AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – While communities across the state of Texas gear up to celebrate the new year, they should also be aware of a few new state laws taking effect as soon as the ball drops for 2023.
The laws going into effect in 2023 were signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2021 and relate to subjects including the state government’s judicial branch, state agency rule-making, education, taxes, water, and construction.
Changes to the Texas government’s judicial branch
HB 3774 relates to the operation and administration of courts in the state government’s judicial branch, including creating multiple courts, the changing of duties for certain district officials, how certain court proceedings should be handled, and the types of state court documents that the public can access. Some aspects of the bill include:
- Creating 10 district courts, five statutory county courts, one statutory probate court, and one criminal law magistrate court;
- Revising the jurisdiction of certain statutory county courts;
- Granting jurisdiction in criminal actions to the magistrates of some counties;
- Changing some of the ways proceedings are handled in a justice or municipal court or in juvenile justice and family courts;
- Providing public access to the state court document database, if authorized by the Texas Supreme Court;
- Revising how cases are transferred between courts and providing for the development of standardized transfer-related forms and certificates;
- Providing for a code of professional responsibility for the conduct of entities regulated by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, changing that commission’s investigatory power, and allowing for the commission to use appropriated funds to train and educate forensic analysts;
- Adding that jurors can be allowed to donate their daily reimbursement to a veterans county service office;
- Providing that a judge or magistrate of a district court or statutory county court can be appointed to preside over a regional specialty court program under certain conditions;
- Allowing a defendant participating in a veterans treatment court program to transfer to another such program in a county neighboring the one in which they work or live;
- Requiring the Texas Supreme Court to adopt rules regarding exemptions from seizure of a judgment debtor’s property;
- Providing for the protective order registry to include protective orders for victims of sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking and for the removal of certain vacated orders from the registry;
- Changing certain regulations for court reporters, including how reporters can be requested and how their reports might be made and documented;
- Extending the deadline by which a state attorney must answer an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed after a final conviction in a felony case without the death penalty, and providing other methods of serving a copy of an application for such a writ on the state’s attorney in a community supervision case; and
- Allowing a justice or judge to order the taking of someone’s fingerprints if they have been charged with a fine-only misdemeanor involving family violence but were not placed under custodial arrest.
Ad valorem taxes and school districts
SB 12, 87th 2nd CS relates to reducing the amount of a limitation on the total amount of ad valorem taxes that a school district can impose, “on the residence homestead of someone who is elderly or disabled to reflect any reduction from the preceding tax year in the district’s maximum compressed rate and to the protection of school districts against the resulting loss in local revenue.”
In practice, according to the Texas Education Agency, a school district’s property tax rate consists of a maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate and, at times, an interest and sinking (I&S) tax rate. A maximum compressed tax rate (MCR) is created using estimated statewide property value growth and the M&O tax rate. Once both the maximum CTR and the M&O tax rates are calculated, school districts use the lower number to levy taxes. The bill, made possible after a constitutional amendment passed in May 2022, will use those rates to calculate limits on how much the school district tax rate can increase each year for certain homeowners, including people with disabilities or elderly people.
Texas currently has a base amount of money that school districts are guaranteed to receive according to how many students they have, in one way or another, which is a base number reached mostly through local taxes that can then be buffered by state and federal funds. According to the bill, if the impact of the tax rate limit means that a school district isn’t fully funded, the district is entitled to the state covering the remaining costs.
Substitutes for hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants
SB 1210 is an amendment to the Texas Clean Air Act, Health and Safety Code, which says that a building code or other requirement for a commercial or residential building or construction cannot prohibit the use of authorized substitutes for hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants.
Hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, are greenhouse gasses that a commonly used for things like refrigeration, air conditioning, fire extinguishing systems, and building insulation.
Water and wastewater special districts
HB 3530 continues an ongoing statutory revision program and codifies a number of session law special districts into the Special District Local Laws Code. Among the codified districts are one levee improvement district, one municipal utility district, two river authorities, and one water control and improvement district.
Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
HB 1560 mostly took effect in September 2021, aside from a handful of sections, relating to the functions of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. It amends and repeals a number of provisions of the Alcoholic Beverage Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Education Code, Family Code, Government Code, Health and Safety Code, Human Resources Code, Occupations Code, and Transportation Code to provide for the TDLR and the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation. Other specific functions of the bill include:
- Continuing the TCLR and the TDLR until September 2033, and postponing the sunset review of certain programs transferred to TDLR until the 2032-2033 review cycle;
- Revising provisions relating to complaints received by TDLR and requiring TDLR to post an additional statistical analysis of those complaints;
- Requiring TDLR to conduct risk-based inspections;
- Requiring TDLR to study regulating auctioneering and eliminating licensing requirements for polygraph examiners;
- Consolidating licenses and certificates that cover both barbers and cosmetologists, and removing certain regulations relating to those occupations;
- Eliminating the licensure requirement for people issuing a residential service contract by repealing the Residential Service Company Act, and instead providing for that regulation through the Service Contract Regulatory Act.
The parts of the bill going into effect in June 2023 are mostly portions that repeal certain statutory provisions regarding driver training.
Government Code and state agency rules
HB 1322 is an amendment to the Government Code, requiring that a state agency that files a notice of a proposed rule with the secretary of state publish a summary of the rule “written in plain language” in both English and Spanish on its website.
Public school financing and public education
HB 1525 focuses on the public school finance system and public education. It went mostly into effect in September 2021, except for Section 14 being set to take effect in September 2023.
The portion of the bill going into effect in 2023 revises rules regarding state funding for certain student tests. The bill requires additional Public Education Information Management System reporting for certain students who fail to attend school or are enrolled in certain education programs after dropping out of school. The bill also sets out requirements relating to protecting covered student information by a national assessment provider and by an applicable operator of a website, online service or app used for school purposes.
Adult high school charter program
SB 1615 relates to the adult high school charter program, with Section 15(b) taking effect in September 2023. The bill focuses on amending the Education Code to rename the adult high school diploma and industry certification charter school program as the adult high school charter school program. Further, it expands the scope of the program from a sole charter granted to a single nonprofit entity charter holder to a regulatory framework for similar charters that may be granted to additional entities. The bill limits the number of adult high school charters that may be granted within a specified initial period and creates an initial enrollment limit for newly chartered programs.
For September 2023, the bill will establish program-specific methods for calculating relevant foundation school program funding components, including:
- Average daily attendance;
- The compensatory education allotment;
- The college, career, or military readiness outcomes bonus; and
- Another allotment based on weighted student outcomes.
According to its published schedule, the first day of the 88th Legislature in Texas will be Tuesday, Jan. 10. The 60-day deadline for bill filing will arrive on March 10, and the session is expected to end on May 29.