Gov. Greg Abbott
With the legislature adjourned and the Sunday veto deadline past us, 477 new laws have already taken effect in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott has signed so many bills into law, you might have lost track of what is exactly changing. Here are some of the most notable changes coming to Texas law now and later this year.
HB 3 - School Finance Reform
Texas' education system has struggled with its finances as of late. This bill will alleviate that in several ways:
SB 1978 - "Save Chick-Fil-A" Bill
- boost per-student funding by approximately 20 percent,
- reduce property taxes across the state by an average of eight cents per $100 valuation in 2020 and 13 cents in 2021, and
- include money for districts that want to start merit pay programs, allowing bonuses of $3,000 to $12,000 to higher-rated teachers.
After the drama between San Antonio City Council and Chick-fil-A regarding the restaurant chain's views on the LGBTQIA+ community, this bill provides a definitive answer on what comes next. The law will prohibit the government from taking "adverse action" against any individuals or businesses based on membership, support or donations to religious groups. Effective September 1.
HB 1631 - Red Light Camera
Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons
This bill will eventually phase out red light cameras in Texas. It requires cities and counties that are able to get out of contracts with red light camera vendors to do so. Locally, Leon Valley and Balcones Heights are keeping their cameras until contracts run out in approximately 15-20 years. Effective immediately.
HB 234 - Lemonade Stand Legalization
Great news kids! Your unlicensed lemonade stand will now be legal in Texas. This bill will prohibit cities and neighborhood associations from creating rules that block or regulate children attempting to sell non-alcoholic drinks on private property. This law targets local health codes and neighborhood rules that intentionally or unintentionally ban stands or require permits for them to operate. Effective September 1.
SB 21 - Smoking Age Increase
This bill will prohibit the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products to Texans under the age of 21. The exception to the rule is those who are in the military. Seven other states have already passed a similar policy and so have hundreds of cities, including San Antonio. Effective September 1.
HB 1325 - Hemp Legalization
Texas farmers can now explore a new market in the state: industrial hemp. This bill legalizes the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in the state. It allows farmers to grow hemp under a state-regulated program and legalizes hemp-derived products like CBD oil. Effective immediately.
SB 11 -School Safety Bill
Capping off a year full of prevention efforts toward school shootings like the Santa Fe tragedy outside of Houston, this comprehensive bill instructs school districts in Texas to do several things:
- implement multihazard emergency operation plans,
- require certain training for school resource officers,
- ensure school district employees – including substitute teachers – are trained to respond to emergencies, and
- establish threat assessment teams to help identify potentially dangerous students and determine the best ways to intervene before becoming violent.
This bill is effective immediately.
HB 18 - Mental Health Bill
This bill will increase mental health training for school staff and teach mental health coursework to students, in hopes that students themselves can help identify mental health issues. Effective December 1.
HB 1387 - School Marshal Bill
This bill will remove the cap on the number of school marshals on each campus. Effective September 1.
SB 1232 - Beer/Wine Delivery
This bill will allow retailers to deliver alcohol along with food. As of now, it will allow only businesses and restaurants with active beer and wine permits to do so. The law will also require both delivery people and customers to be over the age of 21 to take part in the delivery process. While sharing the news on the passage, Gov. Abbott cheekily reminded Texans to "enjoy responsibly." Effective September 1.
HB 1545 - Breweries to Sell Beer
This bill will allow Texas breweries to sell packaged beer and test out certain brews before sending them out to wholesalers. Effective September 1.
HB 8 - Lavinia Masters Act
This bill, named after the woman who championed the rape kits issue, is aimed at eliminating the backlog of kits the state currently has. The bill mandates law enforcement agencies to conduct an audit to determine all of the untested rape kits in the state and that they set timelines for their analysis. It also requires that evidence be kept for at least 40 years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. A reported $50 million will go toward the efforts, and people will be hired and trained to test them. Effective September 1.
SB 18 - Free Speech on Campus
This bill will guarantee free speech on college campuses across Texas. It will force schools to only use content-neutral standards when deciding to approve a speaker requested by a student organization. It will also make it unlawful to deny a student organization registered status due to political, religious and ideological viewpoints. Many schools will have to make changes to their free speech policies, as only one public college or university in Texas has a "green light" distinction by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education, which measures how each school's policy lines up with the First Amendment. Colleges and universities now have until August 1, 2020, to institute those changes. Effective September 1.
SB 37 - Keeping Occupational Licenses despite Default
This bill bans Texas agencies from denying, suspending or revoking a borrower's occupational license simply because they have defaulted on their student loans. Effective immediately.
SB 38 - Hazing
This bill will further define what constitutes hazing and will also outline what schools must do when students participate in it. New definitions and additions will apply to any hazing incidents that occurred three years prior to the passage of the law. Effective September 1.
SB 71 - Statewide Telehealth Center
This bill will create a "statewide telehealth center" designed to connect medical providers performing sexual assault exams with nurses trained in those exams. Effective September 1.
SB 719 - Child Murder Changes
This bill will toughen penalties in certain murder cases involving children. Current law allows capital murder charges to be pursued at a prosecutor's discretion for the murder of children younger than 10. The new law ratchets up that age to younger than 15, giving prosecutors the option to seek life in prison without the possibility of parole in the death of a child 10 years old or older but younger than 15. Effective September 1.
SB 753 - Equal Pay for Disabled
This bill will require all contractors to pay workers with disabilities at least $7.25 an hour, which is the current federal minimum wage. Texas employers could previously pay disabled workers pennies on the dollar when compared to their non-disabled counterparts via the state's Purchasing from People with Disabilities program. Effective September 1.
SB 1259 - Sexual Assault Update
This bill will make it a crime for a fertility doctor to inseminate a patient without her consent. The bill says doctors who perform procedures using reproductive material from a donor the patient did not consent to can be charged with sexual assault. Effective September 1.
HB 446 - Legalization of Self-Defense Weapons
This bill will legalize carrying self-defense items such as brass knuckles and clubs. Previously, self-defense items were considered a class A misdemeanor, with the risk of being punished with up to a year in jail and $4,000 in fines. Effective September 1.
HB 1090 - Emergency Dispatchers as First Responders
Telecommunication specialists (emergency dispatchers) will officially be classified as "first responders." Texas is one of few states that has made this change, but there is a push to make this change on the federal level as well. Effective September 1.
HB 1300 - Oyster Growing/Farming
This bill will require the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to adopt rules that would establish a program to govern the process of growing oysters and farming them. Effective September 1.
HB 1518 - Ban on Sales of Dextromethorphan to Minors
This bill will prevent minors from buying products that contain dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant found in more than 100 over-the-counter cough medicines. Texas will join 18 other states that have passed similar laws restricting access to it. Stores caught violating the new law will receive a warning first, then a $250 fine for the second and every consequent violation. Effective September 1.
HB 1590 - Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force
This bill creates the Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force in the Governor's Office. The task force will advise the state attorney general's office on rules regarding evidence in sexual assault cases and advise the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement on improving training for officers handling those cases. Effective immediately.
HB 3703 - Medical Cannabis for Individuals with Chronic Diseases/Illness
This bill will allow doctors to legally allow patients with medical seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, terminal cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's, autism and ALS to obtain medical cannabis with up to .5% THC from a state-licensed dispensary. Effective September 1.
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