Highlights of Steve Wolens’ Legislation

In over 22 years of public service, Rep. Steve Wolens has authored and passed major pieces of legislation that have had a positive impact at both the statewide and local level. Some of these bills are listed below, grouped according to subject matter.

Business

Consumer
Protection

Ethics

Environment

Education

 

 

 

 

 

Elections

Government

Homeowners

Hospitals

Law

 

 

 

 

 

Public Safety

Securities
Regulation

Tourism

Transit

Urban
Redevelopment

Business

    Rep. Wolens authored groundbreaking legislation in 1991 that provided for the creation of limited liability companies. These entities provide members with limited liability, as well as a shield from federal corporate income taxes.

    Rep. Wolens sponsored the Texas Revised Limited Partnership Act in 1987. This important legislation modernized existing state law to conform with evolving practices regarding the use of limited partnerships. It de-emphasized the certificate filed with the Secretary of State and gave heightened importance to the partnership agreement in the establishment of relations between partners.

    The Act also incorporated certain aspects of Texas corporate law, such as provisions for mergers and the consolidation of limited partnerships. That same session, he also authored legislation that modernized the substantive corporation laws of Texas. In 1989, he passed legislation relating to the incorporation, taxation, and operation of corporations, professional associations, and real estate investment trusts.

    In 1993, Rep. Wolens passed legislation enacting the Texas Revised Partnership Act, which revised the manner in which partnerships may be formed or changed, partnerships' liabilities to third parties, and the relationships between partners.

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Consumer Protection

    Rep. Wolens passed legislation in 1995 to protect people from being defrauded by pyramid schemes (i.e., schemes that compensate participants primarily through the recruitment of newcomers to the sales operation as opposed to selling a product). This bill prohibits a person from certain involvement in these schemes and provides a penalty for promotion and participation in pyramid schemes.

    In 1987, Rep. Wolens passed legislation to help consumers with air conditioning contractor complaints. His amendments to the Air Conditioning Contractor Licensing Law established guidelines for dealing with such complaints, created an advisory board, and set standards for classes of contractor licenses.

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Ethics

    Rep. Wolens has championed ethics reforms throughout his legislative career. In 1983, he worked to pass reforms which prohibited the personal use of political contributions. He filed a bill during the following session that dealt with the standards of conduct and financial disclosure requirements for current and former public servants. That same session, he also filed legislation that related to standards of conduct for state officers and employees. In 1991, he pushed for financial statement requirements and standards of conduct for district, county, and precinct officers, candidates, and employees.

    Rep. Wolens authored legislation in 1993 that would have limited gifts to public officials. In 1995, he authored a bill relating to financial disclosure requirements and standards of conduct applying to county and district officers, candidates, and employees.

    He sponsored legislation in 1997 that amended campaign, lobbyist, and other laws to make numerous corrective and substantive revisions. Among the many changes enacted by this bill, it made financial disclosure requirements for county officers and candidates applicable to all counties with a population of 100,000 or more. Previously, this had applied only to counties with a population of 500,000 or more.

    Rep. Wolens closed the "staff briefing" loophole in the Open Meetings Act in 1999. His legislation removed provisions in the law that allowed conferences conducted for the purpose of receiving information from employees, and not for the deliberation of public business, to take place in closed meetings.

    In 2003, he passed an omnibus ethics bill, which included some of the most sweeping ethics reforms to come through the Texas Legislature. This bill contained many reforms, including the following: it bans political contributions from the end of the legislative session until the end of the veto period; places restrictions on legislators representing people before state agencies; heightens scrutiny on legislators who vote on bills that their family members have a personal stake in; requires officers in municipalities of 100,000 and other public officials to file financial statements; and strengthens the Texas Ethics Commission's investigatory powers.

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Environment

    Clean Air

      In 2001, Rep. Wolens sponsored important legislation that established the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP). This bill outlined incentive programs to help bring nonattainment areas -- which cover more than 70% of our state's population and all of Dallas -- into compliance with federal clean air standards.

      TERP provided for the replacement and retrofitting of on- and off-road diesel engines, the purchase of low-emission vehicles and energy efficient equipment, and the development of emissions-reducing technologies through research.

    Protecting Oak Cliff from Pollution

      In 1983, Rep. Wolens requested that the Texas Air Control Board postpone making a decision on General Portland Cement Company's request to burn hazardous waste in place of coal at its Oak Cliff cement kiln. With the assistance of many Oak Cliff residents, a coalition was formed to oppose this plan at a public hearing. General Portland Cement Company subsequently withdrew its request to burn hazardous waste.

