Alan Ritter brought his Texas Residential Construction Commission bill to the floor this afternoon. It is undoubtedly a good-faith effort to improve the process by which home buyers are prevented from recovering money from unscrupulous and/or incompetent builders, and Dan Gattis, who has had buyers’ remorse about the TRCC for four years now, put his best efforts into putting still more teeth into the law, and so did Ruth McClendon. In the end, however, it still added up to lipstick on a pig, and not just any pig, but the ugliest, dirtiest pig the Texas Legislature has brought into existence in all the years I have been covering it. There is only one remedy for the TRCC, and that is to send it into oblivion. All the changes in the world cannot compensate for the fact that the governor has stacked it with appointees of the builders, by the builders, and for the builders, and that the entire concept of the commission was to protect builders like Republican megadonors Bob Perry and Dick Weekley and not the public.
Ritter’s bill included higher penalties, but it can’t make the industry-friendly commission impose them. Gattis enabled the attorney general to sue bad actors for attorneys fees and costs on behalf of homeowners. He also required continuing education for builders. Another of his amendments required builders to confess that the warranty of habitability has ceased to exist in Texas. Todd Smith added a provision that the three public members can not have ties to the homebuilding industry.
Craig Eiland cut to the chase. Saying, “This has been a piece of junk for the last four years,” he proposed an amendment to give homeowners the option of choosing between the commission’s arbitration process and filing a lawsuit. David Swinford opposed him from the back mike, saying, “This amendment takes the TRCC apart.” Eiland disagreed, saying that bilked buyers could still choose the TRCC process. Swinford responded, “Don’t you think all the stuff Mr. Ritter has done will improve the system?” Sure it will. But, like I said, it’s still lipstick on a pig. Or, perhaps I should say, lip gloss.
The Eiland amendment was defeated, 92-47. Lancome, anyone?