New Texas laws take effect in 2020

TEXARKANA, Texas - A number of new laws go into effect on New Year's Day in Texas.

The new laws all were passed during the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature.

BINGO FEES:

HB 914 changes the prize fees for bingo. A licensed authorized organization no longer has to collect a fee from a person who wins a non-cash prize valued at more than $5. But if a person wins at least $5 CASH as a bingo prize, they must pay a fee of 5% of the prize amount. The licensed authorized organization which collects the prize fee shall give 50% of the fees collected to the Texas Lottery Commission. The revenue collected by the commission from the fee on prizes is considered miscellaneous revenue. Counties and cities can opt in to receive prize fees.

COMPLAINTS FILED AGAINST NONPROFIT HEALTH GROUPS:

House Bill 1532 is designed to require nonprofit health organizations to develop anti-retaliation policies for doctors and submit biennial reports to the Texas Medical Board. The bill passed on Sept. 1, 2019, also amends the Medical Practice Act to require the Texas Medical Board to accept and process complaints against a certified nonprofit health organization the same manner in which it would handle complaints against a health professional.

HARASSMENT AT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES:

Dubbed Senate Bill 212, this new law requires employees at institutions of higher education — be they private, public or independent — to report allegations of dating violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault or stalking made against a student or employee to the institution's Title IX coordinator. Those failing to adhere to the new law would face a Class B misdemeanor charge — upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor if it's found the employee intended to conceal the incident requiring such enhanced reporting standards. Title IX office officials at the University of Texas at Austin diligently posted details of the new law on its website well before it takes effect.

FLOOD FUNDS:

By virtue of its passage, Senate Bill 7 creates a flood infrastructure fund and Texas infrastructure resiliency fund the Texas Water Development Board can then use to help local governments with matching federal funds. Those funds can then be used for flood research, planning and mitigation projects following natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.

POST-DISASTER TAX RELIEF:

House Bill 492 was created to allow a temporary property tax exemption for a portion of an appraised value of property damaged in a disaster area. The tax exemption is effective only after the governor declares the region a disaster area and if a local governing body chooses to adopt it within 60 days of the gubernatorial declaration.

PERSONAL DATA BREACHES:

This new law, House Bill 4390, serves as an amendment to the Business and Commerce Code by setting a deadline for someone conducting business in Texas or who owns or licenses computerized data with sensitive personal information to notify individuals of a security breach. The business operator will have up to 60 days after the breach to report it, in accordance to the new law. Moreover, if a breach involves at least 250 Texas consumers, the person conducting business must also notify the attorney general of the incident along with a detailed list of steps being taken to mitigate the breach.

SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS:

Senate Bill 1264 was created to protect consumers toward ending surprise medical bills. Related legislation already has taken effect, and this addendum is set to become law at the beginning of the year. The law requires health maintenance organization pay for emergency care performed by non-network physicians or providers in an amount the HMO deems reasonable for the emergency care. Another mandate called for in the new law is a ban on the non-network physician or provider on billing a patient. It also outlines provisions centered on patients having no financial responsibility for an amount greater than their responsibility under their health care plan — including a co-payment, co-insurance or deductible.

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