Texans had over a dozen new laws take effect the first day of 2020; just after 820 new laws went into effect in September. Below are a few laws passed during the 86th legislative session that might effect you.


Surprise Medical Bills


SB 1264 protects consumers who have state-regulated health plans from surprise medical bills in certain situations. The new protections apply to bills for medical services received after Jan. 1. This affects people with state regulated health insurance plans through the state employee or teacher retirement systems, which is about sixteen- percent of Texans, according to the Texas Department of Insurance. The new law applies in emergencies and situations when patients did not select their doctors. It happens mostly when someone has surgery or gets treatment in-network but gets care from an ER doctor, radiologist or other provider who is not contracted through the health plan. The new law bans doctors and providers from sending balance bills to patients. Instead health care providers can apply for arbitration or mediation to resolve payment issues over those bills.


Natural Disasters and Taxes


House Bill 492 required voters to approve a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of a certain property damaged by a disaster. The ballot initiative allows Texas legislature to provide temporary tax breaks for people with property damaged in governor-declared disaster areas. The legislature approved the resolution unanimously earlier this year. Each municipality has 60 days from the governors disaster declaration to adopt the temporary exemption.


Bingo Fees


HB 914 changes the prize fees for bingo. A licensed authorized organization no longer has to collect a fee from a person who wins a non-cash prize valued at more than $5. But if a person wins at least $5 cash as a bingo prize, they must pay five percent of the prize amount. The licensed organization which collects the prize fee shall give fifty-percent of the fees collected to the Texas Lottery Commission. The revenue collected by the commission from the fee on prizes is considered miscellaneous revenue. Counties and cities can opt in to receive the prize fees.


Sexual Harassment at Colleges and Universities


Senate Bill 212 amends the Texas Education Code to require an employee of a public or private or independent higher education who witnesses or receives information regarding incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking, to report it.


The crime must allegedly have been committed by or against a student or employee of the institution and it must be reported promptly, to the institutions Title IX coordinator or deputy Title IX coordinator. The Title IX coordinator must then report the incident to the institutions chief executive officers and requires the chief executive officer to report to the governing body and post on the institutions website.


Effective Jan.1. SB212 creates a Class B misdemeanor offense for any person who is required to make a report of an incident but knowingly fails to do so. A person, with intent to harm or deceived, knowingly makes a false report. The crime is upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor if its shown that the actor intended to conceal the incident that is required to be reported. The bill requires the institution to terminate the employment of the employee.


Small Business Data Breaches


HB 4930 relates to privacy of a person identifying information and the creation of the Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council. It amends the Texas business and Commerce Code and says a person who conducts business in Texas and has computerized data that includes sensitive personal information, was or is thought of to have been acquired by an unauthorized person. A notification of a data breach must be made within 60 days of when the business learned that the breach occurred. The business must also notify the Texas Attorney General of the breach within 60 days of learning of the breach, if it involves at least 250 Texas residents.


Flood Funds


SB 7 moves $1.7 billion from the states rainy day fund to the Texas Water Code, which established two new accounts. The Flood Infrastructure Fund and the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund. It allows the Texas Water Board to issue revenue bonds for both accounts and prioritizes financial assistance for counties where the median household income is less than eighty-five percent of the states median household income.