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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Hundreds of new laws took effect September 1
Wednesday, September 7, 2011 • Posted September 9, 2011

AUSTIN — Of around 6,000 House and Senate bills filed by members of the 82nd Texas Legislature, about 1,300 of them survived the rigorous process. More than 600 of those bills took effect as new laws immediately when the governor signed them in May and June. A few took effect exactly 90 days after they were finally passed and 21 are scheduled to take effect on Jan.

1. But more than 600 bills debated and passed by the Texas Legislature took effect last week. Here are randomly selected examples of bills that took effect as new Texas laws on September 1:

• Initiating a new state budget for fiscal years 2012-2013.

• Requiring homeowners who apply for a new property tax homestead to provide proof to the county appraisal district that they live in the house they claim as their principal residence.

• Creating payment options for indigent or low-income persons convicted of a misdemeanor.

• Creating college textbook affordability-enhancing measures.

• Creating increased energy-efficiency standards for college and university buildings.

• Enabling temporary posting of lower speed limits at sites where motor vehicle accidents are under investigation.

• Creating tougher sentences for repeat sex offenders.

• Speeding the removal of deceased persons and non-citizens from voter rolls.

• Prohibiting employers from disallowing an employee with a concealed handgun permit from having firearms or ammunition in their vehicle in the employer’s parking lot, but the law does not apply to employees of schools (public, private or charter) or employees of chemical manufacturers or oil and gas refiners.

One of those Sept. 1 bills, House Bill 15, is a measure carrying amendments to chapter 171 of the Health and Safety Code, a 2003 law titled the Woman’s Right to Know Act.

Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services et al., alleging violation of the First (freedom of speech) and Fourteenth (equal protection) amendments, successfully sued Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey et al. to prevent enforcement of parts of the bill.

In an August 30 order, Judge Sam Sparks of the Austin Division of the U.S. Federal District Court, Western District of Texas, forbade enforcement of HB 15’s requirements that an abortion provider show a pregnant woman a sonogram of the fetus, verbally describe the image in detail and have her listen to the fetal heartbeat.

In his 55-page order, Sparks wrote, “…(HB 15) compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state plans to appeal and Gov. Rick Perry released a statement in support of the appeal.

Housing help for disabled vets

Gov. Rick Perry on August 29 announced a $3 million grant program to help veterans with special needs caused by service-related disabilities buy, build, rehabilitate or rent a home. Housing4TexasHeroes grants will be administered by the Texas Veterans Commission. Perry made the announcement in San Antonio while speaking at the annual national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

2nd annual Hog Out is on calendar

An estimated 2 million free-ranging wild hogs live in Texas. Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on August 30 challenged Texas’ 254 counties to decrease the feral hog population. The point is to reduce mayhem caused by hogs that create traffic hazards and feast on and churn up crops, gardens, yards, parks and other land. Not to mention feces fouling the water. Hog-caused damages are estimated at up to $400 million a year, Staples said.

Grants will be awarded to the five counties with the most hogs removed and highest participation in feral hog abatement programs. Deadline for counties to submit a notice of intent to participate is September 30.

“Hog Out Month” actually will last three months: October 1 through December 31.

‘Promise Fund’ enrollment opens

State Comptroller Susan Combs announced the September 1 opening of the annual enrollment period for the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, the state’s prepaid college tuition program.

“This program helps ease parents’ worries about rising college costs by letting them prepay all or part of their children’s undergraduate tuition and required fees at Texas public colleges or universities at today’s prices,” Combs said.

The enrollment period closes on February 29, 2012. For details, go to texastuitionpromisefund.com.

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