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by Jeff Rasansky - December 29, 2015
Jeff Rasansky
Jeff Rasansky, managing partner of Rasansky Law Firm, is an aggressive Dallas personal injury lawyer with 25 years of legal experience.

The 84th Texas Legislature has wrapped up and there a lot of new laws on the books; 1,204 to be exact.

While some of these new laws affect only a few Texans, others will have a big impact on many. We wanted to give our readers a peek at some of these new laws while explaining (in layman’s terms) what exactly they mean.

Here is a quick roundup of some of the bills recently passed by the 84th Texas Legislature. Most of these new Texas laws are set to go into effect on September 1st, 2015; others on January 1st, 2016; while a few have already taken effect.

Texas Bills Signed Into Law

The 84th Texas Legislature

Open Carry Handgun Law [HB 910]

House Bill 910, which will take effect on January 1st, 2016, will allow people with Concealed Handgun Licenses to openly carry a handgun in a belt or shoulder holster.

Campus Carry [SB 11]

Senate Bill No. 11, which will take effect on August 1, 2016, amends the Texas Government and Penal Codes to allow handgun license holders, in some circumstances, to carry a concealed handgun on public and private colleges and universities in Texas, as well as other independent institutions of higher learning (does not apply to public junior or community colleges until August 1, 2017).

Liability Insurance for Uber and Lyft Drivers [HB 1733]

Drivers for Uber and Lyft (or any transportation network company) must maintain liability insurance amounting to $50,000 for bodily injury or death of each person in a car accident, $100,000 for bodily injury or death per incident,  $25,000 for damage to property of others, uninsured motorist coverage, and personal injury protection, per House Bill 1733, effective January 1, 2016.

Leases With No Security Deposit [SB 1367]

State Bill 1367, which will take effect on January 1, 2016, states that if a tenant signs a lease with no security deposit and is liable for damages on surrender of the property, the landlord must notify the tenant on or before the date where the matter is referred to a consumer reporting agency or third party debt collector.

3 Strikes for Problem Nursing Homes [SB 304]

State Bill 304, which officially goes into effect a year later than most other bills this session (September 1st, 2016), serves to revoke the operating licenses of nursing homes which are accused of three or more “serious health and safety violations” which have caused (or are likely to cause) serious injury, harm, impairment, or death.

Body Cameras for Police Departments [SB 158]

According to State Bill 158, effective on September 1st, 2015, a county sheriff or municipal police department may apply to the office of the Governor for a grant for body cameras to be issued to various police officers. The body cameras must only be used for law enforcement purposes, and the departments which receive the cameras must create provisions and guidelines for the use and storage of the cameras and video.

Tougher Drug Laws [HB 1424]

Usually, the manufacture and delivery of most controlled substances is a Class A Misdemeanor in Texas, but if the person has a previous conviction for manufacture and delivery of controlled substances, that crime now becomes a state jail felony under House Bill 1424. Further, if the person has been convicted of two previous crimes for manufacturing and delivering controlled substances, then that crime now becomes a third degree felony. This law takes effect on September 1st, 2015.

Concealed Handgun License as Valid Form of Personal Identification [HB 2739]

Concealed handgun permits are now valid forms of identification in Texas. A person may not deny the holder of the license access to goods, services, or facilities. This does not apply to operation of a motor vehicle or airport security, per House Bill 2739, which takes effect on September 1st, 2015.

Three-Year High School Diploma Pilot Program [HB 2025]

Schools located within the headwaters of the San Gabriel river which have an enrollment of more than 5,000 but less than 7,000 are eligible for the three-year high school diploma pilot program, per House Bill 2025. This law goes into effect immediately.

Sexual Harassment Protection for Unpaid Interns [HB 1151]

Employers are now liable for sexual harassment of unpaid workers if they know (or should have known) the harassment was occurring and failed to take corrective action, per House Bill 1151, effective September 1st, 2015.

Information Required of an Applicant for a Driver’s License [HB 2216]

An application for a driver’s license may not, other than a general inquiry as to whether the applicant has a mental condition that may affect the ability to drive a car, inquire into the mental health of an applicant, per House Bill 2216, effective September 1st, 2015.

