Interesting Texas Laws that Took Effect January 1, 2024

The 88th Texas legislature passed 31 bills that took effect on January 1, but that is not the total number of bills passed in 2023. Over 700 bills passed and took effect in September, October, November, and December 2023. The bills we refer to here took effect on January 1, 2024. 

We can easily access all laws and statutes online. When a bill passes, it becomes an act or a law. Easy online access does not mean these acts are easy to understand. Some bills are short and simple, and some bills are quite convoluted. It is not easy to understand the text of many bills. 

Visiting the state law library is inconvenient for many Texans, as it calls Austin its home. We are subject to some interesting new laws in Texas in 2024. If someone wants help to understand any Texas law, new or old, they can visit, call, mail, or email a librarian at the Texas State Law Library from its “Ask a Librarian” website. 

Chapters in bills that become laws are a set of requirements with sections of subdivisions that can be a list, a single sentence, or a paragraph(s). All sources for this information come from and The Texas State Historical Society (TSHA). 

Senate Bill 17

One of the most welcome 2024 laws for rural Texans is the official ousting of DEI offices, etc. at public universities and colleges. Senate Bill 17 prohibits a public institution of higher education from establishing or maintaining a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) office. 

This law goes on (along with other requirements) to protect students and employees from the institution, “giving preference on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin to an applicant for employment, an employee, or a participant in any function of the institution…[or] requiring any person to participate in DEI training as a condition of enrolling at the institution or performing any institution function.”

There are penalties for non-compliance and the universities had to close university-led student DEI support programs. Texans might think, “Finally! That’s the end of that.” This law attacks DEI ideology, and universities report that the law will make hiring faculty more difficult. But, Texas universities have planned and prepared escape routes.

For example, Neal Smatresk, president of UNT in Denton, emailed students on December 1, 2023, that the university is establishing a “Center for Belonging and Engagement” to promote “inclusivity”. UNT rolled its Offices of Title IX, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Affirmative Action into its Division of Finance and Administration. 

UNT also moved the staff and “future work” of the Multicultural Center and Pride Alliance into Student Affairs. UT Dallas dismantled its DEI office and established its Office of Campus Resources and Support. UT Dallas President Richard Benson reported that all DEI hires will retain their jobs, and that he is committed to DEI goals.  

House Bill 2323

How many Texans today do you think know the lyrics to the Texas State Song? Texans can order a new specialty license plate that the Texas State Law Library says is the 100th anniversary of the writing of Texas, Our Texas, the Texas State Song. But, 2023 is not the true anniversary; 2023 is when the idea for a state song hit the governor.

William J. Marsh, known as John, from Liverpool, England, composed the song’s music in 1924. He became a professor and choir director at Texas Christian University and published over 100 works of primarily classical and sacred songs. John and Gladys Yoakum Wright wrote the lyrics for the Texas state song. 

Gladys hailed from Greenville, Texas, and moved to Ft. Worth after her father died and her mother married Charles H. Yoakum, an attorney and a member of the Texas legislature. Gladys wrote outstanding poetry, and she was extremely patriotic to Texas values. She truly loved Texas.

Governor Pat Neff, Texas’ 28th governor, believed Texas should adopt a state song in 1923. The Texas legislature adopted the bluebonnet in 1901, the northern mockingbird in 1927, and the pecan tree in 1906 as state symbols before it adopted Texas, Our Texas in 1929. 

Texas has adopted 19 state symbols since Texas became a nation in 1836. Governor Neff challenged Texans to write a song for the state song and donated a $1,000 prize for the winner. He received 286 submissions, and it took him two days to choose the song. 

Mrs. Wright and Mr. Marsh collaborated to compete in the competition at the urging of friends. The 44th Texas Legislature adopted the song in 1929. It would be 1930 before John and Gladys found out their song had won the contest. We hope this information piques your curiosity to learn the lyrics to Texas, Our Texas or at least listen to it.

House Bill 614

What Texas resident loves their Homeowner Association (HOA)? Absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton, 1887). Homeowners have published entire series of videos on social media platforms capturing the inane and insane demands of people who serve on HOA boards from cams like Amazon’s Ring. Surely this bill will alleviate the issues torturing homeowners in HOAs.

HOA policies must delineate general categories of restrictive covenants that the association may assess as fines, list the amount of fines for each category of violation, and provide information on hearings. Legislators designed this act to ensure clear communication occurs when an HOA levies one of its outrageously expensive fines. 

Under this act, an HOA policy must include:

  • “General categories of restrictive covenants for which the association may assess fines.
  • A schedule of the fine for each category of violation.
  • Information regarding hearings before the board to discuss and verify facts and resolve a violation.

This statute requires each property owners' association to do the following with respect to the enforcement policy:

  • Provide a copy of the policy to an owner of each property in the subdivision by:
  • Posting the policy on a website maintained by the association or an agent acting on the association's behalf that is accessible to association members; or
  • Annually sending a copy of the policy, separately or included in routine communication from the association to property owners, by personal delivery, mail, or email in the manner prescribed by the bill; and
  • Make the policy available on any publicly accessible website maintained by the association or by an agent acting on the association's behalf.”

