Nearly 10,000 bills were introduced in Texas this year. Let’s take a look at some of the more-interesting ones.

New Texas Laws for 2021

From police reform to legalized gambling and alcohol sales to digital license plates, here’s a small sampling of the bills filed during Texas’ 87th legislative session.

The 87th Texas Legislature began on Jan. 12, 2021 and officially concluded on May 31st, 2021 (although Gov. Abbott has just announced a special legislative session to begin on July 8th, 2021). With nearly 10,000 bills filed this year, it can be difficult to keep up—especially when they’re written in confusing legalese. Today, we figured we’d highlight some of these new proposed laws and explain exactly what they mean in simple terms.

Not all of these bills will become law. In, fact, most of them won’t. Any bills in this list which have passed both the house and senate (or which have already been signed into law) have been updated below, and we’ll continue to update this page as more bills are signed into law over the coming weeks.

This article highlights about 150 different proposed bills, but we’ve grouped them into several categories. Click the links below if you’d like to jump to a specific section:

If you have questions or concerns, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page. While our law firm solely focuses on car accidents and personal injury law, we’ll do our best to provide answers—or at least point you in the right direction.

DRIVING & TRANSPORTATION

"Colten's Law"

Texas House Bill 558 (HB 558) — Introduced 11/13/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1287 (HB 1287) — Introduced 01/22/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1674 (HB 1674) — Introduced 02/08/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 558 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/18/2021.

In 2017, Colten Carney was struck and killed by a motorist while walking to work in Royse City, Texas. Carney’s body was tested for the presence of drugs and alcohol, but the motorist involved in the accident was not. Currently, Texas law leaves it up to the individual law enforcement officer to decided whether or not to conduct a blood alcohol test on a motorist when they hit a pedestrian.

HB558 seeks to amend Section 724.012 of the Texas Transportation Code to state that a peace officer shall require the taking of a specimen of the person’s blood if:

  1. The officer arrests the person for an offense under Chapter 49, Penal Code, involving the operation of a motor vehicle or a watercraft;
  2. The person refuses the officer’s request to submit to the taking of a specimen voluntarily;
  3. The person was the operator of a motor vehicle or a watercraft involved in an accident that the officer reasonably believes occurred as a result of the offense; and
  4. At the time of the arrest, the officer reasonably believes that as a direct result of the accident any individual has died, will die, or has suffered serious bodily injury.

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

The "Lisa Torry Smith" Act

Texas Senate Bill 1055 (SB 1055) — Introduced 03/04/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 2081 (HB 2081) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: SENATE BILL 1055 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/18/2021.

Lisa Torry Smith was hit and killed by a vehicle in October 2017 while walking in a crosswalk with her 6-year-old son. The driver responsible for the incident was cited with failure to yield, but was never charged. Two years later, the district attorney’s office presented evidence to a grand jury asking that they charge the accused driver with criminally negligent homicide. The grand jury declined to indict the defendant.

The Lisa Torry Smith Act (HB2081 & SB1055) seeks to provide greater protection for pedestrians by amending Subchapter I, Chapter 545 of Texas’ Transportation Code to add a section on “motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians or other vulnerable road used within an area of crosswalk.”

If passed, the bills would make it a Class A misdemeanor to cause bodily injury to a pedestrian or a person operating a bicycle, motor-assisted scooter, electronic personal assistive mobility device, neighborhood electric vehicle, or golf cart while negligently operating a motor vehicle within the area of a crosswalk. The offense would be upgraded to a state jail felony if the victim suffered “serious bodily injury.”

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing Programs

Texas House Bill 113 (HB 113) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 2106 (SB 2106) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 113 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/09/2021.

HB113 would amend Texas’ Business & Commerce Code to allow for peer-to-peer car sharing programs (a business platform that connects owners with drivers to enable vehicle sharing for financial consideration) to operate within the State of Texas.

The bill seeks to establish basic guidelines, outline responsibilities, insurance requirements, record retention policies, and more.

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021, but will not affect the enforceability of any provision in an insurance policy delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed before 01/01/2022.

