July 2010


June proved to be an amazing month for the Texas land title industry as TLTAPAC hit a milestone by raising over $100,000! This is a result of an incredible effort by many volunteers along with the generosity and spirit of purpose of the donors. Special thanks to each and every one of you who continue work to keep our industry's voice strong.

After returning from a successful Annual Conference and Business Meeting, TLTA staff delivered letters to Chairman John Smithee of the House Insurance Committee explaining the history and mechanics of our regulatory framework and the recent Minerals Resolution. This was in response to questions posed by the Chairman as his committee performs their interim study on title insurance. Our submission was the result of significant input by TLTA members and their work is much appreciated.

TLTA also lobbied hard to remove an item from the proposed Sunset Commission Recommendations regarding TDI. The item threatened to shift oversight of agent audits from the Guaranty Board to the TDI Commissioner. This is a significant legislative victory months before the session begins - and as you will read, made possible by the efforts of TLTA members and the leadership of Representative Byron Cook. This episode was a good example of TLTA taking advantage of its unique understanding of the title industry to protect the consumer from unintended consequences of state action.

On a Regulatory note, TLTA has confirmed with TDI that they are not currently requiring agents to submit proof of payroll tax payment as laid out in H.B. 4338. TDI will begin enforcing this requirement after the rule making process has been completed. TLTA has also been working on process and regulatory changes to streamline the licensing process. Stay tuned as policy recommendations are being formulated by TLTA volunteers.

The CFPB (formerly the "CFPA bill") has passed and is expected to be approved by the President today. Although we are pleased that we avoided the creation of a new direct federal regulator for our title insurance activities here in Texas, the bill will likely mean significant changes to the mortgage industry and as a result how we interact with our lenders. Truth in Lending and RESPA are part of this new agency and a revision of the new RESPA rules and HUD forms is not out of the question. TLTA will diligently monitor and engage as necessary in the process as hundreds if not thousands of new federal regulations are developed for the banking industry. As always, we will keep you informed about what you need to know for your business regarding these historic changes.
Aaron Day

FEDERAL NEWS

U.S. Senate Approves Financial Overhaul Legislation

On July 15, the U.S. Senate approved the final version of the financial overhaul legislation known as The Restoring American Financial Stability Act,H.R. 4173, ona 60-39 vote. The bill is expected to be signed very soon by President Obama. Both Texas Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, voted against the bill. With over 2,300 pages, the legislation will have broad impact over the financial and mortgage markets. View full article.

New Bureau Will Have Significant Oversight

Part of H.R. 4173 calls for the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that among other things, will impose civil penalties for violating any of the 10 consumer financial laws, including RESPA. Three penalty levels will be assessed for each day a violation occurs: first, not to exceed $5,000; second, a reckless violation, not to exceed $25,000; and third, a knowing violation, not to exceed $1 million.

The new law also says that the CFPB or court should take into account the size of financial resources and good faith of the entity charged; the gravity of the violation or failure to pay; the severity of the risks to or losses of the consumer, which may take into account the number of products or services sold or provided; the history of previous violations; and such other matters as justice may require.

The CFPB will need to hire numerous new federal employees to serve as attorneys, compliance examiners, analysts, economists, statisticians and others. The media is also speculating who President Obama may choose to head the new bureau.

Housing Sales Tax in Healthcare Reform Just A Rumor

Recently TLTA has received some questions from members regarding a rumored 3.8% "housing sales tax" supposedly tucked into the new healthcare law.Washington Post columnist Benny Kass dissects these rumors by discussing Section 1402.

The healthcare law actually lays out a complicated system in which a 3.8% capital gains tax is assessed on joint-filers with more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income and who make a profit of more than $500,000 on their primary home or on the sale of a vacation home.View Kass' article.

Pace slows on PACE Liens

Liens and lien priority have surfaced as issues during debates over energy efficiency legislation. Officials with the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency have put state and local Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs on hold amid concerns about safety and soundness issues for lenders.

PACE programs are designed to finance residential and commercial energy efficiency retrofits by allowing localities to create special assessment districts to sell municipal bonds in order to lend money for energy efficiency purchases. Regulators are concerned that borrowers will repay the PACE loan through an additional tax assessment, and as with other property assessments, PACE loans obtain special priority above the prior placed mortgage lien.Read more about PACE.

NAIC Continues Work on Statistical Report

As we previously reported,the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has undertaken a project to create a model statistical plan to gather information about agents and title companies. This plan, as conceived by the NAIC, will be much like the Texas statistical report but it won't be as comprehensive and it won't be used for rate making. The purpose of the NAIC plan is to learn more about the relative costs of title insurance services across the nation. TLTA is actively monitoring this process as it's in the Texas title industry's best interest to work against misinformation about title insurance. If the plan is not properly constructed, there is a risk that it will produce data that can be taken out of context, misrepresented and could otherwise create fodder for critics of the title industry.

