recent trends in employer partici­pation in the system.

Source: Texas House of Representatives