Cell Phone Usage While Operating a Motor Vehicle

Texas Senate Bill 42 (SB 42) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

In 2017, Texas passed a law banning drivers from “electronic messaging” via a portable wireless communication device (i.e., a phone) while operating a motor vehicle. This law notably only applies to drivers “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages,” and does not address various other actions like browsing the internet, entering an address into Google Maps, scrolling through a music playlist, etc.

SB42, if passed, would seek to expand on this law by banning all hand-held mobile phone usage while driving (except when necessary to contact emergency services). Drivers would still be permitted to use dedicated GPS devices, dash cams, and (if 18 or older) hands-free communication devices.

While the existing law still permits motorists to read, write, and sending electronic messages while their vehicle is stopped, SB42 also clarifies this section by adding “stopped outside a lane of travel.

Preemption of Local Texting & Driving Ordinances

Texas House Bill 86 (HB 86) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

This bill seeks to disallow cities, counties and municipalities from enforcing more-restrictive laws or regulations relating to the use of wireless communication devices (i.e., phones) while operating a motor vehicle. Many cities in Texas currently have hands-free ordinances on the books, but if passed, HB86 would effectively make these local laws unenforceable.

Prohibiting Police Profiling of Motorcyclists

Texas House Bill 1837 (HB 1837) — Introduced 02/11/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 2141 (SB 2141) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB1837 & SB2141 both seek to amend Chapter 2 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure in order address (and prevent) “motorcycle profiling” by law enforcement officers.

If passed, these bills would prohibit law enforcement officers from initiating actions (e.g., traffic stops) based, in whole or in part, on an individual operating a motorcycle or wearing motorcycle-related or motorcycle club-related paraphernalia—rather than on the individual’s behavior or on information identifying the individual as having engaged in criminal activity.

The bills further state that officers who violate this law may face civil actions (lawsuits) brought by the defendant in order to recover damages arising from said profiling (including attorney’s fees and litigation costs), as well as injunctions against future violations of this law. A peace officer may not assert official immunity as a defense to liability, and the officer’s governmental unit would also be liable to such a suit under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Designation of "Highway Safety Corridors"

Texas House Bill 795 (HB 795) — Introduced 12/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1946 (HB 1946) — Introduced 02/17/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, both HB795 & HB1946 would allow municipalities and/or counties in Texas to name portions of a roadway containing high numbers of traffic fatalities as “highway safety corridors.” Like construction zones, traffic offenses occurring in a designated highway safety corridor would result in fines being doubled.

Prohibiting Police Traffic Stops on Highway Shoulders

Texas House Bill 2452 (HB 2452) — Introduced 03/01/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB2452 would amend Chapter 2 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure in order to require each law enforcement agency in the state to “adopt a policy prohibiting a peace officer of the agency from making a motor vehicle stop on the shoulder of a controlled access highway.”

Lowering Residential Speed Limits

Texas House Bill 442 (HB 442) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 3877 (HB 3877) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB442, if passed, would effectively lower the prima facie speed limit of any residential street in Texas (located within in a municipality and not officially designated or marked as part of the state highway system) from 30 miles per hour down to 25 miles per hour.

HB3877 seeks to lower the prima facie speed limit of any urban district street in Texas city with a population greater than 950,000 to 25 miles per hour on a street other than an alley, and 15 miles per hour in an alley.

Additional Restrictions on Motorized Scooter Usage

Texas House Bill 934 (HB 934) — Introduced 01/04/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB934 seeks to modify Section 551.352 of the Texas Transportation Code in order to add additional restrictions on operating motor-assisted scooters within the state of Texas. If passed, the bill would:

  • Restrict anyone from riding a motorized scooter (gas or electric) on a roadway unless the posted speed limit is 30 mph or less (currently the limit is 35 mph or less).
  • Restrict motorized scooter usage to bicycle lanes, if and when available.
  • Allow motorized scooters to be ridden on sidewalks.
  • Limit motorized scooters to one rider at a time.
  • Set a maximum speed of 15 mph for standing scooters (or 20 mph for seated scooters).
  • Require motorized scooter riders to yield the right of way to pedestrians.

