Lawmaker: Builder hurt HOA bill
Dewhurst, Bob Perry aides deny interference
AUSTIN With a midnight deadline approaching, the Texas House author of a bill designed to make homeowners' associations more accountable said he would rather let the measure die than accept a weakened version promoted by Houston homebuilder and mega-political-donor Bob Perry.
A frustrated state Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, pulled his bill down after the House accepted an amendment he said would put into law "some of the worst business practices out there."
He blamed homebuilder Perry, and his chief lobbyist, Austin attorney Buddy Jones, for killing his legislation with a "misinformation" campaign.
Solomons said it was the second time Perry had thwarted efforts to rein in abuses by homeowners' associations. In a speech on the House floor, Solomons said a bill that had passed the House last session had 25 supporters on the floor of the Texas Senate, but Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst - after fielding complaints from Perry - refused to call the bill up for a vote.
Perry spokesman Anthony Holm called Solomons' account of last session "far-fetched." Dewhurst spokesman Mike Walz said the lieutenant governor does not have any recollection of a conversation with Perry about homeowners' associations.
"I have no idea what Representative Solomons is referencing," Holm said. He also denied that Perry was involved in weakening Solomons' bill this session.
Open meetings scuttled
Solomons objected to an amendment by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, because it stripped out provisions requiring associations to hold open meetings and keep records of their decisions. It also removed language requiring associations to formally serve court papers to owners when foreclosure action is initiated, he said.
Solomons also objected to the amendment's handling of fines assessed homeowners, because it would allow associations to pay off lawyers and property managers for handling the fines before applying a payment to the actual fine. Homeowners who do not pay their fines can be foreclosed, and paying lawyers and property managers first could lead to more foreclosures, he argued.
King argued that his amendment mirrored a bill passed unanimously by the Texas Senate by State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. But Solomons said West previously had backed more stringent regulations, and that he believed West preferred his version of the bill.
West said he would be disappointed if the bill died at midnight but agreed with Solomons that he preferred a stronger bill. He also supported Solomons' contention that efforts last session were derailed by Perry and his lobby team.
"We were very close, and he parachuted at the last minute," he said. West recalled being one vote shy of passage; Solomons insisted he saw a vote tally indicating 25 lawmakers supported it.
Solomons said he hopes that parts of his bill will be amended to other legislation to protect homeowners against abuses by some associations, some of which rack up fines and charge homeowners fees for contesting them. A bill analysis estimated that 5 million Texans belong to homeowner associations, which assess billions of dollars of fees each year.
Homebuilder Perry, a campaign donor to conservative causes and candidates, is one of the largest single political contributors in the U.S.