New Texas laws become effective on September 1, 2015

Below are few highlights from laws passed this session that might impact you and your family.

Texas Budget: Spending, Saving, Tax Cuts and Relief

Overall, the legislature approved a balanced two- year budget that grows less than 2 percent per year and allows for almost $4 billion in tax relief. While the state budget maintains some positive increases in funding for certain services, it is still lacking in many areas from investment in public education to healthcare.

Texas Budget at a Glance

  • $209.4 Billion Budget for 2016-2017 Fiscal Years. This leave $3 Billion available and unspent.
  • Spending on Border Security was increased by 70 percent from $468 Million to $800 Million.
  • An additional $1.5 Billion was set aside for public education to cover enrollment growth.
    • However, funding levels for about 1/3 of school districts will remain below where they were when budgets were slashed in 2011.
  • Increased spending on pre-kindergarten education by $130 Million.
    • Again, this is still less than what was cut from pre-k back in 2011.
  • $3.8 Billion set aside for tax cuts.
    • 25% cut to the franchise tax and
    • $10,000 increase to the homestead exemption. NOTE: This is contingent on a public vote and is expected to save the average Texas homeowner more than $120 per year.
  • $1.7 billion of the General Revenue is provided for Medicaid caseload growth.
    • However, no provisions were made to address Medicaid reimbursement rate increases for doctors. Currently, only 34% of doctors accept Medicaid patients. Lack of rate increases will bring this number down even further.
  • Three women’s health services are consolidated into one, moved to HHSC, and are collectively funded at $100 million.
  • Salary increases have been awarded to state employees (2.5%), CPS caseworkers (merit-based), community care attendants (.93/hr increase), parole officers, and correctional officers (8%) to reduce high turnover.

SNAP Eligibility

Texas is now one of 40 other states that will allow a person previously convicted of a drug felony to be eligible for SNAP benefits after they get probation or are released on parole.

Body Cameras

A new grant program will provide $10 million for departments to provide body cameras to first responders and traffic patrol officers.

Balanced Billing

More patients will be allowed to enlist help from the Texas Department of Insurance to negotiate lower bills from hospital-based doctors who are not “in network.”

E-Cigarettes

Selling e-cigarettes to minors will be prohibited under a new Texas law, though many vendors had already decided not to sell the electronic nicotine-delivery devices to youths.

Mental Health Awareness

Lawmakers have passed two bills this session that would increase awareness for mental health programs at Texas universities and prevent suicide.

Transferring College Credits

To help ease the transition between community colleges and four-year institutions, regular review of course tracks that are supposed to be transferable will begin.

Drug Recycling Program

Seeking to ease the cost of prescription pills on those in need, lawmakers passed legislation to begin a pilot program allowing people to donate unused drugs.

Warrants Required

Law enforcement will now be required to obtain a warrant before conducting body cavity searches during traffic stops.

Truancy Reforms

Truant conduct will no longer be a crime and will now only be prosecuted as a civil case and only in a truancy court.

Grand Jury Selection Process

The “pick-a-pal” grand jury system used in many counties has been eliminated. The law will now require the court to randomly select persons according to certain criteria for purposes of jury selection.

Sources:

Texas Legislature Online

The Dallas Morning News

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