The bill also seeks to allow counties and municipalities to further restrict the speed at which a person may operate a motor-assisted scooter, the locations a person may operate a motor-assisted scooter, locations a person may park a scooter, a minimum age requirement, higher civil and criminal penalties for traffic law violations, as well as the requirement that riders wear a safety helmet.

Vehicles Passing Pedestrians or Cyclists

Texas House Bill 554 (HB 554) — Introduced 11/12/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1290 (SB 1290) — Introduced 03/09/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB554 & SB1290 both seek to add a section to the Texas Transportation Code outlining rules for motor vehicles when passing pedestrians or bicycle operators on a roadway. If passed, the bills would:

  • Establish a “safe distance” of at least three (3) feet when passing pedestrians/cyclists in a car or light truck, and six (6) feet for operators of large trucks and commercial vehicles.
  • Require that motor vehicles move to another lane (if available) to pass bicycle riders on a roadway.
  • HB554 would also allow motorists to cross over to the left of pavement striping within a designed no-passing zone in order to safely pass a pedestrian or cyclist.

Stopping and Yielding to Pedestrians

Texas House Bill 443 (HB 443) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

While it’s true that the Texas Transportation Code already requires drivers to “yield the right of way” to pedestrians lawfully using a crosswalk (marked or unmarked). HB443 seeks to require drivers to not only yield, but to “stop and yield the right of way.”

Move Over / Slow Down for Additional Types of Vehicles

Texas House Bill 555 (HB 555) — Introduced 11/12/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Texas’ current “Move Over / Slow Down” law states that motorists who are approaching a stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, or highway maintenance/construction vehicle must vacate the lane closest to the vehicle if the road has two or more lanes, or to slow down to 20 mph less than the posted speed limit.

If passed, HB555 seeks to expand on this law by applying it to additional types of stationary vehicles adjacent to a highway, such as utility service vehicles and vehicles used exclusively to transport municipal solid waste or recyclable material.

Insurance Practices Related to Motor Vehicle Repairs

Texas House Bill 1131 (HB 1131) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB1131 seeks to add additional restrictions on certain insurance practices related to the repair of a motor vehicle following an accident and/or property damage claim. The bill would amend Chapter 1952 of the Texas Insurance Code to (among other things) restrict insurers and adjusters from:

  • Requiring that a vehicle be repaired with a part or product on the basis that it’s the least expensive part or product available.
  • Requiring that a part or product be purchased from any vendor or supplier on the basis that the part or product is the least expensive part or product available.
  • Intimidating, coercing, or threatening a beneficiary or claimant to induce them to use a particular repair person or facility.
  • Offering an incentive or inducement (other than a warranty issued by a repair person or facility) for the beneficiary or claimant to use a particular repair person or facility.
  • Offering, communicating, or suggesting in any manner that a particular repair person or facility will provide faster repair times, faster service, or more efficient claims handling than another repair person or facility.
  • Disregarding a repair operation or cost identified by an estimating system, including the system’s procedural pages and any repair, process, or procedure recommended by the original equipment manufacturer of a part or product.

Authorizing License Plate Readers to Identify Uninsured Drivers

Texas House Bill 1119 (HB 1119) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB1119 seeks to amend Chapter 601 of the Texas Transportation Code to establish the “Texas Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Program,” which would use automatic license plate reader systems to help law enforcement agencies identify uninsured motor vehicles.

This would include the installation of automatic license plate reader systems on “appropriate infrastructure” owned by this state or a political subdivision of this state (including traffic signals, highway signs, bridges, and overpasses). The program would collect captured plate data, and permit peace officers to issue citations for failing to maintain financial responsibility.

No Front License Plates Required

Texas House Bill 502 (HB 502) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1199 (HB 1199) — Introduced 01/19/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1274 (HB 1274) — Introduced 01/22/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB502, HB1199 & HB1274 all seek to allow motor vehicle owners in Texas to display a license plate only on the rear of a motor vehicle.