      Rep. Wolens also worked to protect West Dallas residents from exposure to hazardous lead emissions from the RSR smelter.

    Electric Deregulation

      In 1999, Rep. Wolens sponsored the Texas Electric Choice Plan. This landmark legislation allowed most consumers to choose their electric provider. Protections were built into the bill to smooth the transition to a fully competitive retail market. Affiliates of former monopoly utilities were required to establish a "price to beat" on January 1, 2002 by lowering their rates to residential and small commercial customers by 6 percent.

      This bill also created a System Benefit Fund to pay for a 10 percent discount for low-income electric customers and customer education programs. This bill also addressed environmental quality by requiring an additional 2,000 megawatts of generating capacity to come from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, or hydroelectric power by 2009 and eliminating older power plants' "grandfathered" exemptions from air-quality regulations.

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Education

    Funding for UT-Southwestern Medical Center

      In 2001, Rep. Wolens helped secure $18 million in funds to create the Institute for Innovations in Medical Technologies and expand its existing office of technology development.

      The Legislature also allocated $40 million in tuition revenue bonds to help build a new state-of-the-art research building on the campus.

      He worked with area legislators in 2003 to provide $56 million in bonds for the construction of a new biomedical research facility, which will enable UT-Southwestern to continue its cutting-edge research in that field.

    Funding for UT-Dallas and UT-Arlington

      In 2001, Rep. Wolens helped pass legislation that provided an additional $9.7 million in biennial funds for UT-Dallas, as well as $9.4 million for UT-Arlington, two area institutions that had been neglected by the UT system.

    Research Excellence Fund

      In 2001, Rep. Wolens filed legislation that would have established funding for research excellence compensation for faculty at Texas medical schools who achieve recognition as Nobel Laureates, members of Institute of Medicine, or members of the National Academy of Science.

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Elections

    In 2003, Rep. Wolens authored comprehensive legislation in response to allegations of early voting fraud across the state, including Dallas, where a City Council race was overturned in 2001 due to forged signatures on absentee ballots.

    This bill closed loopholes used by "vote brokers," political operatives who exploit elderly and homebound voters by stealing and selling their votes to the highest bidders. It requires those witnessing or assisting early voters to record their name, address, and signature on balloting materials.

    This legislation also keeps voter information confidential until the day after the election, so vote brokers can not identify likely targets. It also criminalizes the buying, selling, and theft of ballots.

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Government

    In 1991, Rep. Wolens filed legislation relating to the mayor-council form of government.

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Homeowners

    Home Equity

      In 1997, Rep. Wolens added important consumer protections to a constitutional amendment regarding home equity loans. These loans were limited to 80% of the value of the home, and a "cooling-off" period was added so that the borrower could back out without penalties. Farmers were also prohibited from using their farms as collateral.

    Mortgages

      In 1987, Rep. Wolens passed legislation that protected homeowners' rights in mortgage disputes with creditors.

    Homeowners' Insurance

      In 2003, Rep. Wolens led the charge to roll back homeowners' insurance rates and prohibit the use of credit scoring in insurance. Unfortunately, the Legislature decided against ordering a mandatory rate rollback and permitted the continued use of credit scoring in the selection and pricing of homeowners' policies.

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Hospitals

    In 1985, Rep. Wolens authored legislation relating to the recovery of indigent care costs by hospital districts. He passed legislation in 1993 allowing hospitals to enter into cooperative agreements when the public will be benefitted by the lower medical costs, provided these discussions do not constitute price-fixing.

    In 1999, he authored legislation that required the Texas Department of Health to designate medical care facilities that meet certain conditions as tertiary care facilities.

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Law

    Barratry

      In 1993, Rep. Wolens passed a law making it a third degree felony for lawyers to solicit accident cases by "ambulance chasing." This law also requires lawyers to wait 31 days before sending letters to accident victims who may need legal representation and makes it illegal to contact them if the lawyer has reason to believe the potential client already has legal representation.

      Rep. Wolens also passed a law in 1989 that prohibited attorneys from soliciting clients at a cemetery, funeral home, hospital emergency room, or accident scene by providing for a criminal penalty.

    Dallas Municipal Courts of Record

      In 1983, he sponsored a bill that authorized Dallas to create municipal courts of record to handle violations of city ordinances, including health, zoning, building, and fire codes. With the creation of these courts, violators were prevented from relying on court delays to avoid penalties, easing the backlog of appeals in the county courts. He also sponsored legislation relating to the jurisdiction, administration, and practice of these courts in 1987.

