As Texans rang in the new year, a handful of measures quietly became law.
The final pieces of the new laws will take effect with little fanfare Thursday, touching on judicial issues, the franchise tax, pediatric extended-care centers, even motorcycle requirements.
“Very few Texans were aware these laws passed,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. “Even fewer are aware of the provisions that will go into force on Jan. 1.”
These laws, among more than 1,400 measures passed by the Legislature in 2013, are coming about just days before lawmakers head back to the Capitol to pass a whole new slate of laws.
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The 84th legislative session begins Jan. 13.
“Similar laws and regulations always have been part of our New Year’s celebrations,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Most Texans know little of these new laws, and they usually only apply to a small group of people or interests in the state.”
Here’s a look at the measures taking effect Thursday, according to the Texas Legislature Online.
House Bill 62 bars a Texas judge from having a significant interest in a business that might own, operate or manage a private correctional or rehabilitation facility — a measure meant to prevent conflicts of interest.
The last part of HB500, regarding a $1 million revenue exemption for the franchise tax, is now law. Section 14 allows tax credits for certified rehabilitation of certified historic structures. The rest of the law on the state’s franchise or “margins” tax took effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Four trial courts were created in Texas under HB3153 with the goal of easing backlogs in some areas. Two have already been created — the 43rd District Court in Ellis County and the 452nd District Court for Edwards, Kimble, McCulloch, Mason and Menard counties.
The 442nd District Court in Denton County exists as of Thursday, and the 450th District Court will be created in Travis County on Sept. 1.
Several more courts were created — including county courts at law, statutory courts and statutory probate courts. Two are to be created Thursday: a statutory county court in Jim Wells County and a statutory probate court in Cameron County.
Senate Bill 492 sets new licensing requirements and safety standards for prescribed pediatric extended-care centers to let Medicaid-eligible children up to age 20 receive medical care. This act was in place Sept. 1, 2013, except for two portions dealing with general enforcement and administrative penalties, which will take effect Thursday. Starting now, a person needs a license to own or operate such a center — and a license for each separate facility owned.
And with SB1806, the Harrison County Court at Law now has more jurisdiction — over felony criminal cases, including capital murder cases, as well as civil cases, such as family law matters. The goal of the measure, lawmakers said, was to create a more efficient judicial system in the county.
The overall law, which deals with training and license requirements for three-wheeled motorcycles, is named for Malorie Bullock, a 19-year-old from Sherman killed in 2010 in an accident near Campbell, about 90 miles northeast of Fort Worth.
The Texas A&M University-Commerce student was riding on the back of a motorcycle when it swerved off the road to avoid hitting a truck that had pulled in front of it, reports have shown.
“Malorie was wearing a helmet that did her no good when it was knocked off by the road sign she hit as she rode on that elevated seat,” according to a post written by a person who identified herself as “Malorie’s grandmother” on the Facebook page for Malorie’s law. “We are weary of seeing all the preventable injuries and deaths on our roads and hwys. Just trying to make a difference.”
Much of the law — such as a ban on passengers unless the motorcycle is designed to carry more than one person — is already in effect.
“I pray that this small change in the law will make people think before getting on the back of a motorcycle and placing your life in the hands of someone else,” according to another post on the Facebook page. “I pray that the person driving the bike will have enough thought about the ones they place behind them to care if they are trained properly and the bike is equipped properly. I also pray that those of us driving cars watch out for those on motorcycles. Please be safe.”
Late January law
The last piece of one other law will take effect Jan. 15.
SB426 amends a law on home visits to let specialists deliver services such as parenting classes in the homes of certain at-risk families.
The overall law took effect Sept. 1, 2013, except for the provision requiring the Health and Human Services Commission to submit a report on state-funded home visit programs to the House and Senate health committees no later than Dec. 1 of even-numbered years.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610