Every now and then, we get a glimpse at how the Texas Legislature makes sausage. And no it isn't pretty and yes it is often unproductive. The death of the HOA bill is a prime example of how special interests work in Austin.
I won't pretend to fully understand the nuances of the various versions but I interpret the clash as the defeat of transparency and accountable due process to victory of the status quo. I'm still struggling to figure out what is really reform, what is window-dressing and what is a giant step backwards in the name of reform.
But I do understand power politics, so much on display that Carrollton Rep. Burt Solomons, the backer of changes to rein in the little fiefdoms known as homeowners associations, felt he had to pull his measure or risk having to vote against his legislation.
Particularly telling is that Solomons and homeowner reform groups lay the blame at the feet of homebuilder and powerbroker Bob Perry. It reflects a lot of frustration with the influence of special interests in Austin; all one has to do is suggest that pending legislation would hurt business and that the odds immediately favor bad legislation passing or reform stalling.
In either case, it is a loss for reform. I'm guessing the Senate original bill represented a weak consensus, but something that homebuilders et al would not kill. So when Solomons tried to take it the extra yard, HOA became DOA. So is Solomons to blame for misreading the power of the homebuilder? Perhaps, but that doesn't make his attempt less noble. Further complicating matters is a Lone Star Report entry that points to state Rep. Phil King's role in this along with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Bob Perry aides denying that the homebuilder had a role in the bill's demise.
Nonetheless,Solomons told the Houston Chronicle that this 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.
Guess that is why Solomons is so ticked off this time -- enough to name names. In addition to Perry, Solomons had issues with King over these points King wanted in the bill. Again, from the Houston Chronicle:
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.
I'm particularly intrigued by the the secret meetings portion which sounds alot like something I took issue with King over earlier this month in the blog posting.
State Sen. Royce West, who worked on the Senate version, told the DMN that he didn't know how much influence Perry played on the House side, but added this priceless understatement: "the reality is Bob Perry has influence."