Power to Revoke Eligibility of Notary Public [HB 2235]

The Secretary of State now has the power to revoke the commission of a notary public if that person becomes ineligible to serve, per House Bill 2235, effective September 1, 2015. Notaries public now must be at least 18 years of age and must not have been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude.

Care to Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [HB 3404]

The State of Texas has enrolled in a national study on care for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, per House Bill 3404.

Improvement of Healthcare for Veterans [SB 1463]

The governor may negotiate with the Department of Veterans Affairs to coordinate efforts to improve the healthcare of Texas veterans, which may include the establishment of a veterans hospital in the Rio Grande Valley region of the state, per State Bill 1463, effective immediately.

Promotion of Intimate Visual Material (Revenge Porn) [SB 1135]

It is now illegal to broadcast or disclose private, intimate, visual material if that material was disclosed without the person’s consent, the material was not expected to be disclosed, the disclosure of the material caused harm, and the disclosure revealed the identity of the person in any matter. This is now actionable in criminal as well as civil court, per State Bill 1135, effective September 1st, 2015.

Appeals Regarding Dangerous Dogs [HB 1436]

If a determination must be made as to the dangerousness of a dog, the court cannot order the destruction of a dog if an appeal on the status of the dog is pending, per House Bill 1436, effective September 1st, 2015.

New Crime for Dissemination of Confidential Health Information [HB 2641]

According to House Bill 2641, it is now illegal for any healthcare official in Texas to release confidential healthcare information with the intent to violate the provisions of the law, which are intended to allow for the dissemination of information only for the purposes of reporting health-related information to proper agencies. This law comes into effect on September 1st, 2015, and it designates the crime as a Class A Misdemeanor.

Statute of Limitations for Injury Suits Arising from Sexual Offenses [HB 189]

Per House Bill 189, effective September 1st of 2015, those who wish to bring a personal injury lawsuit arising from crimes such as sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, trafficking of persons, or compelling prostitution are now given five years from the day the cause of action accrues before the statute of limitations takes effect. For sexual offenses involving children, those victims are now given 15 years to file a claim before the statute runs. Additionally, there will be no criminal statute of limitations for cases where the abuser is believed to have committed the same (or a similar) sexual offense against five or more victims.

Minimum Score For College-Level Examination Program Credits [SB 453]

Effective immediately, the minimum score for a high school student to receive credit through a college-level examination program has dropped from 60 to 50, per State Bill 453.

Confidentiality in Student Records [HB 4046]

Educational institutions may now redact information from a student’s record without requesting permission from the attorney general, per House Bill 4046, which becomes effective on September 1st, 2015.

Jury Appreciation Week [SB 565]

The first week of May has been designated Jury Appreciation Week per State Bill 565.

New Shark Fin Law [HB 1579]

House Bill 1579 will make it illegal for any person to posses a finfish with the tail removed unless the fish has been processed to a certified wholesale or retail dealer. That means that sharks cannot be fished simply for their fins; the entire carcass must be processed. Additionally, a person can no longer buy, offer to buy, sell, offer to sell, posses, transport, barter, or exchange a shark fin.

Search and Seizure of Cell Phones [HB 1396]

Police must now obtain a search warrant in order to search a persons’s cell phone or wireless communication device, per House Bill 1396, which will take effect on September 1st, 2015.

Interference with Peace Officer [HB 1061]

A person is presumed to have committed the crime of interference with a peace officer if it is shown that the person intentionally disseminated the home address, phone number, emergency contact number, or social security number of a peace officer or family member of an officer, per House Bill 1061, effective September 1st, 2015.

Sales of Alcohol Near Cutoff Time [HB 824]

If a person enters a store that sells alcoholic beverages in sealed containers for consumption elsewhere (i.e. a liquor store) during the hours where the sale of alcohol is legal, the store owner may allow the customer to shop and purchase alcohol for a reasonable amount of time, even if the actual purchase of the alcohol comes outside of the designated hours for alcohol sale, per House Bill 824. This law goes into effect immediately.

