It’ll be harder to steal copper wire in Texas and sell it in the future and folks won’t be able to chain dogs outside without providing them plenty of food and water under new state laws that went into effect in January.

More than two dozen new state laws went into effect as Texans rang in the New Year with another half-dozen to go on the books on Jan. 18.

Those laws include a ban on transgender athletes competing on sports teams that reflect their gender identity and penalizes lodging establishments if they are found to have violated state laws regarding sex trafficking.

Other new laws:

• Requires landlords to disclose to potential renters if a property has ever flooded or is in a flood plain. Texas becomes only the second state in the nation with such a requirement, joining Georgia.

• Allow homeowners to take a homestead exemption in the same year they buy their home, instead of having to wait until the following year, potentially saving on property taxes.

• Require people accused in Texas of a violent crime to post a cash bond. Before, a judge could agree to release the accused on a personal bond that does not require a cash payment.

• Provide a slate of new benefits for Texas veterans and their families, including exempting new veteran-owned businesses from paying the franchise tax.

Laws that went into effect Jan. 1 include:

House Bill 25 — amends the Education Code to prohibit an interscholastic athletic team sponsored or authorized by a public school district or open‑enrollment charter school from allowing a student to compete in a district- or school‑sponsored interscholastic athletic competition designated for the biological sex opposite to the student’s biological sex.

Among other provisions, the bill sets out specifications regarding the documentation of a student’s biological sex and provides an exception to allow female students to compete in a competition that is designated for male students under certain circumstances.

House Bill 115 — Relating to the exemption from ad valorem taxation of certain property owned by a charitable organization and used in providing housing and related services to certain homeless individuals.

HB 390 — amends the Business and Commerce Code to set out signage and annual employee training requirements relating to human trafficking awareness and prevention for operators of commercial lodging establishments.

The bill requires the attorney general to establish the requirements for an operator to comply with the required training, create and make available a template for the required signage, and designate a telephone number for reporting a suspected act of human trafficking or a violation of the bill’s provisions.

The bill prohibits an operator from disciplining, retaliating against, or otherwise discriminating against an employee who in good faith reports a suspected act of human trafficking to any appropriate authority.

HB 390 – deals with sex trafficking and authorizes a peace officer to enter the premises of a commercial lodging establishment during certain hours to ensure compliance with the bill’s provisions.

If the attorney general has reason to believe that an establishment’s operator has violated the bill’s provisions, the attorney general must provide notice of the violation to the operator

 The bill makes the establishment liable for a civil penalty if the operator fails to cure the violation before the 30th day after receiving such notice. The bill authorizes the attorney general to bring an action to recover the civil penalty or for injunctive relief. 

HB 738 — amends the Local Government Code to update the International Residential Code and International Building Code that the state adopts as a municipal residential building code and as a municipal commercial building code, respectively, to the versions of the codes as they existed on May 1, 2012.

HB 738 – prohibits, with certain exceptions, a municipality, county, or emergency services district from enacting an ordinance, bylaw, order, building code or rule requiring the installation of a fire protection sprinkler system in a new or existing one- or two-family dwelling, but authorizes those entities to adopt such a type of regulation allowing a contractor to offer, for a fee, the installation of such a system in a new one- or two-family dwelling. 

HB 998 — amends the Tax Code to set out and revise provisions related to the state’s property tax system.

Among other provisions, the bill does require an appraisal review board (ARB) to adopt procedures for the hearings it conducts and requires an ARB to incorporate the comptroller of public accounts’s model hearing procedures when adopting its own procedures.

HB 1197 — Relating to the period for which certain land owned by a religious organization for the purpose of expanding a place of religious worship or constructing a new place of religious worship may be exempted from ad valorem taxation for up to 10 years.

HB 2237 — amends the Insurance Code and Property Code to revise and update provisions relating to mechanic’s, contractor’s, and materialman’s liens, including provisions regarding the deadlines to file affidavits to claim a lien, the limitation period for bringing suit to foreclose a lien, and deadlines for notices of certain claims. 

HB 2535 — amends the Tax Code to require a chief appraiser, in determining the market value of real property, to analyze the effect on that value of chicken coops or rabbit pens used for the noncommercial production of food for personal consumption and to exclude from that value the value of the coops or pens.

HB 2730 — Relating to the acquisition of real property by an entity with eminent domain authority and the regulation of easement or right-of-way agents. The bill requires an initial bona fide offer made by an entity with eminent domain authority to include specified items. 

HB 3777 — amends the Tax Code to establish that expenditures by a nonprofit corporation exempt from federal income tax and the state franchise tax to rehabilitate a structure that is leased to a tax-exempt entity in a disqualified lease are not costs and expenses eligible for a franchise tax credit for the certified rehabilitation of a certified historic structure.

HB 3788 — amends the Tax Code to authorize an appraisal review board member to complete applicable training and continuing education requirements remotely through distance education.

HB 3961 — amends the Health and Safety Code to require a licensed nursing facility, a licensed assisted living facility, or any other long‑term care facility providing care to residents who are assisted by the state long‑term care ombudsman to post on the facility’s website information about the office of the ombudsman, including the office’s statewide toll‑free telephone number and information regarding its role as an advocate for residents of long‑term care facilities.

HB 3971 — amends the Tax Code to require a chief appraiser who is determining the market value of residential real property located in an area that is zoned or otherwise designated as a historic district under municipal, state, or federal law to consider the effect on the property’s value of any restriction placed by the district on the property owner’s ability to alter, improve, or repair the property. 

