(AUSTIN) — Sixty-one new laws, including 26 Senate Bills (SB) authored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and 35 House Bills (HB) that she sponsored during the 2015 legislative session will become effective on Sept. 1 (Tuesday).
The laws taking effect this week reflect Senator Zaffirini’s legislative priorities, which include improving public education, higher education and health and human services. She is Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs; Senate Chair of the Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus; and a member of the Natural Resources and Economic Development, State Affairs and Health and Human Services committees.
The newly effective laws include measures improving Texas’ guardianship system, expanding access to justice by creating standardized forms that anyone can use for basic legal matters and helping persons with disabilities access educational opportunities and protecting them from abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“Because of our productive legislative session, new laws taking effect this week will support financial aid options for college students, protect the health of unborn children and mothers, prioritize the needs of Texas veterans and give new hope to parents who had to relinquish their parental rights solely to secure mental health services for a child,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Count on me to monitor the implementation of these and others laws and to develop additional necessary legislation for the session that convenes in January, 2017.”
Senator Zaffirini passed 102 bills (only 2 were vetoed) during the 2015 legislative session, breaking her personal record and passing more bills than any other legislator. Since 1987 she has sponsored and passed 895 bills and 52 substantive resolutions.
Her legendary work ethic is reflected in her 100 percent perfect attendance in the Texas Senate since 1987, except for breaking quorum deliberately to prevent an untimely re-redistricting that the U.S. Supreme Court (2006) ruled violated the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchised voters in SD 21. Continuing her career-long 100 percent voting record, she cast her 55,666th consecutive vote in 2015.
Of the 102 bills that Senator Zaffirini passed in 2015, the 61 that will become effective on Sept. 1 are summarized below: SB 27 increases transparency by requiring the live broadcast over the internet of conference call meetings of the governing boards of higher education institutions. SB 34 directs the Department of
Information Resources to prepare a biennial report on the state’s cybersecurity efforts. SB 37 requires the Texas Higher
Education Coordinating Board to collect and study information regarding the participation in higher education of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. SB 44 clarifies that private gifts made to an institution of higher education to support undergraduate research are eligible for matching grants under the Texas Research Incentive
Program. SB 46 exempts from open records any photographs of the interior of a property taken during an appraisal inspection. SB 306 requires the Commission on Judicial Conduct to include more comprehensive information in its annual report regarding misconduct investigations. SB 478 directs the Texas Supreme
Court to develop standardized forms for landlord-tenant disputes. SB 512 directs the Texas Supreme
Court to develop standardized probate forms for wills and other basic legal matters. SB 854 streamlines renewal of water well operating permits and groundwater conservation districts’ ability to amend a permit to meet desired future conditions. SB 909 removes unclear or outdated language related to the operation of the Bexar County court system. SB 1066 helps ensure higher education institutions continue participating in the Texas T-STEM
Challenge Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to gifted students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. SB 1072 provides a process for the removal of a county or precinct chair who fails to perform the duties of office. SB 1073 allows a candidate for public office’s campaign mailing address to be posted on the
Secretary of State’s publicly viewable website, instead of the candidate’s home address. SB 1117 requires the Department of Family and Protective Services
(DFPS) to review housing issues with foster youth as part of their transition plan. SB 1128 requires syphilis testing during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, protecting unborn babies and mothers. SB 1369 requires courts appointing attorneys, guardians ad litem, and mediators to submit to the
Office of Court Administration monthly reports regarding compensation for these appointments. SB 1436 increases the setback from a residence for an automotive wrecking and salvage yard. SB 1455 codifies the recommendations in the Texas
State Library and Archives
Commission’s biennial report on state agency reporting requirements. SB 1828 makes cargo theft a special offense ranging from a state jail felony to a first-degree felony, depending on the value of the stolen cargo. SB 1844 establishes the
Interagency Data Transparency
Commission, which will study the potential for collecting and posting data from state agencies online in an open source format easily accessible by the public. SB 1876 directs state courts to use a rotation system for most appointments of attorneys and guardians ad litem, guardians, and mediators, while preserving judicial discretion. SB 1877 requires each state agency to develop, and update regularly, a meaningful data use agreement, including a cybersecurity awareness educational component. SB 1878 directs the Department of
Information Resources to study possible government agency adoption of Identity Access
Management and multi-factor authentication systems. SB 1879 requires the Texas