Notification of Change in Policies for Handling Pregnant Prisoners [HB 1140]

A county jail must notify the state of any changes in the jail’s policies and procedures related to the healthcare of pregnant prisoners and the confinement of pregnant prisoners to solitary confinement, per House Bill 1140, effective September 1st, 2015.

Reduced Price Breakfast Program at Public Schools [HB 1305]

Texas schools, effective immediately per House Bill 1305, must participate in the national reduced-price breakfast program or must develop a locally funded program in compliance with the federal program.

Disclosure of Communicable Disease Information to First Responders [HB 2646]

Information related to cases or suspected cases of diseases may be released to medical personnel and state agencies, including first responders, who may be treating the individual. This information includes anything that may link a person who is exposed to a person with a communicable disease. So if a first responder has treated a possible Ebola patient, that information may be released to state agencies, per House Bill 2646, effective September 1st, 2015.

Human Trafficking Prevention Month [HB 2290]

House Bill 2290 designates January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

New Private Turnpikes or Tolls [HB 565]

Before a new private turnpike or toll is approved by the state highway system, the commission must hold a public meeting concerning the project in the region where the project will be located, per House Bill 565, which goes into effect immediately.

New Crime for Voyeurism [HB 207]

If a person, with the intent to arouse sexual desire, observes another person in a dwelling or structure in which the other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, then that person has committed the crime of voyeurism, which is a Class C misdemeanor (and a felony if the victim is under 14) under House Bill 207, which goes into effect on September 1st, 2015.

Maximum Tax Rate [HB 157]

Effective September 1st, 2015, the rate of a sales tax adopted by a municipality may amount to any rate that is an increment of one-eighth of one percent, and would not result in a combined rate that exceeds the maximum rate of 8.25%, per House Bill 157.

Pay for County Judges [SB 1025]

County judges are entitled to an annual salary supplement from the state amounting to 18 percent of the annual compensation provided for district judges if at least 40% of functions that the judge performs are judicial functions, per State Bill 1025.

Official Nickname of Texas [HCR 78]

Per House Concurrent Resolution 78, the Texas legislature has designated “the Lone Star State” as the official nickname of Texas.

Official State Hashtag [HCR 105]

House Concurrent Resolution 105 has designated #Texas as the official hashtag of Texas. Yes, you read that correctly… Texas has an official hashtag.

Eligibility to Serve of the Board of a Property Owners’ Association [HB 1072]

Previously, all persons convicted of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude were disallowed from serving on the board of a property owners’ association. House Bill 1072 will now allow persons whose conviction occurred more than 20 years ago eligible to serve on a board, effective September 1st, 2015.

Cloud Computing Security for State Electronic Information [HB 3707]

State agencies must now ensure that information resource projects that utilize cloud computing services must meet or exceed required Texas standards for cybersecurity, per House Bill 3707, effective on September 1st, 2015.

Appointing Attorneys and Guardians Ad Litem [SB 1876]

Per State Bill 1876, which will become effective on September 1st, 2015, each court in Texas must maintain a list of eligible attorneys and guardians ad litem (neutral parties called upon by the state to represent the interests of children and minors). When it becomes necessary to appoint an attorney or guardian ad litem, a court must appoint the person whose name appears first on the applicable list.

Voluntary Contribution to Feed Hungry Texans [SB 1978]

All citizens who apply for a hunting license will have the opportunity, effective immediately, to contribute $1 or more to non-profit organizations committed to providing hunters ways to contribute legally harvested deer meat to local food assistance providers, per State Bill 1978.

Videos of Intoxication Arrests [HB 3791]

Per House Bill 3791 (which becomes effective on September 1st, 2015), all persons arrested for intoxication-related offenses are entitled to any video of the stop, the arrest, any interaction with the officer, and the procedure where blood was taken, if any video of those incidents exist.

Creation of Infectious Disease Task Force [HB 2950]

In light of the recent Ebola scare, House Bill 2950 has enacted, effective immediately, a task force on infectious disease preparedness and response. The task force will provide recommendations to state agencies on related to responses to infectious diseases, including Ebola.

