March 2009


REGULATORY NEWS

TLTA Recommends 13.55% Rate Increase

Pre-filed Rate Hearing Testimony Available Online
As reported in last week's Breaking News, February 25 was the deadline to submit pre-filed testimony for the biennial rate hearing scheduled to take place at the State Office of Administrative Hearings June 2-5, 2009.

TLTA expert,Dr. Nelson Lipshutz, indicated the current basic premium rate level should be increased by 13.55%. TLTA economist Dr. Jared Hazleton testified that although the Texas economy and housing markets have faired better than the overall United States, the outlook for housing activity in Texas is still very weak. For the first time, TLTA is making it's pre-filed testimony, as well as those of the other parties, available on our website for you to review. Click here to access.

Based upon his rate making analysis,Dr. Mark Crawshaw, the consulting actuary for the Texas Department of Insurance staff, recommends a 0% change in the Texas basic premium rate.Mr. Kenneth Lovoy, Director of Insurance Market Research and Education of the Office of Public Insurance Counsel, testifies that the real property title insurance rate in Texas is presently excessive and needs to be reduced by 11%.

We'll continue to keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Rulemaking Decision Anticipated for Early Spring

We anticipate that TDI will render their decisions for the October 2, 2008 Biennial Rule Hearing sometime this spring. For a complete list of agenda items and TLTA's official positions please click here. We will continue to update you as information becomes available.

Minerals Issue Update

On February 13 the Texas Department of Insurance published a proposal regarding the adoption of new rules, rates and forms for the handling of mineral interests with regard to title insurance. On February 17, TLTA hosted a teleconference for its members providing a brief overview of the proposal. A hearing is currently scheduled for April 23,2009 at TDI.

PLEASE NOTE: There are minor discrepancies between the proposals published in the Texas Register and TLTA's filed version. We have discussed this with TDI and we will be submitting amendments to correct the differences.

If you have any questions please contact Aaron Day at aaron@tlta.comor 512.472.6593.

LEGISLATIVE NEWS

Rep. Drew Darby Guest Speaker at TLTA's March 5th Legislative Luncheon

Representative Drew Darby will be joining us in Austin this week for a very informative luncheon designed to update you on legislative issues of critical concern to the industry. As a title company owner himself, Rep. Darby has a unique understanding of our issues. As a key member of the Texas House, he serves on several important committees, including appropriations.

Tickets are only$25 so register today and join us this Thursday, March 5th at the Doubletree Hotel Austin to hear an insider’s view on the challenges facing all Texans during the 81st Legislative Session. If you have any questions please email Nancy Ebertor call Tedrah Hutchins at 512.472.6593.

Advanced Registration is Required

Calling All Title Professionals - TLTA's Day at the Capitol

The TLTA Day at the Capitol is a month away and we need you! Every legislative session industry associations fill the hallways of the Capitol with hundreds, often thousands of professionals and they all have one goal - to educate legislators about their respective industries. We know that when it comes to title insurance, no one knows more about the importance of our industry in Texas than you.

Participating in TLTA's Day at the Capitol is not only free to attend (all you pay are travel costs), we make it easy for you. We handle all the scheduling, provide you with talking points, and pair you with other experienced title professionals. All you have to do is fill out the registration form and submit it to TLTA either via email to Kim Schoppert or fax it to 512.472.5931.

Register today and help us reach our goal of 100 TLTA members at the Capitol on March 25! Click here to reserve your hotel room.Special hotel rate available until Friday, March 6.

81st Legislative Session Update

We've reported to you in the past about TLTA's legislative agenda. We have secured most of our bill drafts from the Texas Legislative Counsel and we're now in the process of confirming which legislators will author the TLTA bills. The filing deadline for new legislation is Friday, March 13 and we will provide further details regarding our legislation in the coming weeks.

The legislative committees are officially underway. Both the House Insurance and the House Business and Industry Committees held their first organizational meetings last week and we expect the Chairmen to take up and consider legislation sometime this week.

In the Senate, the Intergovernmental Regulations Committee heard invited testimony last Wednesday regarding foreclosures in Texas.Dr. Jim Gaines, research economist for Texas A&M Real Estate Research Center, pointed out that there is no official foreclosure data anywhere in the United States and researchers are forced to use second hand data. He also said 1% of houses in Texas have foreclosure action on them, which translates to roughly 96,000 and ranks Texas 24th in foreclosure rates in the U.S.

We will continue to closely monitor the committees and keep you up-to-date on the latest legislative news. If you want to learn more about what happens behind the scenes at TLTA and the Capitol sign up for the TLTA Caucus today and receive our inside scoop weekly newsletter.

TLTAPACUPDATE

Dreaming of Palm Trees and Afternoons in the Sun?

Help TLTA and We'll Help You Get Away With a $3,000 Travel Voucher
Don't forget your sunscreen! Sign up for the chance to win TLTAPAC's Dream Vacation Giveaway and start thinking about where you want to spend your summer vacation. Your voluntary contribution enters you 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 TLTAPAC Board of Trustees,TLTA Board of Directors,or Joey Prohaska, TLTAPAC Fundraising Chair . If you have any questions, please contact our office.

FEDERAL NEWS

Podcasts Now Available for TLTA RESPA Reform Program

On February 18,TLTA hosted a very informative and successful program on RESPA reform and other national issues affecting your industry.Ruth Dillingham covered key points, timelines, and how to get a head start on compliance, while Dawn Moore shared potential implementation challenges and posed questions regarding how Texas regulations would interface with federal guidelines.Jim Hyland, TLTA’s DC lobbyist, and Aaron Day offered their insight on the latest federal and state legislative initiatives. And Robert Wood from the State Comptroller’s office wrapped up the program with a synopsis of how Texas plans to endure our difficult economy.

