New Laws Now in Effect

June 25, 2021

Legislative News

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All legislation includes a clause stipulating when the law will take effect. Sept. 1 is the most common effective date, but many bills have a triggering clause allowing the law to become effective immediately if approved by a supermajority of both chambers. With the gubernatorial veto period now passed, the following selected laws affecting county operations are now in effect. Please note that this list is not comprehensive.

HB 1514

Requires the clerk of the court that orders an executor or administrator to pay funds to the comptroller to provide notification by certified mail or email instead of by personal service of citation.

SB 186

Authorizes a commissioners court to issue bonds to restore or maintain a county courthouse.

HB 1082

Amends current law to allow a county official to elect for the county to withhold certain personal information from public disclosure, such as their home address.

HB 1118

Builds on last sessions requirement that any county elected official, appointed official or employee who uses a computer to perform at least 25 percent of official duties to complete a cybersecurity awareness course designed by the Department of Information Resources. Institutes a new requirement that counties must stay in full compliance or lose criminal justice grants for two years; to help counties gain compliance, commissioners courts are granted authority to deny access to the system or database to a person who is not in compliance.

SB 1357

Amends the Local Government Code to provide increased efficiency in the county budgeting process. The 86th Legislatures passage of SB 2 made significant changes to the administration of property tax law in Texas. Resulting ambiguities and questions regarding process and timeline requirements prompted the filing of SB 1357. The bill provides a clear process by which a county with a population of up to 225,000 may prepare and file a proposed budget for review by the public and county officials prior to consideration by the commissioners court.

HB 1831

Allows county and district clerks to carry over from the current calendar year to the following year not more than 10 hours of completed continuing education courses that exceed the 20 hours of continuing education required each year.

HB 54

Prohibits a law enforcement agency, except those that employ game wardens, from contracting with a reality television program and from authorizing film crews to accompany an officer in line-of-duty activities for the purpose of producing a reality television program. Reality television is narrowly defined as a program primarily for entertainment purposes, excluding reporting on matters of public concern by journalists.

SB 876

Changes the process by which an automobile dealer or seller of a motor vehicle can title and register the vehicle. Allows the dealer or seller to process the paperwork in any county, as long as the tax assessor-collector is willing to accept the transaction. Additionally, the processing county retains a portion of the title application fee and the process and handling fee. The taxes, fees and other revenue collected at the time of titling and registration are remitted to the purchasers county of residence.

HB 2429

Responds to the Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act, passed by the 86th Legislature, which created the de minimis tax rate, which allows a taxing entity to adopt a rate that generates an additional $500,000 above the voter-approval rate. Additionally, the act mandated that associated public notices by a taxing unit on the proposed tax rate reflect the actual rate the taxing unit chose to adopt.

HB 2429 clarifies the notice required for a taxing unit calculating the rate that exceeds the voter-approval rate but not the de minimis rate. Provides the verbiage the taxing unit should use for its public notice.

SB 742

Allows a county, following an emergency or disaster proclaimed by the governor, to authorize a person or business to pay property taxes in installments, provided the property was damaged because of the emergency or disaster. Responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which a number of businesses sustained no physical damage but were subjected to significant economic damage. To qualify, a business must meet specified criteria.

HB 362

Authorizes the commissioners court of a county to require any response to a competitive bidding proposal be made via electronic means.

SB 160

Removes the requirement that a county must submit a road report when applying for a grant from the Transportation Infrastructure Fund. Also eliminates the requirement for a road condition report made by a county that is operating under a system of administering county roads under Chapter 252 or a special law.

SB 22

In 2005, Texas created the presumption statute for first responders. The presumption was created to provide certain workerscompensation benefits to first responders whose job duties placed them at a higher risk of exposure to certain illnesses. The current presumption statute allows benefits for certain cancers, heart attacks and strokes based on a scientific correlation that the work performed by first responders places them at a higher risk of getting such illnesses.

SB 22 adds COVID-19 to the presumption statute for detention officers, firefighters, peace officers, custodial officers and emergency medical technicians. The following requirements must be met for the presumption to apply:

  • Employed in an area declared a disaster.
  • Contracted COVID-19 during the declared disaster.
  • Employed full time.
  • Diagnosed with COVID-19 using a test authorized or recognized by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Was last on duty not more than 15 days before being diagnosed with COVID-19.

If the individual is deceased, the presumption applies if the individual was on duty not more than 15 days prior to death and meets one of the following criteria:

  • The individual was diagnosed with COVID-19 using an approved test.
  • A physician determined that the individual was exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
  • The person was hospitalized for COVID-19.
  • The individual died of COVID-19.

SB 22 introduces a different standard for an employer to dispute a presumption case and specifies which information is allowed to be considered during a rebuttal. The bill allows individuals previously denied a COVID-19 workerscompensation claim to refile their claim under the new presumption standards and have their claim reevaluated. If a claim filed prior to SB 22 is still pending, the law in effect at that time is the law that governs that claim.

The presumption provisions included in SB 22 will dissolve on Sept. 1, 2023.

For more information about this article, contact Pete Winckler.