    Legal Self-Help Software and Guides

      In 1999, Rep. Wolens passed legislation excepting computer software, Internet sites, books, written materials, and printed forms from the definition of the "practice of law" -- so long as they clearly stated that they are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney -- thereby allowing their use for legal self-help by the general public. He faced opposition from the State Bar as he worked to pass this bill.

    State Bar Disciplinary Proceedings

      In 2001, Rep. Wolens passed legislation to fix various problems with the State Bar's administration of the lawyer discipline and disability system. It directed the State Bar to conduct a study of disciplinary and disability procedures.

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Public Safety

    Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

      Rep. Wolens sponsored administrative license revocation legislation in 1993. This bill required the suspension of driver's licenses for those people arrested for driving while intoxicated if they failed or refused to take a breath or blood alcohol test. Suspensions were tied to the prior number and type of DWI convictions the person had on their record. He filed legislation in 1997 relating to underage drunk driving.

      In 2001, Rep. Wolens passed a major piece of legislation that was a legislative priority of MADD. This bill requires a peace officer to inform a driver that refusal to take a breath or blood test will result in a 180-day license suspension. If a driver has a prior alcohol- or drug-related offense, refusal to take the breath test will result in a two-year suspension.

      The bill also extends the suspension periods for failing a breath test. At the time of the bill's passage, Texas led the country in alcohol-related traffic deaths.

    Hate Crimes

      During the 71st Legislature, Rep. Wolens passed a bill that made it illegal to deface or damage a place of worship.

    Hit-and-Run Drivers

      In 1987, Rep. Wolens passed legislation that increased penalties for hit-and-run drivers.

    Increased Penalties for Prostitution

      In 2001, Rep. Wolens co-authored a bill that makes prostitution a state jail felony for repeat offenders. Prior to the passage of this bill, many prostitutes in the Dallas area would return to neighborhood streets immediately after being arrested and paying a small fine.

    Parolee Drug Testing

      In 1989, Rep. Wolens attempted to require drug testing for persons not only on parole from prison, but also for those who receive probated sentences.

    Placement of Correctional Facilities

      During the 71st Session, Rep. Wolens authored legislation relating to a prohibition against the placement of correctional facilities in close proximity to residences, schools, places of worship, or parks.

      This legislation was aimed at restricting the state and city from dumping correctional facilities in Oak Cliff and West Dallas. He filed a similar bill the following session.

    Private Club Regulation in Dry Areas

      In 1995, Rep. Wolens offered an amendment to legislation that allowed the city of Dallas and other local cities to regulate the location of private clubs in dry areas.

      This amendment was an important step toward ending the violence, crime, and nuisance that has plagued the Oak Cliff area and numerous Dallas neighborhoods. With this new law, local officials were able to apply zoning regulations to private clubs.

    "Two Strikes and You're Out" Law for Repeat Sex Offenders

      In 1997, Rep. Wolens sponsored legislation that helped strengthen Texas' sex offender laws by automatically giving a 35-year prison sentence without the possibility of parole to certain sexual offenders on their second conviction.

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Securities Regulation

    Rep. Wolens has authored legislation throughout his legislative career relating to the regulation of securities.

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Tourism

    Rep. Wolens passed legislation in 1989 that ensured funds collected from the hotel/motel tax were spent to boost local economies through the support of tourism and convention business. This legislation made cities responsible for the proper expenditure of these funds through strict record keeping and disclosure. It also authorized the Attorney General to enforce the law and eliminate abuses.

    In 2003, he worked to ensure Dallas could finance a convention center hotel through the hotel occupancy tax collected onsite.

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Transit

    In 1995, Rep. Wolens authored legislation that would have limited debt incurred by certain regional transportation authorities without voter approval. He authored legislation in 2003 that attempted to create a regional mobility authority in North Texas.

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Urban Redevelopment

    In 1981, Rep. Wolens sponsored several innovative bills that provided incentives for developers to improve rundown, blighted, and underdeveloped areas. Through the passage of one piece of legislation, "reinvestment zones" were created in designated blighted or undeveloped areas by giving tax abatements to landowners who agreed to use their own funds to make improvements to the land.

    The Texas Tax Increment Financing Act of 1981, which became effective upon the passage of a constitutional amendment, provided cities with the authority to issue increment bonds.

    The money realized from these bonds would be used to improve public property in redevelopment zones, increasing the value of surrounding land. That year, Rep. Wolens also authored legislation to make it easier for the state to encourage the development and promotion of small and minority-owned businesses, such as many of those located in Oak Cliff and West Dallas.

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