With 2020 nearly halfway over, it’s important, as a resident of Texas, to ensure you understand any new state law changes. With laws changing as frequently as they do, it can be hard to keep track. A number of new laws and amendments were put in place earlier this year. Whether you know it or not, the new laws could have an effect on your life.
At Buckingham & Vega Law Firm, we’re dedicated to ensuring the residents of Texas are aware of their legal rights, options, and obligations. Let’s take a look at what new Texas law changes we’ve seen in 2020 and how the rest of the year will play out.
Creating a Flood Infrastructure Fund and Post-Disaster Relief
Senate Bill 7 created a flood infrastructure fund. Used by the Texas Water Development Board, the funding should help local governments with matching federal funds used for flood research and planning and mitigating project following disastrous events. The consequences of Hurricane Harvey drove this bill into creation.
In addition to SB 7, House Bill 492 was introduced to allow a temporary property tax exemption for a portion of an appraised value of property damaged in a disaster area. This created a mandatory percentage disaster exemption for property damaged by natural disasters. There are four different levels. Level I involves properties with at least 15 percent but less than 30 percent damage. Level II is for properties between 30 and 60 percent. Level III includes those properties with more than 60 percent damaged but not a total loss. Level IV includes properties that are a total loss.
Developing Anti-Retaliation Policies for Doctors
Under House Bill 1532, nonprofit health organizations are required to develop anti-retaliation policies for physicians. This means doctors cannot be terminated, demoted, retaliated against, disciplined, discriminated against, or penalized for filing a complaint, cooperating with the Texas Medical Board, or communicating their best independent medical judgment to a patient.
Additionally, those nonprofit facilities must submit biennial reports to the Texas Medical Board for recertification. If the Board receives a complaint, they are required to notify the organization. They must disclose the nature of the complaint and provide a way for the organization to respond.
Bingo Enabling Act
According to House Bill 914, the prize fees have changed for bingo. While a licensed authorized organization is no longer required to collect a fee from a person who wins a non-cash prize valued at more than $5, cash winners awarded $5 or more must pay a five percent fee. The organization that collects the fees is required to give 50% of the amount to the Texas Lottery Commission.
Harassment at Higher Education Institutions
Senate Bill 212 is an amendment to the Texas Education Code that requires employees of public or private colleges and universities who witness or receive information regarding sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking to report it. The crime must have allegedly been committed by or against a student or employee of the university.
Reports are to be made to the Title IX coordinator or their deputy. The coordinator must then report the incident to the university’s chief executive officers, who have to inform the governing body and make a post on the school’s website.
Failing to make a report creates a Class B misdemeanor. The same is true if a person knowingly makes a false report. If it’s discovered the report was concealed to protect the assaulter, it’s elevated to a Class A misdemeanor.
Protecting Consumers from Surprise Medical Bills
Surprise medical bills are not uncommon. Unfortunately, they often arise when patients get care from a doctor, lab, or other provider outside of their plan’s network. Senate Bill 1264 protects consumers who have state-regulated health plans from surprise medical bills in emergency situations and when a doctor was not chosen by a patient. These new protections only apply to bills for medical services received on or after January 1, 2020.
REAL ID-Compliant Identification
Beginning October 1, 2020, travelers will need a REAL ID-compliant form of identification to board a flight at all U.S. airports. The state has been issuing REAL ID licenses since October 2016. If a traveler does not have a REAL ID, they are allowed to use a current passport or military license. In addition to boarding flights, REAL IDs will be used to gain access to secure federal facilities, including military bases, nuclear facilities, and some federal offices. REAL IDs are identifiable by the cutout of a gold star in the upper right-hand corner of a license.
Amending the Business and Commerce Code
House Bill 4390 creates the Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council to protect personal identifying information. This bill amends the Texas Business and Commerce Code by stating any business in the state that has computerized data that includes sensitive personal information is required to disclose any breach in the system to the people whose information was or is thought to have been stolen. The business is also required to notify the Texas Attorney General.
The Texas Privacy Council will be made up of five people appointed by the state’s Speaker of the House, five people appointed by the lieutenant governor, five people appointed by the governor, and a representative from a nonprofit organization that studies data privacy laws.
Contact Buckingham & Vega Law Firm
We’ll be sure to keep you informed of any relevant law changes as the year progresses. If you have questions about the laws above or would like information regarding personal injury law, contact us today. We’re here to answer your legal questions and help injured victims recover from economic and noneconomic damages.