Sep 1st 2017 | Posted in Legislation/Policy by Kristin Gordon

The last day of the 85th Legislative Session was May 29. Several bills immediately went into effect while others were delayed until Sept. 1, or even further into the future. Over 670 bills become new Texas laws today. Get the full analysis of bills that became law on Sept. 1 here, bills signed by the governor here and bills filed without the governor’s signature here. Some of the bills have received much publicity due to the controversial content or high interest. One of them was Senate Bill 4, the sanctuary cities bill, which would have gone into effect today, but was temporarily blocked on Wednesday by a federal judge.   

Senate Bill 4 prohibits cities and counties from adopting policies that limit immigration enforcement, allows police officers to question the immigration status of anyone they detain or arrest and threatens officials who violate the law with fines, jail time and removal from office. It also directs local officials to cooperate with so-called immigration detainer requests, which allow foreign-born detainees to be transferred to federal custody after they are released from state or local custody. 

Another bill that has received a lot of attention when Hurricane Harvey came to Texas is House Bill 1774. There are conflicting reports that homeowners should try and file claims for property damage caused by Hurricane Harvey before today, when a new insurance law goes into effect for Texas residents. But other reports came out that filing before today was not necessarily a big deal since many homeowners in Texas do not have flood insurance. And most of those who do have flood insurance, bought it from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, which is exempt from state laws.  

austin 298211 960 720 More than 670 new Texas laws go into effect Sept. 1House Bill 1774 will impact policyholders who file a lawsuit against their private insurance company for failing to pay enough in claims or repaying claims too slowly. It requires plaintiffs’ attorneys to offer more detail when they give notice of intent to file a lawsuit. If insurance companies must pay damages, the law will reduce the amount of penalty interest they’ll owe from 18 percent to about 10 percent. 

Today, House Bill 5 goes into effect, except Section 24, which took effect immediately after Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature. HB5 relates to the powers and duties of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and the transfer of certain powers and duties from the Health and Human Services Commission. Under HB 5, DFPS would get full authority on issues like adoption placements, child abuse or neglect investigations, parental education programs, medical services for child abuse victims and protective services for people living with disabilities and the elderly. However, department officials would still share responsibility with the Health and Human Services Commission on creating medical service plans for children in the system and what information should go into a child’s medical records, also known as a child’s “health passport. The bill also re-establishes the Family and Protective Services Council to help make rules and policies for the department.  

Texas Cybersecurity Act, House Bill 8, goes into effect today. The law establishes certain cybersecurity requirements for all state agencies in Texas, adds cybersecurity as an element of the sunset review process, creates a cybersecurity council and requires that certain agencies conduct studies and reports related to cybersecurity threats and responses. The Department of Information Resources (DIR) is required to develop and implement a plan to address cybersecurity risks and incidents in the state and authorized the agency to enter into an agreement, as needed, with an organization such as the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium to support implementation efforts. Each state agency is now required to conduct an information security assessment of the agency’s network systems, data storage systems, data security measures, and information resources vulnerabilities at least once every two years and to report the results to the DIR. 

Another cyber bill is Senate Bill 532 which strengthens cybersecurity across state government by directing DIR to assess each state agency’s Information Technology (IT) security when making a major IT purchase. It also requires agencies to consider cloud storage or a data caching server for their data storage needs.  

House Bill 89 prohibits state agencies from contracting with companies that boycott Israel. It also prohibits certain public funds from investing in such businesses. The Anti-Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions bill was signed at the Jewish Community Center in Austin on the day Israel celebrates its Independence Day. 

Senate Bill 312 involves the continuation and functions of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Toll administrative fees will be capped at $48 per year, and any criminal fines are capped at $250 per year.  Tolls will be removed from Camino Columbia toll road in Laredo and the Cesar Chavez toll project in El Paso. Any state funds for toll projects that had environmental review commence by Jan. 1, 2014, must be repaid. Texans will now be protected from having their free lanes converted to toll lanes or having their free lanes downgraded to frontage roads. This Act takes effect today, except Section 45 which takes effect Sept. 1, 2019.  

In 2007, the 80th Legislature enacted House Bill 3560, which transferred state purchasing authority from the former Texas Building and Procurement Commission to the comptroller and established the Statewide Procurement Advisory Council to oversee procurement of contracts with an estimated value of $100,000 or more. Government code requires that these contracts be awarded in an open meeting chaired by the chief clerk of the comptroller. The comptroller’s office must post on its website a notice and the text of each contract awarded in a meeting. Government code also requires that a quorum of the Statewide Procurement Advisory Council attend each meeting and make recommendations to the chief clerk.  

House Bill 1116 will abolish the Statewide Procurement Advisory Council and repeal provisions relating to procedures for awarding contracts with an estimated value of $100,000 or more. Currently, agencies must post all contracts exceeding $25,000 in the Electronic State Business Daily and report certain contracts to the Legislative Budget Board database, both of which are accessible to the public. 

Senate Bill 533 requires the Texas comptroller to employ a chief procurement officer who would have authority over state agency procurement. This individual would coordinate with DIR and the Quality Assurance Team (QAT) to conduct contract solicitation reviews for certain information technology projects and with the Contract Advisory Team (CAT) to conduct reviews of certain solicitation and contract documents for contracts that have a value of $5 million or more. State agencies will submit a request for pricing for an information technology commodity contract with a value of more than $50,000, but not more than $1 million, to at least three vendors. They would also need to submit a request for pricing for an information technology commodity contract with a value of more than $1 million, but not more than $5 million, to at least six vendors. The bill would prohibit a state agency from entering a contract to purchase an information technology commodity if the value of the contact exceeds $5 million. 

House Bill 62 will prohibit drivers on public roads from using a wireless communication device to read, write or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle. 

Texting and driving in Texas will be punishable by a fine of $25-$99, which raises to $100-$200 for any subsequent offenses. This new law will preempt all “texting and driving” ordinances previously passed by cities, but does not preempt city ordinances which go beyond texting while driving. 

The law also states that if a car accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, the offender can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year. 

House Bill 1935 eliminates daggers, dirks, stilettos, poniards, swords, spears and Bowie knives from Texas statute, effectively allowing them to be carried anywhere in the state. Blades over 5 1/2 inches are now defined as “location restricted” knives. These knives may be carried throughout the state except in a narrow list of places. Minors under the age of 18 are also restricted from carrying these types of knives.

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