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. While this article is a few years old, click here to see the laws most-recently passed in Texas’ 85th Legislature in 2017.
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!