Bill banning abortions at 6 weeks heads to Abbott’s Desk, set to become TX law

A fresh set of laws will go into effect in Texas on Jan. 1. 2020.

During the 2019 legislative session, a number of laws were passed on a wide range of topics. With the new year, we face new requirements around sexual harassment, taxes and bingo.

Harassment at colleges and universities
Senate Bill 212 requires employees of public, private or independent higher education institutions to report allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence or stalking against a student or employee to the institution’s Title IX coordinator. The law will also make it a Class B misdemeanor when an employee who is required to make the report fails to do so. It is enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor if the employee intended to conceal the incident that he or she was required to report. And, institutions cannot discipline or discriminate against an employee who in good faith reports the incident and cooperates with an investigation, disciplinary process or judicial proceeding, unless the employee is the alleged perpetrator.

UT Austin Title IX coordinator Adriana Alicea-Rodriguez recently announced changes to the school’s reporting policy to keep the university in compliance with the new state law. UT Austin’s Title IX office posted the full list of changes on its website.

Post-disaster taxes
House Bill 492 will allow a temporary property tax exemption for a portion of the appraised value of certain property that was damaged by a governor-declared disaster area. The tax exemption is effective if a local governing body chooses to adopt it within 60 days of the governor’s disaster declaration.

Personal data breaches
House Bill 4390 amends the Business and Commerce Code by setting a deadline for when a person who conducts business in Texas or who owns or licenses computerized data with sensitive personal information has to notify individuals of a security breach. The person conducting business will have up to 60 days after the breach to report it. And, if a breach involves at least 250 Texas residents, the person conducting business must also notify the attorney general of the incident and the measures it is taking to handle the breach.

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Bingo fees
House Bill 914 amends the Bingo Enabling Act by eliminating the five percent prize fee for non-cash prizes that are valued at more than $5. The bill will also require licensed authorized organizations that conduct bingo to collect the five percent fee on cash prizes and pay 50 percent of the fees collected to the Texas Commission Lottery on a quarterly basis. Counties and cities can opt in to receive prize fees as well.

Hundreds pack the Pokrok Lodge in the Heights for beer, burgers and bingo

Complaints against nonprofit health groups
House Bill 1532 will require nonprofit health organizations to develop anti-retaliation policies for physicians and submit biennial reports to the Texas Medical Board. On Sept. 1, 2019, this bill also amended the Medical Practice Act to require the Texas Medical Board to accept and process complaints against a certified nonprofit health organization in the same way as it would complaints against a health professional. The TMB can refuse to certify, revoke the certification or impose an administrative penalty against an organization that violates the act.

Surprise medical bill protections
Senate Bill 1264 is designed to help end surprise medical bills. Portions of the bill are already in effect, but the rest will kick in on Jan. 1, 2020. It will require that a “health maintenance organization pay for emergency care performed by non-network physicians or providers in an amount that the organization determines is reasonable for the emergency care.” The bill also mandates that the non-network physician or provider can’t bill the patient and that the patient has no financial responsibility for an amount greater than the patient’s responsibility under his or her health care plan. That includes an applicable copayment, coinsurance or deductible.

Flood funds
Senate Bill 7 will create a flood infrastructure fund and Texas infrastructure resiliency fund that can be used by the Texas Water Development Board to help local governments with matching federal funds used for flood research, planning and mitigation projects following disastrous events such as Hurricane Harvey.