If passed, HB502 would amend Section 504.010 of the Texas Transportation Code to authorize the department to collect a fee of $50 per year from drivers who do not wish to display a front license plate on their registered vehicle. The bill would also require that these vehicles display a distinctive insignia (issued by the department) on the windshield for validation of that authorization. The annual $50 fee will be deposited into the state highway fund.

HB1199 & HB1274, if passed, would also amend Section 504.010 of the Texas Transportation Code to state that “a person is entitled to operate on a public highway a passenger car or light truck that displays only one license plate if the plate is attached at the rear of the vehicle,” and that “the department shall issue only one license plate for attachment at the rear of a passenger car or light truck for which the plate is issued.”

Allowing Digital License Plates

Texas House Bill 1105 (HB 1105) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 2367 (HB 2367) — Introduced 02/26/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

While many people don’t know this, digital license plates are already allowed under Texas law—just not for passenger vehicles. Digital license plates are currently only allowed if the vehicle is part of a commercial fleet or owned by a government entity.

If passed, HB1105 would amend Section 504.010 of the Texas Transportation Code to remove these restrictions, effectively opening up this option to all motor vehicles registered in Texas.

HB2367, on the other hand, seeks to amend Section 504.002 of the Texas Transportation Code to state that “the department shall allow a vehicle registered under Chapter 502 to be equipped with a license plate that utilizes integrated circuit technology.”

Eliminating Tolls After Toll Roads are Paid Off

Texas House Bill 1117 (HB 1117) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 756 (SB 756) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 3497 (HB 3497) — Introduced 03/10/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Many drivers are frustrated with the increasing number of toll-funded highway projects in the state, as well as the fact that our state’s oldest toll roads still collect fees from drivers even though the road has long since been “paid off.”

Each of the bills listed above seek to change this by amending Chapter 372 of the Texas Transportation Code. If passed, the bill would add language requiring tolls to be removed once the costs of acquisition and construction of the project have been paid. The bill would also disallow toll project entities from amending financial (or other) agreements in a manner that would extend said payoff date.

Under HB1117, once a toll road is paid off, the road would become part of the state highway system and must be maintained by the commission (or shall continue to be maintained by the entity operating the project if certain criteria is not met).

Roadside Memorial Signs Dedicated to Victims of Car Accidents

Texas House Bill 1574 (HB 1574) — Introduced 02/04/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Texas currently has a “memorial sign program” allowing loved ones to publicly memorialize victims of alcohol or controlled substance-related car accidents through the erection of a roadside memorial sign. These signs read “Please Don’t Drink and Drive” followed by “In Memory Of” and the name(s) of the victim(s). If approved, the sign may remain posted for a period of two (2) years.

HB1574, if passed, seeks to amend Section 201.909 of the Texas Transportation Code to extend the period in which these signs may be posted from two (2) years to ten (10) years.

Prohibiting Exhaust Systems Which are Louder Than Stock

Texas House Bill 2540 (HB 2540) — Introduced 03/02/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 3918 (HB 3918) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB2540 seeks to amend Section 547.605(c) of Texas’ Transportation Code to state that the owner or operator of a passenger car or light truck manufactured after 1967 may not modify the exhaust system (or a part of the system) in a manner that the owner or operator “knows or should know will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the motor of the vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle.”

Similarly, HB3918 seeks to require that all motor vehicle mufflers not emit a sound of more than 95 decibels, measured 20 inches from the tailpipe, while the vehicle is operating in neutral between 3,000 and 5,000 RPM.

Changing the Terminology from "Car Accidents" to "Car Crashes"

Texas House Bill 3325 (HB 3325) — Introduced 03/09/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1945 (SB 1945) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

The majority of motor vehicle collisions are caused by acts of negligence. Characterizing collisions as “accidents” can send the wrong message, as (by definition) the word may imply that a collision was the fault of nobody in particular.

If passed, HB3325 & SB1945 both seek to amend several sections of Texas’ Transportation Code (as well as portions of Texas’ Business & Commerce Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Penal Code, Education Code, Family Code, Government Code, Insurance Code, and Occupations Code) in order to replace the word “accident” (when used to describe a motor vehicle collision) with the word “crash.”

