Today, some 820 bills passed by the 86th Legislature will officially go into effect.
While most Texans are aware of high-profile bills dealing with property taxes and school finance reform, most bills are much smaller in scope.
Several of these smaller bills have received significant publicity, such as HB 234 allowing children to run lemonade stands without interference from local officials, HB 37 allowing for felony charges for so-called “porch pirates,” or SB 21 which will increase the legal smoking age.
But many others became law today without much fanfare. Here’s a look at some of the lesser-known, and in some cases, more unusual laws that have taken hold in Texas.
Designations of memorial roadways: Every legislative session the legislature names or renames stretches of road as memorials. Effective today, highways and roadways in Hunt, Wharton, Freestone, Brazos, Limestone, Nacogdoches, Titus, Lamar, McLennan, Chambers, El Paso, Lubbock, Maverick, Travis, and Bell Counties will become memorial highways.
There are a total of 26 new designations for highways and roads, each requiring the Texas Department of Transportation to design and install highway markers naming the specific portion or segment of road. The fiscal notes for these bills specify, “it is assumed any costs or duties associated with implementing the provisions of the bill could be absorbed within the agency’s existing resources.”
Park Use Rules: If you violate park use rules you could now be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, but only if the park is in a county with a population of over 2.8 million, or in a county with a population between 410,000 and 455,000 (i.e. Williamson County as of the last U.S. Census).
There was an attempt by the Texas Senate to amend the bill to make the law include all counties with a population over 1 million, but that change was removed in the conference committee.
Texas Firefighters Day: For decades now, dedicated Star Wars fans have celebrated Star Wars day on May 4. Starting next year, however, these dedicated fans in Texas will have to share their day with firefighters. House Bill 1064 amended the Government Code to designate May 4 as “Texas Firefighters Day” and specifies that “Texas Firefighters Day may be regularly observed by appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
Blue Tie Day: Also starting next year, June 13 will be known as “Blue Tie Day.” SB 430 establishes the day to be regularly observed by appropriate ceremonies and activities that promote “men’s health awareness and encourage men to live healthier, longer lives through early detection and treatment of common diseases.”
Bring your dog to lunch: Want to bring your dog with you to lunch? Senate Bill 476 established the conditions under which a restaurant may permit a customer to be accompanied by a dog. Requirements include limiting dogs to outdoor service areas, where a sign has been posted by the establishment stating that dogs are allowed. The dog’s owner is required to keep the dog on a leash, under control, and off of any chairs, tables, or countertops.
Municipalities are prohibited under the new law from imposing rules that are more stringent than those included in SB 476. The bill also clarified that service animals are exempt from the rules.
Harsher penalties for phishing the elderly: HB 883 increased penalties for creating or using a web page or domain name for fraudulent purposes, or sending fraudulent emails. Courts are authorized under the bill to award up to three times the damages if the fraudulent actions adversely affect an “elderly individual,” which is defined elsewhere in the code as an individual over the age of 65.
Event ticket website regulations: Ticket website operators now have new regulations that they will have to comply with starting today. SB 2409 made the use of the names of performers, venues and events in website domain names, or subdomains illegal.
It also prohibits the use of any “substantially similar” name, including misspellings. Using an unallowed name will now be considered a deceptive trade practice, and will be actionable under the Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act.
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Katie Fisher is a licensed attorney and writer with a broad range of political, private sector, and ministry experience. A California transplant, Katie earned her J.D. at the age of 21 from Oak Brook College of Law, subsequently passing the bar exam and going into private law practice. Texas became home when she moved to Houston to serve as the Deputy Director of Delegate Operations for the 2016 Cruz for President campaign. She currently resides in the Austin area with her husband and daughter.