AUSTIN -- The Senate unanimously approved a bill on Monday that seeks to reform the program that offers windstorm insurance to nearly all Texans living along the coast.
Lawmakers are looking for ways to improve the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and the bill, HB 272, passed represents agreed language between all stakeholders, said bill sponsor Dallas Senator John Carona. "This bill is a compromise and negotiated product," he said.
The bill attempts to address the issue of "slab claims," where after a storm only the foundation is left with little indication as to whether wind or water caused the damage. Because TWIA only offers windstorm coverage, Carona said, there were questions as to whether the organization overpaid claimants who lost property due to water damage.
The bill would require certain TWIA policy holders to have flood insurance as well. It would also create an independent expert panel to determine the proportion of wind and water damage in slab claims.
The bill also reforms the claims process, by giving claimants up to one year to file. It sets up a process by which claimants can dispute damage appraisals. For slab claims, policy holders can dispute settlements, but must first go through non-binding arbitration hearings. If claimants still aren't satisfied, they can seek remedy through the courts.
This bill will now head back to the House, where it will choose to concur or not in the Senate changes to the bill.
Another bill passed by the Senate Monday is a measure designed to combat bullying in public schools. HB 1942, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, is a combination of several anti-bullying bills filed this session. It would require school districts to implement anti-bullying education into the standard health curriculum, and would require them to define bullying, implement policies to prohibit and report incidences of bullying and provide counseling for the victims.
The bill would also permit school boards to transfer bullies out of classrooms or even to another campus. HB 1942 also heads back to the House for consideration of Senate changes.