AUSTIN – Texas lawmakers and Gov. Greg Abbott passed more than 1,100 bills during the 88th Legislature, including laws pertaining to education, school safety, transportation, voting and crime.
While the majority of them become law on Sept. 1, several took effect in June.
The new laws address a wide range of issues, like the removal of cars used in street racing, panic buttons in classrooms, and Narcan at schools.
The 2023 regular legislative session came to an end on May 29, and Abbott had until Sunday, June 18, to sign the bills into law or veto them. Abbott ended up vetoing 76 bills — a near-record number due to an impasse over property taxes.
Abbott also immediately called a special session to address property taxes and border security.
While the outcome of the special session is still unclear, Texans do have more than 1,100 new laws to keep in mind in the coming months.
Here’s a look at some notable laws that are now on the books.
- HB 3660 makes trap-neuter-release programs for feral cats legally protected in Texas. Trap-neuter-release programs are when feral cats are trapped, taken to the veterinarian for sterilization, and returned to the wild in an effort to curb feral cat populations. Under the law, people who return sterilized cats to the wild will be protected from prosecution for abandonment. The bill was signed by Abbott and took effect immediately.
- HB 2060 created the Artificial Intelligence Advisory Council to study and monitor the use of AI systems by certain state agencies in Texas, an analysis of the bill says. The seven-member council will be responsible for monitoring AI systems that are developed, employed or obtained by executive and judicial branch state agencies. The bill was signed by Abbott and took effect immediately.
- HB 422 gives a juvenile court the ability to conduct hearings remotely. Remote hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic showed that remote hearings were effective, less costly and safer than transporting in-custody juveniles to a courthouse. Moreover, the virtual hearings allowed for more parties to participate from multiple locations. The bill was signed by Abbott and took effect immediately.
- HB 2899 allows law enforcement officials to immediately remove vehicles used in street racing, street takeovers or reckless driving rather than impound them. The bill was signed by Abbott and took effect immediately.
- HB 4333 extends Bexar County’s family violence pretrial diversion pilot program. Through the Reflejo Court, the program aims to reduce repeat family violence offenses. Abbott signed the bill, and it took effect immediately.
- SB 224, cited as the Deputy Darren Almendarez Act, enhances criminal penalties for offenses involving the theft of a catalytic converter. Under the law, a person could be charged with a first-degree felony if the amount of the loss is $300,000 or more. The bill was signed into law by Abbott and is effective immediately, except for some sections.
- HB 33 prohibits state agencies and officials in Texas from assisting any federal agency or official with enforcing any federal acts that “purports to regulate oil and gas operations and imposes a regulation that does not exist under state law,” an analysis of the bill says. The analysis cites the fact that oil and natural gas production taxes have generated more than $10.8 billion in revenue for Texas. The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.
- SB 1289 directs the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to develop new rules for onsite wastewater reuse while enforcing health and safety standards. Currently, TCEQ requires owners of reclaimed wastewater treatment facilities to hold a wastewater discharge permit as an alternative means of disposal. The bill would eliminate TCEQ’s requirement for the permit “if the facility disposed of the treated wastewater through a wastewater collection system; and has the consent of the operator of: the wastewater collection system that will receive the treated wastewater; and any wastewater treatment facility that will further treat the treated wastewater,” the bill’s text says. The bill was signed by Abbott and takes effect immediately.
- HB 3908, or Tucker’s Law, requires school districts to provide instruction related to fentanyl abuse prevention and drug poisoning awareness to students in grades 6-12. It also requires Abbott to designate Fentanyl Poisoning Awareness Week in public schools. Tucker’s Law is named after Tucker Roe, who died from a fentanyl overdose in 2021. The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.
- SB 629 places opioid antagonists, like Narcan, at campuses that serve students in grades 6-12. Under the law, each school district must adopt and implement a policy regarding opioid antagonists at the campuses. Districts may adopt and implement similar policies for students below the sixth grade. Read more here. The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.