The American Land Title Association (ALTA) also sent a letter last month to the NAIC Title Statistical Plan Working Group expressing concern over the reporting deadlines, how underwriters' direct operations would report, the confidentiality of the information and how the plan should increase knowledge about the value that title agents provide rather than simply offering statistics without proper context.

According to ALTA, the latest draft plan needs a significant amount of improvement and ALTA members will be putting forth their best effort to help regulators improve the directions so agents in other states can do their best to comply with this new burden.

ALTA has strongly encouraged data collection from title agents be on a "go-forward" basis and that the reporting be simple and achievable. ALTA will continue to work with the NAIC to ensure the data call is not onerous to agents and includes clear and concise instructions.

It is not anticipated that the report by NAIC will threaten or change the Texas plan that is currently working, but TLTA will monitor this issue and work to preserve the plan that is in place.

U.S. House Votes to Extend National Flood Insurance Program for Five Years

The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved H.R. 5114,the Flood Insurance Reform and Priorities Act of 2010, on a 329-90 vote. The legislation extends the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years.

"The American Land Title Association urges Congress to find a long-term solution to this vital program," said Mark Winter, president of ALTA. "The frequent lapses in the NFIP program are undermining homeowner and commercial property owner confidence. Given the fragile state of the real estate market, Congress should take a proactive step and pass a viable long-term re-authorization that will bring much-needed stability to the market."

View additional information regarding H.R. 5114.

Claims Fund Established for BP Damage

BP has established a $20 billion escrow fund toward damages and claims arising from the Gulf oil spill. For more information on how to file a claim visit this site.

REGULATORY NEWS

Agent Insolvency Legislation Update

We recently asked members to help us gather information for the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) regarding two key cost components associated with H.B. 4338 compliance. If you participated in our survey, thank you for responding as this information helped us quantify the cost to the agents which was necessary for TDI to move forward with the impending hearing process. We anticipate an agent insolvency hearing will be called some time this fall by Commissioner Mike Geeslin.

Please note that while certain portions of H.B. 4338 are in effect, they are not required by TDI until the Commissioner adopts rules during the as of yet-to-be-determined hearing. One of these rules is the proof of a timely submission of payroll withholding taxes. We will continue to monitor this issue closely and provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions, please contact TLTA at 512.472.6593.

TEXAS LEGISLATIVE NEWS

Oversight Functions to Remain with Guaranty Association

TLTA staff and members worked hard to achieve a successful amendment to the Sunset process. We're extremely grateful for the efforts of Representative Byron Cook who raised concerns regarding the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) Sunset Staff Recommendation 3.1 and helped sever this issue from the final report.

On July 6, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission met to adopt their final recommendation for the TDI agency review. The 12-member Commission periodically reviews the policies and programs of more than 150 government agencies to determine if the agency should continue, be reorganized, disbanded or otherwise redirected. View full article.

Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee Holds Working Group Meeting

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has charged the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee (IGR), chaired by Senator Royce West, to study housing issues and matters related to city and county government. The inability for hurricane victims to establish clear title has proved to be a significant barrier to their obtaining post disaster federal aid. The Chairman reached out to TLTA to assist the committee in its interim discussions. TLTA volunteers Richard Black, Guy Robert Jackson and Roland Love have agreed to be a resource and will be participating in a working group meeting later this month. As we reported earlier,Guy Robert Jackson testified on this issue earlier this year at the February IGR hearing.

TLTA Submits Letters to House Committee on Insurance

As we previously reported, the House Committee on Insurance has been charged by Speaker Joe Straus to study the title industry's current rate structure and new minerals rules, forms and their effect on rates.Earlier this spring, Chairman John Smithee asked TLTA to gather additional information to assist the committee with their studies. TLTA has now submitted information explaining our history and the mechanics of our regulatory framework, along with the recent minerals resolution. Our submissions were the result of significant input by TLTA members and volunteers and we would like to thank you for your help. As always, we will continue to keep you up to date regarding the committee's interim studies. If you have any questions, please contact Aaron Day at aaron@tlta.com.

Senate Shuffle: Dewhurst Selects New Committee Chairs

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst announced new leadership for eight Senate committees last week, saying the moves should help prepare the Senate for what many expect to be a difficult legislative session. Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), will shift from Chairman of the Transportation Committee to Chair the Business and Commerce Committee. Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) will chair a committee for the first time, taking over the Nominations Committee. Lastly, Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington) will take over as Chairman of the Jurisprudence Committee after heading the Economic Development Committee last session.View new committee assignments.

JUDICIARY NEWS

Attorney General Issues Opinion on Private Transfer Fees

On June 10, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an Opinion Letter in response to a question about the constitutionality of the Texas Private Transfer Fee (PTF) law. Specifically the question focuses on whether the PTF is unconstitutional because it seeks to void PTFs in existence before the enactment of the law. The AG holds that the PTF does not violate the Texas Constitution because it does not invalidate PTFs placed prior to enactment.Read full opinion here.

