A majority of the new laws passed during the 2019 Texas Legislature took effect this past September 1st.

However, two-dozen new laws became law on New Year’s Day.

These laws include issues ranging between property taxes, unexpected medical bills and Bingo prizes.

House Bill 1313 helps homeowners against increasing property taxes. The bill states that anyone who successfully protests their home value should not see their value increased to the previous level the next year unless appraisers can present “clear and convincing evidence” that the increase is merited.

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who carried HB 1313 through the 86th legislative session said appraisers will have to show evidence that property values have gone up.

Also, in the interest of homeowners, Senate Bill 2060 requires that appraisal district officials include a short description of each exemption a person is eligible for when they receive their appraisal notice to ensure that they don’t miss out on some tax breaks.

For example, disabled veterans, surviving spouses of disabled veterans, Texans over the age of 65 and those with disabilities are eligible for certain property tax exemptions they may not know about.

Another law designed to help protect your pocketbook is Senate Bill 1264.

The new law is designed to protect consumers from unexpected, excessive medical bills when they are treated by an out-of-network medical provider.
The bill almost died when the Texas Medical Board sought to carve out an exception allowing high-priced billing to stand for out-of-network care if patients signed a waiver.

But, with the help of patient advocate and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who said the exception was an attempt to undermine a new law that protects patients against surprise medical billing.

Additional support came from the AARP Texas which advocates on behalf of Texans over 50.

Another new bill that took effect January 1st provides tax relief for storm damage.

House Bill 492 allows property owners to get a temporary break on their taxes to help offset damage caused by natural disasters. To qualify for the tax break, damage must have taken place in a region the governor has declared a disaster area and taxing entities must approve the exemption within 60 days of the governor’s declaration.

Additionally, legislators approved a bill that provides money to help with flood control.

Senate Bill 7, part of three disaster relief bills supported by Lt. Gov Patrick, establishes two funds that would provide grants and loans for flood control and mitigation projects.

Another new law addresses sexual violence on college campuses.

Senate Bill 212 mandates that officials at public and private colleges must report incidents of sexual assault, stalking and dating violence. Otherwise they risk criminal penalties and the loss of their jobs.

For those who enjoy playing Bingo, House Bill 914 says bingo players who win non-cash prizes don’t have to pay a fee at a state-licensed game site.

But winners who collect cash prizes of $5 or more will have a pay a 5% fee on their takes payable to the state.

For more information on Texas laws visit https://capitol.texas.gov/.