House Bill 4500

This bill relates “to electronic verification of health benefits by benefit plan issuers (health insurance companies) for certain physicians and health care providers.” This is a complex law with numerous chapters. In essence, the legislators designed this law to help doctors understand patient insurance plans. 

Health insurance providers must create internet portals that doctors and health care providers can connect with to find out if the patient’s medical conditions are covered, and it lets doctors, etc. know the patient’s copay, deductible, and coinsurance where applicable. 

Most patients already do this, but this process means patients should probably ask why this procedure and not that one is their treatment/care plan after their prognosis. And also, if a patient goes to a doctor, an urgent care facility, an ER, or the hospital, their healthcare professionals can already know or quickly find out what treatment is going to be paid for according to the patient’s health insurance policy.

House Bill 796

This bill relates “to the creation and maintenance by an appraisal district of a publicly available Internet database of information regarding protest hearings conducted by the appraisal review board established for the district”. Basically, this bill requires appraisal districts to follow legal procedures when people protest their property tax raises.  

The law amends SECTION 1. Section 26.17(c), Tax Code and states, “The chief appraiser of each appraisal district shall create and maintain a publicly available and searchable Internet database that contains information regarding protest hearings conducted by the appraisal review board established for the district.”

This bill continues with a long list of data the appraisal district must record, and allows easy access to protest hearings procedures after citizens protest their property taxes. We read this law and did not see that this law makes it easier for citizens to fight rising property taxes, only that the data is publically available after protest hearings. 

Senate Bill 1381 

This law allows specific ad valorem tax exemptions on homes to be transferred to a person’s spouse after they die if the spouse is 65 years or older. In other words, the surviving spouse does not need to reapply for their deceased spouse’s tax exemptions if they are 65-plus years old. The legal term “ad valorem” refers to property or possession that have a taxable value.

House Bill 4077

This act makes the local appraisal district responsible for automatically applying homestead exemptions to property taxes of seniors 65-plus. Seniors no longer need to apply for homestead exemptions. 

House Bill 2354

If a landowner dies and leaves property to their surviving spouse or child, the state does not consider the property as having transferred ownership, which means the spouse or child does not have to pay ad valorem taxes on the value of the property. 

Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 3

Texas historically has almost always had a budget surplus! Senate Bill 2 “prohibits the governing body of a school district, municipality, or county that adopted a local option general residence homestead exemption for the 2022 tax year from reducing the amount of or repealing the exemption.” 

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced, “Senate Bill 3 increases the threshold before small businesses are required to pay and file franchise taxes. 67,000 small businesses will no longer be burdened by the franchise tax all together so our businesses can continue to grow jobs and power the Texas economy forward.”

These acts allocate $18 billion dollars of Texas’ budget surplus to decrease school district property tax rates. They will affect and reduce property taxes for seniors and disabled people, and school district taxes for small to medium businesses. They increase homestead exemptions for Texas homeowners, increase Franchise Tax exemptions, and increase appraisal caps for small businesses. 

House Bill 1058

This act gives tax credits to businesses and people who invest in low-income housing.

House Bill 4645 

This act makes available tax exemptions on construction of low-income housing, even if they are leasing the land the construction takes place on. HB 1058 and HB 4645 can be a warning for homeowners and brick and mortar business to become aware of where charities are building low-income housing.

House Bill 456 

This act allows for tax exemptions for charitable organizations from taxes on certain interests of mineral rights on properties they own.

Senate Bill 1780 

This act “sets out provisions and revises current law to provide for the online notarization by an online notary public of tangible instruments or electronic documents that are notarized by the online notary public with a tangible symbol and not an electronic signature.” Texans can notarize documents without having a witness and the signer in the same physical space.

House Bill 4578

This law relates “to a prohibition on certain e-cigarette products; creating a criminal offense.” It makes marketing e-cigarettes to minors a class B misdemeanor if they employ advertising strategies attractive to minors. The law states, "…marketing, advertising, selling, or causing to be sold an e-cigarette product in certain containers that are designed to appeal to minors."

This law means e-cigarette packaging cannot:

  • Depict a cartoon-like fictional character that mimics a character primarily aimed at entertaining minors.
  • Imitate or mimics trademarks or trade dress of products that are or have been primarily marketed to minors.
  • Include a symbol that is primarily used to market  products to minors.
  • Include an image of a celebrity.
  • Include an image that resembles a food product, including candy or juice.

House Bill 3186

Juveniles charged with class C misdemeanors (petty theft, alcohol possession, etc.) can now enroll in “diversion plans” instead of paying fines. The programs can include community service or mandatory mental health treatment. Parents have to consent, and the minor offender is eligible for these programs once every 365 days. 

Minors are ineligible if the state attorney objects or the juvenile has not successfully completed a previous diversion program. This law requires justices and municipal courts to develop their diversion plans, and the courts can hire a youth diversion coordinator to monitor program participants.

Previously, municipal courts and judges were only allowed to order diversion programs after they convicted or deferred a minor offender. 

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