January 2009


REGULATORY NEWS

Basic Manual Update

Last session, the 80th Legislature passed House Bill 2636, a continuation of the legislature's ongoing statutory revision program. HB 2636 made non substantive additions and corrections to the revised Insurance Code, updated cross-references to the revised code, and conformed provisions of that code that were codified by the 79th Legislature to other acts of that legislature.The non substantive changes, new title, and cross-reference updates take effect April 1, 2009.



Do you have a Basic Manual subscription? If you do then the update will be shipped directly to you. If you don't, then now is the time to stop wondering if your manual is up-to-date. For just $35 a year, TLTA will automatically ship all of 2009's updates directly to you. Click here to purchase the Basic Manual subscription.

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

House Selects New Speaker

Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives unanimously elected Joe Straus III as the new Speaker of the House, the first San Antonio House speaker in nearly 100 years. First elected to the Texas House of Representatives in a special election in February 2005, Straus represents District 121, which includes the communities of Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, Terrell Hills, Windcrest, and northeast San Antonio. Click here for the Speaker's full bio.

Voter ID Legislation Divides Texas Senate

Before the 81st Legislative Session even convened, Texas Senators were already debating what appears to be the session's first hot-button issue - Voter Identification. In 2007, the Texas House passed legislation that would require voters to present a photo ID when voting, a measure supporters asserted would put a stop to voter fraud in Texas. The proposed legislation was later blocked by the Senate Democrats who felt the legislation would disenfranchise the elderly, minorities, the handicapped, homeless people and other segments of the electorate that are unlikely to have readily available identification. Click here for more story.

Comptroller Releases Budget

Last week, Comptroller Susan Combs released the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE). The BRE includes a $2.1 billion ending balance carried forward from the 2008-2009 biennium, plus an estimated $76.7 billion in anticipated general-purpose revenue from taxes and other sources. Against this amount, an estimated $1.7 billion will be reserved for future transfers into the Rainy Day Fund, leaving the Legislature $77.1 billion for general purpose spending as they write the 2010-2011 state budget. This is roughly 10.5% less than what is currently budgeted.

Lawmakers will also have to deal with costs of Hurricane Ike and Medicaid enrollment growth that are not covered in the current budget. Those items combined could cost as much as $3.2 billion before the Legislature even gets started on the 2010-2011 budget. Click here to view the Comptroller's Biennial Revenue Estimate.

Become an Insider - Join the TLTA Caucus Today

Last week many of you received an email asking you to join the TLTA Caucus. Are you curious about what's going on under the granite dome, do you want learn more about TLTA's role in the legislative process or looking for a way to get involved? Then the TLTA Caucusis for you!

All members will receive a weekly update from Aaron Day, TLTA Government Affairs Director, that provides an update of key legislation affecting the title industry and highlights of some of the "inside baseball" maneuvers and events along the way. Others may choose to volunteer to communicate TLTA's goals, initiatives, and needs to legislators and elected officials by writing letters, sending e-mails, or calling their representative. Commit to making a difference and sign up for the TLTA Caucus.

TLTA's Day at the Capitol

Mark your calendar and plan to join us in Austin on March 25 for TLTA's Day at the Capitol. You'll have the opportunity to meet your elected officials, convey the importance of the title industry in Texas, and discuss the effect pending legislation would have on our industry. Click here to download the registration form and reserve your spot today. You can either email your form to Kim Schoppert or fax it to 512.472.5931.

TLTAPACUPDATE

Need to Get Away? Let TLTA Help You Escape

Don't let the winter weather get you down!Sign up for the chance to win TLTAPAC's Dream Vacation Giveaway and start thinking about where you want to spend your summer vacation. Along with your $50 voluntary contribution you will be entered to win this incredible vacation getaway. The possibilities are endless for the winner, who will receive a $3,000 Travel Voucher courtesy of Simplifile. For tickets, please contact any of the Board of Directors, TLTAPAC Board of Trustees, or Joey Prohaska. If you have any questions, please contact our office.

FEDERAL NEWS

RESPA Round Up & More: Texas Takes A Look at the National Scene

Join us on February 18, 2009 for RESPA Round Up & More: Texas Take a Look at the National Scene. During this first-rate educational program you will hear from a top level HUD representative, national industry professionals and a representative from the State Comptroller's Office. Learn key components of the final RESPA rule, how the rule has evolved, and discuss what challenges lie ahead for Texas as we work towards implementation. As a bonus, you will hear economic trends and predictions that will help you understand how the current economy will affect your industry.

Guest speakers include Ruth Dillingham, Special Counsel for First American Title Insurance Company, Boston, MA;James E. Hyland, Esq.from the Pennsylvania Group, Washington, DC;Ivy Jackson, Director of the Office of RESPA and Interstate Land Sales at HUD;Dawn Enoch Moore, Dawn Enoch Moore P.C./Allegiance Title Company, Dallas;Aaron Day, TLTA Government Affairs Director; and Robert Wood, Director of Local Government Assistance and Economic Development, State Comptroller’s office.