Allowing Cyclists & Motorcyclists to Proceed Through Certain Red Lights

Texas Senate Bill 1737 (SB 1737) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

SB1737 seeks to amend Section 544.007 of Texas’ Transportation Code in order to allow cyclists and motorcyclists to proceed through a traffic-actuated red light if the traffic-control signal fails to register the motorcycle or bicycle. The operator of the bicycle or motorcycle must come to a full and complete stop at the intersection, exercise due care as provided law, and may only proceed through the intersection when it is safe to do so.

Addressing Non-Signaled Intersections Prone to Crashes

Texas House Bill 3990 (HB 3990) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB3990 seeks to address non-signaled intersections in the state which commonly lead to right-angle (T-bone) crashes. If passed, the bill would require law enforcement officers who investigate a right-angle collision at an uncontrolled intersection to file a written report with the Texas Department of Transportation. If, during any 12-month period, TxDOT receives 10 or more of these reports for a single intersection, they shall perform a traffic study of that location and take actions determined reasonable and necessary to improve safety at the location.

PERSONAL INJURY & CIVIL LAW

Shielding Trucking Companies From Liability in an 18-Wheeler Crash

Texas House Bill 19 (HB 19) — Introduced 03/19/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 17 (SB 17) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 19 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/16/2021.

HB19 seeks to amend Chapter 72 of Texas’ Civil Practice and Remedies Code in order to shift liability away from transportation companies and onto individual drivers when it comes to 18-wheeler truck accident claims or lawsuits.

Texas law currently allows for truck accident victims to pursue damages against both the commercial truck driver as well as the transportation company who hired the driver—if it can be shown that their negligence (e.g., lax vetting of hired drivers, pushing drivers past their hours-of-service limits, failure to maintain their fleet, etc.) likely played a role in the crash.

HB19 would effectively give trucking companies room to sidestep important safety precautions that demonstrably reduce the likelihood of a preventable crash, and instead shift the blame solely onto their drivers. The bill not only seeks to set limitations on the amount of damages plaintiffs can seek following a serious 18-wheeler accident, but would also put limitations on what information can be admitted as evidence.

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Preventing Hospital Liens from Exceeding Amount Recovered in Trial

Texas House Bill 2064 (HB 2064) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 2064 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/16/2021.

Hospitals often place liens on claims where a victim receives medical services for injuries caused by an accident that’s attributed to the negligence of another person. Currently, such hospital liens may not exceed:

  1. The amount of the hospital’s charges for services provided to the injured individual during the first 100 days of the injured individual’s hospitalization; or
  2. 50 percent of all amounts recovered by the injured individual through a cause of action, judgment, or settlement.

If passed, HB2064 would also add that such hospital liens may not exceed “the amount awarded by the trier of fact for the services provided to the injured individual by the hospital, less the pro rata share of attorney’s fees and expenses the injured individual incurred in pursuing the claim.”

Now passed, this law takes effect immediately.

Allowing Therapy Animals in Certain Court Proceedings

Texas House Bill 1071 (HB 1071) — Introduced 01/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 1071 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/03/2021.

HB1071 seeks to allow any party to an action filed in a court in this state to petition the court to authorize a “qualified facility dog” or “qualified therapy animal” to be present with a witness who is testifying before the court. The court may authorize this only if the presence of the dog or animal will “assist the witness in providing testimony,” the party petitioning for the order provides proof of liability insurance coverage in effect for the dog or animal, and the party petitions the court no later than the 14th day before the date of the court proceeding.

A handler who is trained to manage the qualified facility dog or qualified therapy animal must accompany the dog or animal at a court proceeding, and courts may impose additional restrictions during the court proceeding.

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Increasing Certain Civil Court Costs

Texas Senate Bill 41 (SB 41) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: SENATE BILL 41 WAS PASSED ON 06/14/2021 WITHOUT THE GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE.

If passed, SB41 seeks to increase the filing fee for civil lawsuits filed in county court, statutory county court, county court at law, probate court, statutory probate court, or district court in Texas. This fee (which increases to $50 in some cases) does not apply to a suit filed by any governmental entity or to a suit for delinquent taxes.