Senate Bill 5 — repeals and replaces Health and Safety Code provisions prohibiting the unlawful restraint of a dog. Among other provisions, the bill prohibits an owner, with certain exceptions, from leaving a dog outside and unattended by use of a restraint without access to certain provisions. The bill establishes criminal penalties.

SB 611 — Relating to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the Armed Services of the United States who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty and to late applications for exemptions from such taxation for disabled members.

SB 792 – amends the Transportation Code to authorize certain veterans who are entitled to disabled veteran specialty license plates and eligible for specialty license plates issued for persons with disabilities to elect to receive disabled veteran license plates that include the international symbol of access.

Among other provisions, the bill restricts certain parking privileges granted to recipients of disabled veteran license plates, including the ability to receive disabled parking placards and park for an unlimited period in a parking space or area that is designated specifically for persons with physical disabilities, to those who receive disabled veteran license plates that include the international symbol of access.

SB 794 — amends the Tax Code to clarify that the individuals entitled to the property tax exemption for totally disabled veterans are the disabled veterans who have been awarded 100 percent disability compensation due to a service‑connected disability and a rating of 100 percent disabled or of individual unemployability, regardless of whether a veteran is actually receiving such compensation.

SB 855 — amends the Business and Commerce Code to require an owner or operator of a website or online service that deals in substantial part in the electronic dissemination of third‑party commercial recordings or audiovisual works and electronically disseminates those recordings or works to Texas consumers to disclose on the website or online service the owner or operator’s true and correct name and contact information.

The bill authorizes an owner, assignee, authorized agent, or exclusive licensee of a recording or work that is electronically disseminated in violation of the bill’s provisions to bring a private cause of action to obtain a declaratory judgment and permanent or temporary injunctive relief, but only after giving the violator notice and an opportunity to cure the violation.

The bill classifies a violation of the bill’s provisions as a false, misleading or deceptive act or practice.

SB 911 — amends the Alcoholic Beverage Code, Business and Commerce Code, and Local Government Code to regulate third-party food delivery services.

The bill, among other provisions, makes a restaurant that holds certain alcoholic beverage permits or licenses eligible for a food and beverage certificate.

The bill requires such a delivery service to provide a mechanism for consumer concerns and complaints and authorizes a restaurant to bring an action against a delivery service under certain conditions.

The bill prohibits a municipality or county from adopting or enforcing an ordinance or regulation to the extent that the ordinance or regulation affects the required terms of an agreement between a delivery service and a restaurant. 

SB 938 – amends the Business Organizations Code and Tax Code to establish a temporary filing fee waiver and franchise tax exemption for a new veteran‑owned business for an initial period of operation.

SB 1132 – amends the Occupations Code to authorize the consumer credit commissioner or the commissioner’s representative to examine each place of business of each dealer of crafted precious metal and investigate the dealer’s transactions and records to the extent the transactions and records pertain to the business of the sale of crafted precious metal.

A dealer must give the commissioner or the commissioner’s representative free access to the dealer’s office, place of business, files, safes and vaults and allow the commissioner or the representative to make a copy of an item that may be investigated.

The bill requires the commissioner or the representative to examine at least 10 dealers each calendar year. The provisions took effect Jan. 1 and do not apply to a jewelry store.

SB 1280 — amends The Securities Act, Government Code, to remove the following from the list of provisions a violation of which makes a person offering or selling a security liable to a person buying the security.

SB 1449 — amends the Tax Code to increase the taxable value threshold below which income‑producing tangible personal property held is entitled to a property tax exemption from $500 to $2,500.

SB 1524 — amends the Tax Code to establish a sales and use tax refund pilot program for certain persons who employ at least one apprentice in a qualified apprenticeship for at least seven months during the calendar year.

New laws that took effect Jan. 18 are:

HB 1 — Relating to the composition of districts for the election of members of the Texas House of Representatives.

HB 25 — Relating to requiring public school students to compete in interscholastic athletic competitions based on biological sex.

SB 4 — Relating to the composition of districts for the election of members of the Texas Senate.

SB 5 — Relating to the unlawful restraint of a dog; creating a criminal offense.

SB 6 — Relating to the composition of the districts for the election of members of the United States House of Representatives from the State of Texas.

 SB 52 — Relating to the issuance of revenue bonds to fund capital projects at public institutions of higher education, the oversight of certain capital projects at those institutions, and the designation of certain appropriated funds allocated to those institutions.

SB 1132 — amends the Occupations Code to authorize the consumer credit commissioner or the commissioner’s representative to examine each place of business of each dealer of crafted precious metal and investigate the dealer’s transactions and records to the extent the transactions and records pertain to the business of the sale of crafted precious metal.

A dealer must give the commissioner or the commissioner’s representative free access to the dealer’s office, place of business, files, safes and vaults and allow the commissioner or the representative to make a copy of an item that may be investigated.

The bill requires the commissioner or the representative to examine at least 10 dealers each calendar year.

Senate Bill 1132 – requires the commissioner, as soon as practicable after an enforcement order against a dealer for an applicable violation of law becomes final, to provide notice of the order to the chief of police of the municipality in which the violation occurred or to the sheriff of the county in which the violation occurred, if the violation did not occur in a municipality.

The bill also repeals provisions establishing the applicability of, and certain exceptions to, provisions governing the sale of crafted precious metal to dealers. Except as otherwise provided by the bill, the bill took effect Sept. 1.

A full listing of new laws can be found at the Legislative Reference Library’s website.

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