Evaluation of Middle School Performance [HB 2804]

In evaluating the performance of public middle schools, House Bill 2804 designates the criteria as dropout out rates; the percentage of students in grades seven and eight who receive instruction in preparing for high school, college, and a career; and any additional indicators of student performance not captured in standardized tests.

Retired Judges Conducting Marriage Ceremonies [HB 2278]

Probate judges and county judges, along with retired probate judges and county judges, can perform marriage ceremonies per House Bill 2278, which comes into effect on September 1st, 2015.

Reporting Requirements for Officer-Involved Injuries or Deaths [HB 1036]

Officers are now required to report the race, age, gender, and whether the injured or deceased person was carrying a deadly weapon in reports on officer-involved injuries or deaths, per House Bill 1036, effective on September 1st, 2015.

Attorney General Oversees State Employee Leave [HB 2037]

House Bill 2037 delegates authority to the Texas Attorney General to make sure all peace officers are compensated at the correct rate, according to the General Appropriations Act. The law also extends the definition of peace officers to include law enforcement officers commissioned by the attorney general.


This is only a sampling of the 1,200+ bills passed during Texas’ 84th legislative session. If you feel we left out an important new law, let us know by leaving a comment below!

  1. August 26, 2015

    What info do you have about state jails starting 9-1-2015? non-violent release etc.

  2. August 28, 2015

    What info do you have about state jails starting 9-1-2015 release? Heard instead of serving 50% maybe changing to 35%…….

  3. August 28, 2015

    After looking through https://txlege.texastribune.org/84/bills/new-laws/, the only thing I could find relating to state jail facilities was HB 1546 (read bill text here: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/84R/billtext/html/HB01546F.htm).

    Unfortunately as we do not practice criminal defense at this firm, I would be unable to offer any insight, and would recommend speaking with a criminal defense lawyer for further information.

    Thank you.

  4. August 28, 2015

    When are retired teachers going to get a raise? I have been retired 10+ years and have NOT gotten a raise since I retired.

  5. August 30, 2015

    What about marijuana or cannibis oil legalization?

  6. August 31, 2015

    Could you clarify the waiving of state licenses for military veterans.What state license are they referring to ?

  7. August 31, 2015

    Did they still leave the worthless laws concerning synthetic marijuana as they were?

  8. September 1, 2015

    what the ststus with open carry

  9. September 1, 2015

    What does the law mean when it says that Texas will not charge veterans for Texas licenses?

    Is that driver’s, professional, auto, etc.

    Thanks, Robert Rice

  10. September 1, 2015

    Is marajuana only medical use. What is the information I read about recreational use. Was that an hoax . Is it just medical . Just a question

    • September 1, 2015

      Hi Nova,
      There were many bills proposed this year to allow for the recreational use of marijuana (as well as decriminalization), but those bills failed to pass.

      HB 2165 was close, in that it did clear the Texas House committee, but failed to reach the House floor before the end of the legislative session.

  11. September 1, 2015

    New laws on the release of nonviolent offenders. How much time before seeing parole.

  12. September 2, 2015

    I was just curious about the 35% with the aggravated assault? Did it change as of yesterday?

    • September 4, 2015

      Hi Collette,
      Unfortunately I was unable to find anything on that topic from this year’s legislative session.

  13. September 4, 2015

    I keep seeing posts on Facebook stating a new law was passed making it illegal to smoke in a vehicle with a minor child in said vehicle. I have been unable to find this for the State of Texas. Is this a new law?

  14. September 7, 2015

    What about felony get lic to carrie gun and only if they didn’t get it for drug or a killing felony that only have like credit card abuse

  15. September 7, 2015

    Hi there, I’ve heard rumors of laws that will reform the parole system in Texas. Perhaps computerizing the process, eliminating the parole board? And assigning automatic parole dates? For example, 1st offense, automatic parole after 70% or sentence is served.

    Any truth to these rumors?

    Thanks.

    M.

  16. September 11, 2015

    I heard truancy is no longer illegal. My daughter who is 18 and graduated in the spring still has fines from previous truancy cases and cannot get her drivers license. Is there anyway of getting out of these fines?

