For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) profiles a noteworthy bill that is currently going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.
Bill: House Bill (HB) 2309, relating to the enforcement of parking privileges for people with disabilities, increasing criminal fines, and authorizing a fee.
Bill Author: Rep. Alex Dominguez, Texas House District 37 (Brownsville)
What does the bill do?
HB 2309 would allow for the dismissal of charges for illegally parking in an accessible parking spot upon the completion of an educational course on accessible parking.
Under the terms of HB 2309, certain charges could be dismissed if a defendant completes the course. The judge could require this course if the defendant has not completed the course within 12 months preceding the offense, the defendant enters a plea of no contest or guilty on or before their notice date, and the defendant requests to take the course. Once the court makes a judgment on the plea, the defendant has 90 days to complete the approved course.
Once the course has been completed, the defendant must present a certificate of completion to the court along with confirmation from a political subdivision that the defendant had not completed such a course within the last 12 months.
In addition to court costs and applicable fees, the court may require the defendant to pay an administrative fee of up to $10. A defendant who requests the course but does not take it is not entitled to a refund. Fees collected by the municipal court would go to the municipal treasury, while fees collected by another court would go to the relevant county treasury.
If a defendant requests the course but does not take it, the court shall notify them in writing of the failure and require them to appear in court. The defendant would be required to provide evidence of good cause on their failure to comply. If the defendant shows good cause, the court may allow an extension of time. Otherwise, the court will impose a guilty sentence.
When the defendant successfully completes the course, the court will remove judgment and dismiss the charge. The court may only dismiss one charge for each course completed. An order of deferral from the course would terminate any liability under a bond given for the charge.
Additionally, HB 2309 would modify a current statute that allows political subdivisions to appoint persons to file charges against those who commit parking offenses. The bill would require a training program for such appointees to include:
- Information on parking laws for people with disabilities
- Information on the powers, rights, and responsibilities of appointed persons
- Instructions directing an appointed person not to confront suspected violators of the law
- Procedures to report suspected violators
HB 2309 would allow for charges to be filed either manually or in an electronically secure format. The bill would also increase the maximum monetary fines for offenses regarding illegal parking in spaces designated for people with disabilities. Changes to the maximum dollar amounts are as follows:
- A first-time offense is raised from $750 to $1,000
- One previous conviction of the same offense is raised from $800 to $1,050
- Two previous convictions of the same offense raise the fine from $800 to $1,050
- Three previous convictions of the same offense raise the fine from $1,100 to $1,450
- Four previous convictions of the same offense raise the fine from $1,250 to $1,650
If passed, the bill would take effect on Sept. 1, 2021. The changes in the law would only apply to offenses committed after that effective date.
During the 84th legislative session, HB 1317 was passed into law, directing the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) to review the following:
- The laws of Texas that apply to parking for persons with disabilities
- The laws of other states that apply to parking for persons with disabilities
- Requirements for parking for persons with disabilities in the 1990 federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, and the 2012 Texas Accessibility Standards
- Policies on parking for persons with disabilities in state-owned parking lots, including on the grounds of the State Capitol
GCPD’s Interim Report: A Review of Accessible Parking for Persons with Disabilities (PDF) identified three major findings: the enforcement of accessible parking is a leading concern for Texans with disabilities, an insufficient number of accessible parking spaces is a particular concern for Texans with disabilities, and placard fraud is a prevalent problem with accessible parking. There was also a general sense that fines in Texas related to accessible parking violations, which are among the highest in the nation, are often dismissed due to their perceived severity.
Accessible parking violations can take many forms, including a person without a disability parking in a space designated for people with disabilities, parking in an access aisle meant for vans with ramps or lifts, or fraudulently using a specialty parking plate or disability parking placard that has been borrowed from a family member or illegally produced.
