AUSTIN (Nexstar) — This Saturday, being the first day of the new year, 23 new laws officially go into effect in Texas. All were passed by state lawmakers in the spring during the regular 87th Legislative Session.
Most of the controversial bills passed during that session, including the restrictive abortion law making national headlines, already went into effect in September.
The bill with some of the most controversy for Jan. 1 is Senate Bill 23. The Republican authors of the law said it intends to fight against cities trying to “defund the police.”
The bill will require counties with 1 million residents or more to hold a vote before making any changes, whether that be defunding or reallocating, to the main law enforcement agency’s budget.
GOP members explained that will ensure voters have a say in public safety funds, but critics, including State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, argued it impedes on local governance.
“There was no real effort to quote, unquote, ‘defund the police.’ They want to simply reallocate resources and reimagine, so that they could get police reforms. This is a solution in search of a problem. This bill just adds more layers and bureaucracy, and it takes away local control,” Reynolds said.
But Reynolds notes the rest of the bills taking effect Saturday had bipartisan support.
“They’re non-controversial, dealing with property taxes and restaurants and food delivery services,” Reynolds said.
That includes SB 911, which aims to help restaurants across the state. It will make a restaurant that holds certain alcoholic beverage permits or licenses eligible for a food and beverage certificate, aiding with easier access to deliver alcohol but also adding regulations for third-party delivery services.
“The bill says that a third party delivery service can’t charge a restaurant any fees unless they’re previously agreed to in writing, again, just a basic fairness and transparency protection, so that restaurants know exactly what it is they are agreeing to,” Kelsey Erickson Streufert with the Texas Restaurant Association said.
“The bill also says that a third party delivery service must remove a restaurant within 10 days if the restaurant has not agreed to participate, and they reach out and say, ‘please take me off your site off your platform,'” Streufert continued.
She said the bill empowers restaurants and gives them more control with these delivery services. “Now there’s teeth, there’s actual civil, you know, remedies, if a third party delivery service were to violate the law,” Streufert said.
Another bill, SB 794, passed almost unanimously, with only one of the 181 members in both chambers voting against it. It allows a homestead tax exemption for veterans who have been identified as 100% disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We put so much emphasis on our veterans, but then when it came to it, there was this, almost like a loophole, that they weren’t able to take advantage of. This is truly one of those bills that the least that we can do for our veterans and veteran families is to provide this exemption for them,” Reynolds said.
House Bill 115 deals with tax exemptions, too. It will exempt taxes from property owned by charitable organizations that provide housing to people experiencing homelessness. In order to qualify, the organization needs to be established for at least 20 years if it’s located within a county and must provide permanent housing.
And if you have a chicken coop or rabbit pen, HB 2535 will ban tax assessors from including personal chicken coops or rabbit pens from being included in the value of a home.
For a full list of the new laws, you can read here.