AUSTIN -- The 80th Texas Legislature last spring passed 22 pieces of legislation enacting state laws to take effect Jan. 1.
Here is a whittled down version of what just a few of those new laws do, based on analyses published by the House Research Organization and the Senate Research Center.
- HB 271 by Rep. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen, amends the Property Code by requiring a home seller to disclose to a buyer whether they are aware of any previous use of the residence as a methamphetamine lab.
- HB 310 by Rep. Tony Goolsby, R-Dallas, amends the Transportation Code so that a vehicle's license plate and registration transfer with the person selling or trading in that vehicle.
- HB 481 by Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, amends the Transportation Code to allow the seller of a used vehicle to report the sale to TxDOT through the agency's Web site within 30 days, in lieu of filing a written and signed transfer notice. The bill also increases the penalty for the buyer of a used car that did not transfer the title within the 20-business-day grace period.
- HB 538 by Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Katy, amends the Tax Code to allow a property owner to postpone their appraisal protest one time without showing cause, and increasing the postponement period from 15 to 30 days.
- HB 1751 by Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston, amends the Business and Commerce Code and Government Code by imposing a fee of $5 on a sexually oriented business providing live nude entertainment. Up to $25 million in money generated by the fee, per fiscal biennium, goes to the state's sexual assault program fund. The amount of money received from the fee in excess of $25 million goes to the state's general revenue fund.
- HB 3495 by Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, amends the Tax Code regarding the notice of an open meeting at which a governing body of a taxing unit will vote on a tax increase.
The notice now must include:
- Dates on which the first and second public hearings on the proposed tax increase were held;
- Total tax revenue raised at last year's tax rate;
- Amount of total tax revenue proposed to be raised excluding tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll;
- Amount of total tax revenue proposed to be raised including the tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the tax roll;
- The proposed tax rate; and
- The mailing address of the location where the meeting to vote on the tax rate will be held.
A complete listing of new laws taking effect on Jan. 1 can be found by using the bill search function at www.legis.state.tx.us/.
Murdock named Census director
The U.S. Senate on Dec. 20 confirmed Steve H. Murdock as director of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Nominated for the federal agency post by President George W. Bush, Murdock has been based at the University of Texas at San Antonio, serving as director of the Texas State Data Center.
State agency warns of scammers
The Texas Department of Insurance cautions seniors to beware of suspicious sales practices by scammers who represent themselves to be insurance agents.
Be especially cautious of unsolicited contacts in which someone tries to obtain information by asking another to complete studies or surveys or asks nursing home personnel to gather the information, the state agency said.
Agents and companies must be licensed in Texas to sell insurance. To verify a license, call toll-free, 800-252-3439.
TCEQ approves penalties
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Dec. 19 approved penalties totaling $593,897 against 76 regulated entities for violations of environmental regulations.
Among those many violations were 13 for air quality, 14 for municipal waste discharge, 10 for public water system and seven for water quality.
Warning: think before giving drink
Alan Steen of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission reminds folks it is against the law to give alcohol to anyone under 21 (other than your child) even in your own residence, even with parent's permission.
Maximum criminal penalties for violators include up to a $4,000 fine, up to one year in jail and an automatic suspension of a driver's license for six months upon conviction.