If you missed this important program podcasts are now available. You can even earn CE credit for listening!

RESPA Call to Action - Send Your Questions Now

The RESPA Round-Up & More: Texas Looks at the National Scene also featured special guest speaker Andrew Fay from HUD’s RESPA office. In addressing the group, he assured everyone that HUD understood there are many unanswered questions. He also said one of their top priorities is to develop a FAQ document for the RESPA rule and urged everyone to submit their questions regarding practical applications of the rule. As you know, our regulatory structure is unique in Texas, creating the potential for many implementation challenges and this is where we need your help.

Send Your Questions Right Away

TLTA would like to serve as the central clearinghouse for questions so that we can submit a comprehensive list to HUD on behalf of the Texas title industry. In our effort to seek clarity and educate everyone, we request that you send your questions to us right away. Please be as detailed as you can and use hypotheticals as appropriate.

Please email your questions to Tedrah Hutchins as soon as possible, but no later than Friday, March 6 so that we may submit them as soon as possible. Again, if you were unable to attend the RESPA Round-Up & More you can download the podcasts to hear what challenges we're potentially facing.

TLTA Members on the Hill

This week, President Celia Flowers and Executive Vice President Leslie Midgley are attending ALTA's 2009 Federal Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, DC. The conference features a number of important sessions regarding our current financial market, the latest information on a national standard data collection effort, RESPA implementation, along with a special briefing from the Obama Administration. TLTA members attending the conference will also be meeting with the Texas Congressional delegation to discuss the numerous federal issues that have an affect on our industry. We will provide you with an update of the conference in next month's Dateline.

Obama Releases Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan

President Barack Obama has released his Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, a part of his broad, comprehensive strategy to help get the economy back on track. Under the proposed plan, an estimated 7 to 9 million families could receive help to restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure. Click to view full report.

For additional reports, please visit our Federal Issues page.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan Testifies Before Senate Banking Committee

Last week, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan testified before the Senate Banking Committee on the Administration's plan to help homeowners avoid foreclosures. Donovan argued the plan would help responsible homeowners avoid foreclosure and also protect the home values of Americans broadly by stopping blight from infecting neighborhoods. He said it would protect the owner of an "average-valued home" in the U.S. from as much as a$6,000 fall in value. "The plan not only helps responsible homeowners at risk of losing their homes, but prevents neighborhoods and communities from decay, as default and foreclosures fuel falling home values, local business collapse, and further job loss," he told the Senate Banking panel.

The Obama administration unveiled its strategy to stabilize the housing market last week and contends that its plan targets victims of the housing bust, not speculators or those who borrowed far more than they could reasonably expect to be repaid. The details of the plan are scheduled for release March 4.

View archived C-SPAN broadcasted Senate Banking Committee hearing here.

NEWS TO KNOW

Announcing the TLTA News Ticker

In an effort to provide you the latest in industry-related news, TLTA has a new addition to our website- the TLTA News Ticker. Monday through Friday you can count on us to bring you some of the latest business and industry news clips both in Texas and across the United States. Check it out today!

A Fix For the Housing Crisis
Reuters | February 27, 2009
As much as short-term help is needed to keep more people from foreclosure, there is a big opportunity to get to the end of the crisis by starting at the beginning of the problem. The conventional wisdom is that subprime mortgages represent the beginning. In fact, the beginning goes back much further. The current crisis stems from the absence of a system that provides stability to the value of properties in the United States.

SBA's 'Goodwill' Leaves Bad Taste for Small Businesses

Washington Post | February 27, 2009
The business brokers, who guide buyers and sellers of companies through those transactions, say a new government rule could dramatically harm their businesses while blunting the ability of many recently laid-off Americans to find new avenues of work and income.

Getting a Mortgage Can Be More Difficult if You Are Self-Employed
Washington Post | February 27, 2009
On paper, self-employed people can look risky to lenders, particularly now because of the credit crunch. In fact, they have never looked great on paper, partly because there is not enough of a paper trail on them.

House 'Cram Down' Vote Delayed

Wall Street Journal | February 27, 2009
House Democrats have pushed back until next week a vote on legislation to allow bankruptcy judges to reduce the principal balance of mortgage loans, after some in their party raised concerns about the measure. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said the vote, which was scheduled for Thursday, will be postponed so that House Democrats can meet Monday evening with Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan to discuss the measure.

Mortgage Deduction Looks Less Sacred
Wall Street Journal | February 27, 2009
The president's budget takes on what has long been considered a sacred cow by trying to reduce the mortgage-interest tax deduction for top earners. The president's budget seeks to raise $318 billion over the next decade by lowering the value of itemized tax deductions for the wealthy -- including interest paid on home mortgages.

Treasury To Move 'Quickly' On Housing Plan

Reuters | February 27, 2009
The Department of Housing and Urban Development today allocated nearly 75% ($10.1 billion) of its funding provided by the stimulus plan approved by Congress earlier this month. Among other efforts, HUD will use the funding to temporarily increase the loan limits of mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration up to $729,750 (previously capped at $625,500).

HUD Secretary Defends Obama Housing Plan
Dow Jones | February 27, 2009
Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan defended the White House plan to right the housing sector before a key Senate panel Thursday, as lawmakers sparred over whether it would rescue deserving families or assist reckless borrowers and lenders.