Now passed, this law will take effect on 01/01/2022.

Prohibiting "Swoop and Settle" Insurance Settlement Tactics

Texas House Bill 1793 (HB 1793) — Introduced 02/10/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Auto insurance companies will often contact car accident victims within hours of an accident claim being filed in order to offer them a quick (lowball) settlement offer. Often referred to as “swoop and settle” tactics, the objective is to get the victim to agree to settle their claim before they’re even able to see a doctor or get an estimate on repair costs. If the victim simply says “yes” to any such settlement, under Texas law, they’ve legally settled their claim. Even if their damages later turn out to be much higher than they initially thought, the insurance company is no longer obligated to pay any additional compensation.

HB1793 seeks to amend Title 10 of Texas’ Insurance Code in order to prohibit auto insurance companies from obtaining “oral releases” for claims arising out of property damage or an injury for which an insurer may be liable under an automobile insurance policy. If passed, any and all insurance claim release agreements made in exchange for money or other consideration will no longer be enforceable unless the contract is in writing.

Adding Diminished Value to Liability Auto Insurance Policies

Texas House Bill 552 (HB 552) — Introduced 11/12/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If enacted, HB552 would modify Section 601.072(a-1)(3) of the Texas Transportation Code to specify that any diminution of value (diminished value) as the result of a crash must be included when assessing the property damage portion of a motor vehicle accident claim.

Recovery of Medical or Health Care Expenses in Civil Actions

Texas Senate Bill 207 (SB 207) — Introduced 11/17/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1617 (HB 1617) — Introduced 02/05/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Both SB207 & HB1617 seek to amend Section 41.0105 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code to provide additional limits on recovering economic damages (e.g., medical expenses) in civil cases. If passed, the bills would allow defendants to introduce evidence of the “reasonableness” of the amount charged for medical or health care services provided to the plaintiff, including:

  • The amount actually paid for the medical or health care services.
  • The amount billed by the medical or health care provider.
  • The amount paid, the amount that would have been paid, or the amount likely to be paid for the medical or health care services by a health benefit plan, workers’ compensation insurance, an employer-provided plan, Medicaid, Medicare, or another similar source available.
  • The average amount typically paid or allowed by health benefit plan issuers or governmental payers at or near the time the medical or health care services were provided.
  • The average of the amounts actually accepted for payment in the previous 12 months by the medical or health care provider for the same services.

Settlements of Certain Claims on Behalf of a Minor

Texas House Bill 903 (HB 903) — Introduced 12/22/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB903 seeks to amend the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code in order to allow a person with legal custody of a minor to settle a civil claim on the child’s behalf (as long as the settlement is $25,000 or less) without the need to appoint a guardian ad litem.

The person entering into the settlement agreement on behalf of the minor must complete an affidavit or verified statement that attests that to the best of the person’s knowledge, the minor will be fully compensated by the settlement, or that there is no practical way to obtain additional amounts from the party entering into the settlement agreement with the minor.

If the minor or the person entering into the settlement agreement on behalf of the minor is represented by an attorney (and the money payable under the settlement agreement is paid in cash) the payment must be made by direct deposit into the attorney’s trust account maintained under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct to be held for the benefit of the minor.

If the minor or the person entering into the settlement agreement on behalf of the minor is not represented by an attorney (and the money payable under the settlement agreement is paid in cash) the payment must be made directly into a federally insured savings account that earns interest and is in the sole name of the minor.

The money placed in a minor’s savings account, trust account, or trust subaccount may not be withdrawn, removed, paid out, or transferred to any person, including the minor, except pursuant to a court order, on the minor’s 18th birthday, or upon the minor’s death.

Providing Pro Bono Legal Services to Veterans and Service Members

Texas House Bill 476 (HB 476) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB476 seeks to expand the use of the “fund for veterans’ assistance” to allow the Texas Veterans Commission to make grants to provide pro bono legal services to veterans, active duty members of the United States armed forces, and members of the state military forces.

