Increasing personal freedom, encouraging competition in the free market, and cutting taxes: these are all basic tenets of the conservative philosophy of government. During the regular and first called sessions of the 82nd Texas Legislature, I consistently supported legislation to uphold these conservative principles, including passing crucial “loser pays” legislation to protect individuals and businesses from bearing the costs of meritless lawsuits.
Fulfilling these promises was an important goal of the Texas Conservative Coalition’s “Pledge with Texans,” a conservative reform agenda I signed last fall, along with 78 other lawmakers, Governor Rick Perry and Texas Comptroller Susan Combs. The pledge, which was developed in 2009 and 2010 with significant input and feedback from Texans across the state, was intended to serve as a foundation for conservatives’ long-term goals for Texas. In committing to the pledge, I promised to support and advance all of its tenets during the 82nd Texas Legislature.
The fourth plank of TCC’s Pledge with Texans obligated signers to advance, support and vote for legislation that increases personal freedom and encourages the free market by lowering taxes; reforms and reduces property taxes and property tax appraisals; and cuts business tax rates, lowers businesses’ tax burden, increases competition in all areas of the economy, and encourages private sector job growth.
By far the most significant legislative victory in this category was House Bill 274, the “loser pays” tort reform legislation signed into law by the governor. This bill reforms the Texas civil justice system so cases without merit may be dismissed, and courts can award equitable and just court costs and reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees to the prevailing party. This bill will protect innocent parties from the costs of protracted, meritless lawsuits and strengthen the free market in Texas by reducing the cost of doing business in the state. In turn, this will encourage entrepreneurs and businesses to invest capital in Texas with the knowledge that the state has a fair, equitable legal climate.
My conservative colleagues and I also passed legislation to: improve oversight and auditing of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), which provides basic wind and hail insurance coverage for Gulf Coast property owners who might otherwise be left uninsured (HB 3, first called session); equalize regulatory treatment of competing cable service providers and video service providers (SB 1087); ensure private telecommunications utilities cannot be subjected to more burdensome regulations than public utilities (SB 980); create a framework that allows the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) to implement periodic rate adjustments to expedite recovery of certain distribution infrastructure costs (SB 1693); provide an affirmative legal defense for individuals or businesses who have satisfied government environmental regulations (SB 875); and make changes to construction law dealing with retainage to reduce the number of liens filed and ensure subcontractors are paid for their work, without creating a significant burden on owners (HB 1390). All of these measures have been signed by the governor. Perhaps most importantly, SB 1 (first called session) extends small business franchise tax relief for another two years, through December 2013.
Texas’ robust business climate and superior job creation are the result of conservatives’ staunch support for free market principles. I am proud that my fellow TCC members and I joined together during the recent legislative sessions to pass significant measures to curb lawsuit abuse and affirm the role of the free market in Texas.