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HB 1038 does achieve some small measure of TRCC reform, but the commission and its appeals process are still a long way from reaching the standard for consumer protection and consumer rights originally envisioned. The TRCC must have adequate power to license, monitor and, when needed, punish homebuilders in the state of Texas. While this bill does give the TRCC more powers to accomplish these goals, it remains to be seen whether or not the commission has the capacity to use its new powers and use them wisely.
The use of these powers is the root problem of the TRCC – a problem which this bill does not resolve. The TRCC was established to protect home-buyers from shoddy construction and second-rate builders. In other words, the TRCC’s primary purpose was to stand up for regular Texans in the face of big business and industry. Instead, the TRCC is dominated by representatives from the very industry it is tasked to monitor and regulate. The TRCC will never truly be able to achieve adequate consumer protection – to wield its new powers in the interest of everyday Texans – until there is a clear and substantial consumer presence on the commission itself.
This legislation also does nothing to resolve the arbitration and appeals process for new home buyers. Texans should have the option to take their grievances with homebuilders to a court of law if they so choose. The right of court appeals is even more important given the present industry dominance within the TRCC.
Texas Public Interest Research Group does, however, endorse this bill as a first, small step towards meaningful reform of the TRCC. We actively supported this reform bill in the legislature. TexPIRG is now preparing for the 2009 TRCC review by the Sunset Advisory Commission – a review that anti-reformers unsuccessfully attempted to push back to 2012 during this last legislative session. The Sunset review will be the best chance to win even greater and more meaningful reform for the benefit of Texas homebuyers.
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