Veterans Commission (TVC) to conduct regular needs assessments to identify the specific high-priority needs of veterans and to incorporate the results of this needs assessments in its process of awarding grants. SB 1880 protects persons with disabilities served by managed care organizations from abuse, neglect and exploitation. SB 1889 prohibits DFPS from placing a parent’s name on the abuse and neglect registry if the parent is relinquishing custody of his or her child solely to receive mental health services. HB 39 strengthens alternatives to guardianship, including supported decision-making agreements. HB 74 helps small communities be eligible for low-income housing tax credits. HB 229 allows the Texas
Facilities Commission to donate
Department of Public Safety’s surplus motor vehicles and other law enforcement equipment to local law enforcement agencies in underserved communities to combat transnational crime. HB 679 requires the Texas
Department of Community and
Housing Affairs in conjunction with the Texas Interagency
Council for the Homeless to conduct a study and develop a strategic plan to reduce youth homelessness. HB 786 requires public employers to develop a written policy relating to the expression of breast milk in the workplace, which includes the provision of a reasonable amount of break time and a suitable space. HB 1306 authorizes the commissioners court of a county to set a reasonable mileage rate at which judicial district court reporters may be reimbursed for travel expenses. HB 1329 clarifies that the county in which a person is detained originally is responsible for the costs of emergency detention proceedings. HB 1337 requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to obtain copies of guardianship orders for their residents and place them in their residents’ files. HB 1422 helps facilitate the development of San Patricio
County’s rail infrastructure. HB 1424 enhances penalties for repeat-offenders who manufacture, deliver or possess dangerous synthetic cannabinoids. HB 1428 helps persons with developmental or intellectual disabilities who want to become homeowners secure a loan. HB 1438 reforms Texas’ guardianship system to prevent abuse and corruption and protect the interests of persons under guardianship. HB 1464 requires additional notice be given to persons age 65 or older before their agricultural or open-space valuation is cancelled. HB 1584 allows persons to contribute voluntarily $1, $5, $10 or $20 to the Funds for Veterans’
Assistance when purchasing or renewing a hunting or fishing license, either in person or on the
Internet. HB 1912 establishes a statewide data coordinator in the
Department of Information
Resources to improve the control and security of information collected by state agencies and reduce related costs. HB 2033 authorizes a county commissioners court as part of the plat approval process to require the submission of a digital map in a format widely used by common geographic information system (GIS) software. HB 2035 authorizes border communities to regulate the location of an establishment that derives 50 percent or more of the establishment’s gross revenue from the on-premise sale of alcoholic beverages in the same manner that the entity regulates the location of bars and sexually oriented businesses. HB 2050 requires a voter registrar, when making the required postelection submission of a voter record to the Secretary of State, to include whether the person voted on election day, in person during early voting, by mail, or as a federal postcard applicant. HB 2063 permits but does not require a foreclosing lender to provide a conspicuous disclosure in the notice of sale advising the defaulting borrower of the appointment of a substitute trustee, and makes the appointment effective upon the date of the notice. HB 2119 creates standards and insurance requirements for prescribed burn organizations that use volunteers. HB 2167 provides that it is lawful to capture an image using an unmanned aircraft in connection with the practice of professional surveying or engineering or for academic purposes by a private or independent institution of higher education. HB 2171 extends the period in which a person’s information is retained in the immunization registry from until age 18 to until age 26 upon a person’s request. HB 2598 prohibits the Texas
Commission on Environmental
Quality from considering electric arc furnace slag as solid waste if the steel slag is an item of commercial value and not discarded material. HB 2634 eliminates the loophole related to the procurement and use of the construction managerat risk method in design and construction services, thereby increasing competitive bidding. HB 2710 requires an attorney ad litem to submit a report to the court specifying his or her activities to locate and represent the interests of a missing property owner before the attorney can be compensated in an ad valorem tax case. HB 2732 authorizes the Texas
Workforce Commission to continue to participate in the federal Treasury Offset Program. HB 2789 requires the Department of Aging and Disability Services to develop trauma-informed care training for new employees to complete before they work directly with persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in state supported living centers and other facilities. HB 2794 assists persons in the acquisition of birth certificates. HB 2861 allows the City of Laredo to issue overweight and oversize permits to trucks carrying cargo into Webb County and designates four corridors to route the overweight and oversize truck traffic. HB 3136 improves the efficiency and use of small estate affidavits to make information more accessible to persons preparing these affidavits. HB 3424 directs the Office of
Court Administration to conduct a study regarding the feasibility of developing, implementing and maintaining a statewide guardianship database. HB 3438 requires the Texas
Facilities Commission to post all available surplus property on its website and provides a standardized process for the transfer or sale of property. HB 3439 allows a state agency to donate surplus or salvage property to a local governmental entity or assistance organization. HB 3680 clarifies that temporary electronic data saved by a statewide or local filer in the
Texas Ethics Commission’s online application during the preparation of a report is confidential and not subject to disclosure until the finalized report is filed. HB 3683 requires statewide filers to file personal financial statements electronically, just like local filers are allowed to do already.