- SB 867 allows the distribution of opioid antagonists, like Narcan, at Texas colleges and universities. The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.
- SB 10 allows the Teacher Retirement System of Texas to make a cost-of-living adjustment and one-time payment for certain retirees. The cost-of-living adjustment will be 2% for those who retired between Sept. 1, 2013, and Aug. 31, 2020; 4% for those who retired between Sept. 1, 2001, and Aug. 31, 2013; and 6% for those who retired on or before Aug. 31, 2001. Retirees at least 75 years old will receive a $7,500 check, and those between 70 and 74 will get a $2,400 check. This act takes effect immediately, except for Section 1. Section 1 takes effect Jan. 1, 2024, but only if HJR 2 is approved by the voters. Section 1 deals with the cost-of-living adjustment.
- HB 12 expands Medicaid coverage for women following their pregnancies. Under the bill, Medicaid will be provided up to 12 months after a woman gives birth and up to six months after a woman experiences a miscarriage. Until the law was passed, postpartum Medicaid lasted two months. Read more here. The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.
- HB 1330 created a grant program for certain counties to help fund public improvement projects for unincorporated communities within the county. According to the bill’s text, the county must have a population of no more than 3,000 people, be adjacent to at least three counties with populations of less than 10,000 people, and be located on an international border. The county may apply for a gift, grant or donation. The bill was signed by Abbott and will take effect immediately.
- HB 1361 requires institutions of higher education to designate at least one employee to act as a liaison for current or incoming students who have children younger than 18. This is in an effort to connect them with support services and resources. Those resources include access to tutoring, medical and behavioral coverage, and programs for affordable housing, employment and food security. The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.
- HB 1605 allocates nearly $800 million to create instruction material for teachers, according to the Texas Tribune. This is an effort to save teachers time with planning and preparing lesson plans, however, they will not be required to use all of the material. Districts will also be required to provide parents or guardians with instructional material so they can instruct their children. The bill was signed by Abbott. It takes effect immediately, but Sections 48-50 take effect on Sept. 1. Sections 48-50 deal with amending the education code and funding.
- HB 2012 allows for the national motto of the United States, “In God We Trust,” to be placed in public schools and institutions of higher education classrooms. The bill was signed by Abbott and takes effect immediately.
- HB 3991 designates the first Friday in April as Texas Fruit and Vegetable Day in public schools. The bill aims to promote awareness of the various health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Abbott signed the bill, and it takes effect immediately.
- SB 336 will require that all persons involved with university compliance issues be kept confidential. Before, only university employees who made compliance reports had their identities kept confidential. Under SB 336, the identity of any person acting on behalf of a university is to be kept confidential. Abbott signed the bill, and it takes effect immediately.
- SB 838 requires school districts to provide each classroom with some type of panic alert button in case of an emergency. The technology must allow for immediate contact with school emergency services and law enforcement agencies. The districts will have to pay for the technology through their school safety budget. Read more here. The bill was signed by Abbott and immediately went into effect.
- SB 1001 will give guidelines on how electric vehicle charging stations will be registered and inspected by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The TDLR may periodically, or in response to a complaint, conduct an inspection of electric vehicle supply equipment, similar to gas pump inspections. Read more here. The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.
- SB 493 allows veterans who received a less-than-honorable discharge due to their refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine to be labeled as receiving an honorable discharge. For a discharge to be considered honorable, the veteran must prove to the Texas Veterans Commission that their refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccination was the sole reason for the discharge. The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.
- SB 477 will allow people with disabilities or mobility problems to skip the lines at polling locations. The person must request to skip the line with an election worker. The bill’s text defines disabilities to include “paralysis, lung disease, the use of portable oxygen, cardiac deficiency, severe limitation in the ability to walk due to arthritic, neurological, or orthopedic condition, wheelchair confinement, arthritis, foot disorder, the inability to walk 200 feet without stopping to rest, or use of a brace, cane, crutch, or other assistive device.” The bill was signed by Abbott and is effective immediately.