TLTAPAC

Fundraising Record Set

Last year, President Mark Greek kicked off his presidency by challenging everyone to help raise an unprecedented amount for the TLTAPAC. Thanks to all of our generous donors, we did it! As of June 30, we raised a record-setting $103,402!

The money raised by the TLTAPAC allows us to back candidates and members in the legislature who support the title industry. Every dollar we raise and continue to raise aids our mission to educate elected officials and promote the importance of title insurance in Texas.

We want to thank our individual donors for their contributions. We'd also like to extend a special thanks to the following corporate sponsors whose generosity covers administrative costs and underwrites our fundraising efforts. Thank you!

Alamo Title Insurance
Aldrich Abstract Company
Alliant National Title Insurance Company
American Business Planning, LLC
Arnold Abstract Company
Barrett Daffin Frappier Turner & Engel, L.L.P.
Brazos County Abstract Company
Brown Abstract Company, Inc.
Central Texas Title
Chambers County Abstract Co., Inc.
Charter Title Company
Chicago Title Insurance Company
De Lange, Hudspeth, McConnell & Tibbets, L.L.P.
Edwards Abstract and Title Co.
eRecording Partners Network
Fidelity National Title Group
First American Title Company
Flowers Davis Law Firm
Heart of Texas Title Co., LLC
Hill County Title Co.
Independence Title Company
Integrity Title Records, Ltd. LLP
Kendall County Abstract Company
Lender Processing Services
Lone Star Title Company of El Paso
Looper, Reed & McGraw, Inc.
Mackie Wolf & Zientz, PC
McCormick & Hancock, P.C.
McCulloch County Abstract & Title, Inc.
National Investors Title Insurance Company
NexGen Compliance Solutions, LLC
North American Title Company
Property Info Corporation
Republic Title of Texas, Inc.
The Brown County Abstract Company, Inc.
Title Resources Guaranty Company
Tyler Title Company Dba East Texas Title Company
West Texas Abstract & Title Company
Winstead PC

TLTA PAC Breakfast Club a Success

Breakfast Speakers Evan Smith and Don Yaeger Receive Rave Reviews

The new TLTAPAC Breakfast Club at our Annual Conference and Business Meeting was a huge success and well received by attendees. Our Thursday breakfast included a presentation by Evan Smith, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune and former editor of Texas Monthly. Smith gave the audience an inside view of what to expect in the political arenas both at the state and national level, along with a brief introduction to the resources that his new venture,The Texas Tribune, provides for readers. Everyone enjoyed Smith's comprehensive debrief of the "news to know" as well as his entertaining style.

Friday's Closing breakfast was truly a "Breakfast of Champions" as Sports Illustrated columnist and author DonYaeger offered attendees his observations on what makes some people truly great. Over the years, Yaeger has taken advantage of his access to some of the greatest sports figures in history. Throughout his interviews and forged friendships, he noticed that each of these greats possessed certain characteristics that set them apart from others. Several attendees described his presentation as emotional, inspiring and something they're glad they didn't miss.

Couldn't join us this year's Annual Conference and Business Meeting? Don't worry, the TLTAPAC Breakfast Club will be back next year. Mark your calendar and make plans to join us June 16-18 in San Antonio!

Bert Massey Classic Golf Tournament Enjoyed By All

We would like to thank everyone who participated in the Annual Bert Massey Classic Golf Tournament for making it such a fun-filled event. Special thanks to our PAC Golf Chairs Charlie Valdes of Fidelity National Title Group and DJ Horn of Title Resources Guaranty Company for their work on the tournament. We also want to thank all of our sponsors for making the tournament possible

Annual Bert Massey Classic Golf Tournament Sponsors



First American Title Insurance Company
Title Resources Guaranty Company
American Business Planning
eRecording Partners
Green Folders
Institute Committee Group
Property Info
West Texas Abstract & Title Company, LLC
Alliant National Title Insurance Company
Fidelity National Title Group
National Investors Title
Insurance Company
North American Title
Insurance Company
Lender Processing Services
NexGen Compliance Solutions, LLC
Celia C. Flowers-Bates & Flowers Davis Law Firm
East Texas Title Companies & Celia C. Flowers-Bates
University Title Company

NEWS TO KNOW

Industry Stats

Release Date

Latest Release

Change from Previous Release

30 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates

07/08/10

4.57%

-0.01

15 Year Fixed Mortgage Rates

07/08/10

4.07%

+0.03

10 Year Treasury Rate

07/14/10

3.07%

-0.08

Existing Home Sales (in millions)

06/22/10

5.66

-2.2%

New Home Sales

06/23/10

300,000

-32.7%

Supply of Housing Inventory

06/23/10

8.3 months

3.3 months

Information Provided byALTA.

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