Space is limited--Register now!

HUD Challenged Over Alleged RESPA Violations

HousingWire.com | January 15, 2009
A title insurer advocacy group has challenged the Department of Housing and Urban Development's practice of using preferred providers of closing and title services on HUD-owned foreclosed properties, saying this is rings of "required use" and is therefore a violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). American Land Title Association (ALTA, which represents 3,000 member companies that provide more than 100,000 jobs nationwide, sent a letter to commissioner Federal Housing Administration commissioner Brian Montgomery signed by ALTA CEO Kurt Pfotenhauer calling for reform and transparency in the issue. Click here for full story.

Fannie Mae's Home Valuation Code of Conduct

CNNMoney.com | January 15, 2009
Washington policy makers have taken aim at one of the main contributing causes to the housing crisis: inflated appraisals. When home prices were soaring, one of the driving factors was that appraisers, pressured by loan officers and mortgage brokers, kept hyping home values. Not only did home buyers wind up paying more, but the exotic mortgage products they needed to finance their purchases later exploded, setting off the financial and economic turmoil the nation is facing today. Now the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has announced a plan to curb the influence that loan originators exert on appraisers to overvalue homes. A new Home Valuation Code of Conduct, which will take place this May, is an attempt to improve the reliability of appraisals for mortgages sold to the two companies. Click here to view full article.

Click here to view recently released Home Valuation Code of Conduct.

NEWS TO KNOW

Federal Reserve: How Texas Dodged Most Subprime Trouble
Forth Worth Business Press | January 12, 2009
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has put together a study on what specifically helped Texas avoid the same pain other states have felt through the mortgage meltdown and recession. Tight regulations on lending, housing price appreciation, steady job growth and a strong state economy are the keys to what kept Texas out of the early stages of the mortgage mess.

Fannie, Freddie Strive to Serve Housing Market, Taxpayers
Wall Street Journal | January 20, 2009
Four months after the U.S. government takeover of home-mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, their chief executives and regulators again find themselves with conflicting goals.

Swindlers Find Growing Market in Foreclosures
New York Times | January 15, 2009
As home values across the country continue to plummet, the authorities say a new breed of swindler is preying on the tens of thousands of homeowners desperate to avoid foreclosure.

Foreclosures up a Record 81% in 2008
CNNMoney.com | January 15, 2009
U.S. foreclosure filings spiked by more than 81% in 2008, a record, according to a report released Thursday, and they're up 225% compared with 2006. A total of 861,664 families lost their homes to foreclosure last year, according to RealtyTrac, which released its year-end report Thursday. There were more than 3.1 million foreclosure filings issued during 2008, which means that one of every 54 households received a notice last year.

Shift to Original TARP Could Ease Housing Crisis
Reuters | January 14, 2009
The Treasury is being urged to soak up billions of dollars of soured mortgage investments in a move that would return the $700 billion financial rescue fund to its original purpose.

Bernanke Says More Steps Needed to Stabilize Banks
Reuters | January 13, 2009
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Tuesday fiscal stimulus alone would not be enough to promote a lasting U.S. economic recovery and that further steps to backstop banks may be needed.

Ahead of the Bell: HUD Secretary
Associated Press | January 13, 2009
President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for housing secretary is likely to face tough questions Tuesday about how the government can help revive the U.S housing market, which has been battered by a tidal wave of foreclosures and defaults.

Atlanta Fed Chief: Economy Likely to Improve in 2nd Half of '09
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | January 12, 2009
The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said Monday the economy is still sliding, but aggressive action has set the scene for improvement later this year. In a prepared talk to the Rotary Club of Atlanta, Dennis P. Lockhart said he believes the U.S. economy contracted by 4 to 6 percent last quarter and is likely to keep shrinking at a similar pace this quarter.

Fee Hikes Draw Ire of County Service Users

MSNBC | January 12, 2009
In an effort to recoup retirement, salary and cost-of-living increases, two Santa Barbara County departments are asking the Board of Supervisors to increase fees on services that can only be provided by the county.

U.S. Mortgage Meltdown Linked to 2005 Bankruptcy Law
The Kansas City Star | January 12, 2009
There's no shortage of blame for the mortgage crisis that drove the economy into the ditch. But here's a fresh culprit: the 2005 bankruptcy reform act, which was strongly pushed by the credit card industry.

Industry Recoils at Citi's Mortgage Deal

Washington Post | January 9, 2009
Citigroup's support for a plan to let bankruptcy judges modify the terms of troubled mortgages and help borrowers avoid foreclosure left its banking industry counterparts on the defensive yesterday, insisting that the plan would do more harm than good.