On Sept. 1, 2023, over 770 newly enacted laws from this year's Texas Legislature will come into affect.
Sept. 1 is the customary commencement date for laws passed during a regular legislative session, although certain laws may have their effective dates postponed for full implementation. Bills that have garnered two-thirds majority support can take immediate effect.
Here are the 10 biggest:
$321.3 billion budget:
House Bill 1 outlines the allocation of state and federal tax funds for two years, encompassing $144 billion from state general revenue taxes. This bill utilizes over half of the record-breaking $32.7 billion surplus accessible to legislators during this period, while leaving more than $12 billion untouched in the state treasury. Additionally, it replenishes the state's emergency and highway funds while making contributions to bolster the state's retirement investment fund. The bill also incorporates salary increases for state agency employees and retired teachers. Several measures were approved, including $12 billion in property tax cuts and a $1.5 billion initiative aimed at expanding broadband internet access.
House Bill 3 requires the establishment of a safety and security department within the Texas Education Agency (TEA), empowering it to mandate the implementation of comprehensive active shooter protocols in school districts. Districts failing to meet these standards could potentially be placed under state oversight. The bill mandates that the TEA formulate guidelines for notifying parents about "violent activity" occurring on school campuses. It also calls for the creation of school safety review teams responsible for conducting annual vulnerability assessments on all school campuses.
HB3 also mandates the presence of an armed personnel member at each Texas school campus, coupled with mandatory mental health training for school staff. The individual can be a peace officer, a school resource officer, a school marshal or a district employee. In cases where school districts are unable to fulfill this requirement, they have the option to seek a "good cause exception," but are obliged to devise an alternative plan to address the mandate. Each school district will receive $15,000 per campus in addition to $10 for each student.
Diversity, equity and inclusion:
Senate Bill 17 prevents public colleges and universities in Texas from having diversity, equity and inclusion offices or policies. The bill also prohibits hiring or employment practices that take into account race, sex, color or ethnicity. Schools can no longer ask for diversity statements or essays in which job applicants share their commitment to building a diverse campus.
Trans care for youth:
Senate Bill 14 bans the use of puberty blockers, hormone therapy leading to either temporary or permanent infertility, sterilization surgeries, mastectomies and the removal of any healthy or non-diseased body part or tissue intended for the purpose of altering a child's biological sex. Additionally, the bill prohibits the utilization of public funds or public assistance to cover these treatments and extends this prohibition to Medicaid and child health plan reimbursements for such procedures. The legislation instructs the Texas Medical Board to revoke the licenses of medical professionals offering these services.
The bill allows for the use of puberty suppressants and medically necessary procedures to treat premature puberty. It also permits treatments for children with medically confirmed genetic disorders of sex development.
Sexually explicit performances:
Senate Bill 12 initially proposed to categorize all drag shows as sexual performances, but it underwent significant changes during the standard legislative session. The version ultimately endorsed by the legislature makes it a criminal offense for performers to stage sexually explicit shows in the presence of children, and it also penalizes businesses that host such performances.
Trans athletes in sports:
Senate Bill 15 known as the “save women’s sports act” builds upon a previous ban enacted during the 2021 legislative session, which requires transgender college athletes at public universities to participate in sports based on their biological sex. The bill grants individuals the ability to file civil actions against teams or institutions they believe are in violation of these regulations.
Senate Bill 505 mandates a two-year registration fee of $400 for new electric vehicles and a $200 fee for renewals. These fees are intended to compensate for the state's revenue loss resulting from gasoline taxes. Owners of hybrids and gas-fueled vehicles will not pay these fees because they instead pay a 20-cent per gallon gas tax. The new tax also does not apply to electric motorcycles, mopeds and autocycles. The implementation of the new tax is expected to channel a minimum of $38 million in additional funds toward the state highway fund.
Senate Bill 379 eliminates the sales tax on essential items such as feminine hygiene products (e.g., tampons, menstrual cups), baby necessities (such as diapers, baby wipes), maternity clothing and breast-milk pumping products. The tax exemption applies to items purchased online.
House Bill 6 aligns with the legislature's stringent stance on drug-related matters and Governor Abbott's legislative emphasis on heightening criminal sanctions. By redefining fentanyl overdoses as "fentanyl poisonings," this bill provides prosecutors with the means to potentially file murder charges against individuals involved in the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.
Itemized hospital bills:
Senate Bill 490 mandates that healthcare providers in Texas must furnish patients with a detailed invoice that includes a clear, easily understandable description of all services rendered, prior to any debt collection efforts.
A full list of the new laws can be found here.