After hundreds of new laws went into effect on Sept. 1, 2017, the new year brings with it more than two dozen new laws passed by the state legislature last year.
Another 26 bills went into effect from the 85th legislative session Jan. 1, covering topics from fraud prevention to fighting tax appraisals. See a rundown on some of the new laws below or a complete list from the state here.
In an attempt to prevent theft, retailers can now reject certain sales where shoppers either can't or won't show photo identification when using credit or debit cards, or where the photo ID doesn't match the name on the credit card.
"Senate Bill 1381 amends the Business & Commerce Code to authorize a merchant to require an individual using a credit card or debit card in a point of sale transaction to provide photo identification verifying the individual's identity as the cardholder and to choose not to accept the card for payment if the individual fails to provide such identification. The bill expressly does not apply to transactions conducted with a mobile wallet. The bill expires September 1, 2023."
Voter ID Changes
After courts ruled in 2011 that the state's voter ID law discriminated against minorities who were unable to obtain photo identification, legislators reworked the law to provide mobile units where EIDs, or election identification certificates, would be distributed. The change also includes stronger penalties for those who unlawfully accept or refuse to accept a voter as well as for those who falsify why they can't get a photo ID.
"Senate Bill 5 amends the Election Code and Transportation Code to require the secretary of state to establish a program using mobile units to provide election identification certificates to voters who are otherwise unable to present acceptable documentation of proof of identification when offering to vote and who declare a reasonable impediment to providing such documentation. The bill expands the types of documentation acceptable as proof of identification for voting purposes, increases the penalty for an offense of unlawfully accepting or refusing to accept a voter, and creates the state jail felony offense of false statement on declaration of reasonable impediment."
Odometer Form - Vehicle Title Change
Previously, when you sold a vehicle you had to fill out a paper form with the odometer reading. The process slowed the transfer of title on vehicle sales. Now, the state will accept an electronic form, speeding up the title transfer process.
"Senate Bill 1062 amends the Transportation Code to require the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to provide for use consistent with federal regulations relating to odometer disclosure statements a secure power of attorney form and a secure reassignment form for licensed motor vehicle dealers and to establish a process to accept electronic signatures on secure documents. The bill revises provisions relating to the odometer disclosure statement required for the transfer of a motor vehicle in Texas."
Property Tax Protests
Before today, when the county tax appraiser issued their final verdict on property values following a protest -- that was it. Now, thanks to SB 1767, the property owner can fight to correct the appraisal before, after or between the appraiser's cases, should the appraisal increase during the protest process.
"Senate Bill 1767 amends the Tax Code to entitle a property owner in a hearing on a motion to correct the appraisal roll to elect to present the property owner's evidence and argument before, after, or between the cases presented by the chief appraiser and each taxing unit. The bill also entitles a property owner who is a party to a protest to elect to present the owner's case at a hearing on the protest either before or after the appraisal district presents the district's case."
Heavier Milk Trucks on Texas Roads
A new law increases the allowable weight of trucks carrying liquid milk from 80,000 pounds to 90,000 pounds provided the transporter pay a $1,200 permit and notify the Texas Department of Transportation which counties they'll be operating in. "Permitted vehicles could drive on a federal interstate highway or a state, county, or municipal road, including a frontage road adjacent to a federal interstate highway, if the operation on those highways and roads was approved by the Department of Transportation. These vehicle combinations could not operate on a county road or bridge for which a maximum weight and load limit had been established under certain authority given to counties."
"Senate Bill 1383 amends the Transportation Code to authorize the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a permit for the movement of fluid milk by a truck-tractor and semitrailer combination with a maximum gross weight of 90,000 pounds. The bill sets out permit conditions and requirements and restricts operation under the permit to counties designated in the permit application."
Straight-Ticket Voting Ban Coming Sept. 1, 2020
In three years the option of voting a straight-ticket will no longer be on Texas ballots. In a straight-ticket vote, a voter simply selects a political party thereby voting for every candidate in that party who is on the ballot. By removing this option, supporters hope to create a more informed voting public.
Nearly 670 laws passed in last summer's legislative session and signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott went into effect last year and covered a wide range of topics including a statewide ban on texting while driving, banning the open-carry of swords and guidelines on where you cannot fly a drone. Read more on those laws here.