    • September 11, 2015

      You are correct, J. See: https://txlege.texastribune.org/84/bills/HB2398/

      While the new law even goes so far as to remove previous truancy convictions, it unfortunately doesn’t mention what happens to pending fines. According to Texas Judicial Council executive director David Slayton, though, the fate of pending fines will be up to each individual court.

      While we don’t practice criminal law at our firm, I would recommend reaching out to the court and asking for clarification, or discussing your situation with a local criminal defense lawyer.

  17. September 12, 2015

    Hello, I son was pulled over for going the speed limit 65 ….. he passed a couple of orange barrels… but no other speed sign ……….. or work zone warnings … the very next speed limit was 75….??? Where can I find speed law involving work zone and no work zone sign ???/ Pleas help.

    • September 16, 2015

      Hi Mark,
      Your best option here would be to speak with a criminal defense lawyer who handles traffic citations. Our firm unfortunately only deals in personal injury cases, so I cannot really offer you any specific advice.

      If you’re in Texas, feel free to reach out to LRIS (https://www.texasbar.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Lawyer_Referral_Service_LRIS_). They can refer you to an attorney in your area who can advise you further.

  18. September 15, 2015

    Can felons get food stamps in Texas

  19. December 21, 2015

    I just have a question..my husband went to court on September 18th of this year and signed for 12 years the district attorney used his priors from 1989 to enhance his current charge..the charges from 1989 were dismissed..it’s there any way to get the sentence lowered due to the priors being used…I heard that they passed a new law as of September 1 they couldn’t use your priors against you.

    • December 22, 2015

      Hi Amanda,
      I invite you to browse all of the new laws here: https://txlege.texastribune.org/84/bills/new-laws/.

      I performed a cursory scan, but wasn’t able to find anything clearly referring to criminal sentencing in regard to prior charges. Unfortunately as we don’t practice criminal defense at this firm, I would be unable to offer any insight, and would recommend speaking with a criminal defense lawyer for further information.

      Thank you!

  20. January 1, 2016

    NOW it’s illegal for a cop to go through your cell phone? Uh correct me if i am wrong but hasn’t that always been a clear violation of a person’s civil rights?

  21. January 1, 2016

    Oh yeah…..Thank you for having this open forum where we can ask a question and have a real lawyer answer the question instead of taking a stab at a “internet lawyer” (aka one who thinks they are a lawyer in the superhighway dark alleys )

  22. January 1, 2016

    Felony DWI expunge is it true

  23. January 6, 2016

    Is there or will there be a law to make it easier for felons to rent/lease apartments? my background is holding me back.

  24. January 8, 2016

    Anything new on dropping out?

  25. January 17, 2016

    Have they passed the law for smoking in a vehicle with minors?

  26. March 30, 2016

    Hey! Do you know which specific law is the most recent or were they all passed at the same time? Also, is the date of the most recent laws January 1,2016?

    • March 31, 2016

      Hi Orchid,
      All of these laws were passed during the 84th Texas Legislature which convened on 01/13/2015 and ended 06/01/2015.

      Most of the laws passed during this legislative session were set to begin immediately or on 9/1/2015, but many became effective on January 1st, 2016, August 1st, 2016, or September 1st, 2016. One law (SB 11) even has a portion that doesn’t become effective until August of 2017!

      BTW, the next (85th) Texas Legislature is set to convene on 01/10/2017.

  27. April 8, 2016

    Did the law pass about smoking in a car with a minor since September, 2015?

  28. May 29, 2016

    My husband was charged with possession of a controlled substance (meth) less than 1 gram on November 30 2015. He was sentenced to 1 year for state jail felony. Did the texas law change this to a misdemeanor effective January 1st 2016? Thank you

  29. June 29, 2016

    Was there a bill or law that was recently passed about the approval of conjugal visits or private family visits at every state jail and federal prisons?

  30. August 12, 2016

    Smoking ban in al bars in small count>es in central Texas . Rumor has it that it will be against the law to smoke inside a bar anywhere in texas. If so shouldn’t the business have to have a designated heated / ac bu ok lying so that the smokers won’t get sick or even die due to having to smoke outside in the heat , rain , cold weather !!

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