The report contained a list of 12 recommendations to better address these issues. This included the following:
- Reconsider judicial discretion to discourage frequent dismissal of accessible parking citations
- Amend the state transportation code to allow parking fines to be reduced upon completion of classes on disability awareness and accessible parking
Statement from bill author, Rep. Alex Dominguez:
“Many disabled drivers would love to be able to park and happily walk inside a building and use their full physical potential. It is a shame that some able-bodied drivers selfishly take the spots reserved for our disabled Texans. Merely assessing a penalty teaches no one any lessons; however, with HB 2309 our neighbors can learn why disabled parking is so important and how they can support every Texan.”
Where is the bill in the process?
On April 28, 2021, HB 2309 was passed by the full Texas House on a vote of 130-13. It now awaits referral to a Senate committee.
Who supports the bill and why?
The following comments were taken at the March 23, 2021, public hearing:
- CTD: Chase Bearden, speaking in his role as deputy executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD): “What some people don’t realize is how significant that area with the stripes is for someone with a disability to get out of their vehicle. If it’s a van with a lift, that van door has to open, and that lift has to go out across the crosshatch mark. If people park at an angle or illegally park there, they can’t get their electric chair out. What happens a lot of times is you come back, it’s a hundred-and-something degrees, and you can’t even get in your own vehicle. Most of these vehicles don’t even have a driver-side entrance, so the only option, if someone has illegally parked and blocked them, is to wait for someone else to come by and ask them to move their van. … We want to be out there and be successful and independent, and to do that we have to have these parking spaces.”
Bearden also registered support as a representative of Parking Mobility but did not offer verbal testimony on its behalf.
Who opposes the bill and why?
No opposition to the bill was registered at the public hearing.
Though TCDD takes no formal position on HB 2309, the Council adopted the following Public Policy Priority for the 87th Texas Legislature:
Accessible Parking: Strengthen the enforcement and increase the availability of accessible parking spaces. Address placard fraud and abuse of parking in striped spaces by revising criminal and civil penalties and improving public awareness. Develop innovative, collaborative solutions to adjust for the growing demand for accessible parking spaces as our population ages and more people acquire or are diagnosed with mobility disabilities.
How much will the bill cost?
The Legislative Budget Board determined the bill would not impact the state budget in a significant way.
Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
There is no Senate companion to HB 2309.
Senate Bill (SB) 1743 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini also relates to the enforcement of parking privileges for people with disabilities. Its language on dismissal procedures for violators who complete accessible-parking courses is nearly identical to that of HB 2309. However, each bill has separate, additional provisions that are not found in both.
For the latest information about where HB 2309 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.
Bill of the Week Updates:
HB 24, which would administer funding to school districts to provide inclusive and accessible playgrounds, was brought up for a vote to pass it out of the House Public Education Committee. However, the motion failed, with five members voting against, three in support, and five absent. It is unclear as to whether the bill will come up for another vote in the future. Contact information for the committee members can be found here.
HB 119, which would prohibit organ transplant discrimination based on disability, recently passed out of the Texas Senate with unanimous support. Since the Senate made some changes to the bill, the House will decide whether to agree to those changes and send it to the governor or to form a conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions.
HB 2107, which would allow outpatient services for children who are unable to proceed in juvenile court proceedings due to an intellectual disability, is still awaiting placement on the House schedule three weeks after being sent to the Local and Consent Calendars Committee. Such a wait may denote that the committee needs additional feedback from the public; contact information for its members can be found here.
HB 2831, which would create an advisory committee on the confinement of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in county jails, was favorably passed out of the House County Affairs Committee. It has been sent to the Local and Consent Calendars Committee, where it awaits scheduling for consideration by the full Texas House.
SB 25, which is the Senate companion to Bill of the Week HB 892, was recently reported favorably out of the House Human Services Committee. It will now be sent to the Calendars Committee to await scheduling for consideration by the full Texas House. The bill would enable residents of long-term care facilities to designate an essential caregiver for in-person visitation.
SB 50, which would develop a competitive integrated employment initiative for working-age adults with disabilities, was passed out of the Texas Senate on a vote of 30-1. It has been referred to the House Human Services Committee.
SB 776, which would create an inclusive sports program for students with intellectual disabilities, was recently passed by the Texas Senate with unanimous support. It has been sent over to the House, where it now awaits referral to a committee.