Recovery Under Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims

Texas House Bill 359 (HB 359) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1935 (SB 1935) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Under current Texas law, in order for an accident victim to recover compensation through their uninsured or under-insured auto insurance policy, there must first be a judgment or other legal determination establishing the other motorist’s liability or the extent of the insured’s damages.

If passed, both HB359 & SB1935 seek to amend Subchapter C, Chapter 1952 of Texas’ Insurance Code in order to remove this prerequisite.

Increasing Limits on Compensation in Small Claims Court

Texas Senate Bill 419 (SB 419) — Introduced 01/25/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

In Texas’ last legislative session two years ago, lawmakers passed a bill into law which increased the maximum amount of money that one can recover in small claims court (called “justice court” in Texas) from $10,000 to $20,000. If passed, SB419 seeks to again increase this limit from $20,000 to $50,000.

Safety Requirements for Amusement Ride Operators

Texas House Bill 205 (HB 205) — Introduced 02/25/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB205, if passed, seeks to modify Chapter 2151 of the Texas Occupations Code in order to require that amusement ride operators be trained in the proper use and operation of the ride, and to be at least 16 years of age. This bill also seeks to disallow ride operators from simultaneously operating more than one amusement ride at a time.

Offsetting Amounts Paid in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Claims

Texas House Bill 804 (HB 804) — Introduced 03/01/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Normally in a motor vehicle accident, if a passenger files a “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP) claim against the owner/operator of a vehicle they were riding in, the insurance company is entitled to an offset/credit/deduction equal to the amount they paid out.

HB804 seeks to amend this law so that the insurer is only entitled to an offset/credit/deduction if and when they have paid out the full amount of the applicable liability policy limits.

Increasing Damage Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases

Texas House Bill 501 (HB 501) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

In September of 2003, Texas passed a law which substantially limited the amount of compensation that medical malpractice victims can seek from a physician or health care provider in civil court. Since this time, the noneconomic damages portion of a victim’s claim have been limited to an amount not to exceed $250,000—regardless of whether or not the plaintiff was awarded more in court.

HB501 seeks to adjust these arbitrary caps equal to any increase or decrease in the consumer price index—which measures the average changes in prices of goods and services purchased by urban wage earners—since September of 2003. If passed, HB501 would effectively raise the caps on noneconomic damages from $250,000 to upwards of $350,000.

Requiring Disclosure of Insurance Policy Limits to 3rd-Party Claimants

Texas House Bill 1682 (HB 1682) — Introduced 02/08/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If you’re involved in an auto accident, under current Texas law, the other driver’s insurance company has no obligation to disclose the limits of their insured’s applicable liability policy (the total amount of money available to compensate a victim). The only way to compel an insurance company to reveal their driver’s policy limits is by filing an actual lawsuit.

Insurance companies claim that this information is irrelevant and immaterial to a pre-suit claim, while plaintiffs lawyers argue that it can help facilitate settlement and avoid needless litigation.

HB1682, if passed, would amend Chapter 542 of Texas’ Insurance Code in order to require insurance companies to disclose their insured’s policy information to 3rd-party claimants upon written request. It would also require policyholders who receive a written request for policy information from a claimant to disclose the name of their insurance company and type of coverage provided by their insurer.

Increase in Death Benefits Paid Under Workers' Compensation

Texas House Bill 243 (HB 243) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Similar to HB501 (above), HB243 seeks to adjust the amount of death benefits awarded in workers’ compensation cases equal the percentage increase (if any) in the Consumer Price Index. The commissioner shall set the rate of the adjustment no later than November 1st of each year.

Time Limits on Filing an Unpaid Wages Claim

Texas House Bill 405 (HB 405) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 57 (SB 57) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Currently, employees in Texas only have 180 days to file a claim for unpaid wages with the Texas Workforce Commission. Both HB405 and SB57 seek to extend this period from 180 days to one (1) year.

Allowing Court Proceedings to be Conducted Remotely

Texas Senate Bill 690 (SB 690) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 3611 (HB 3611) — Introduced 03/10/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 4081 (HB 4081) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Each of the three bills listed above seek to amend several sections of Texas’ Government Code (as well as the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Family Code, Estates Code, Health and Safety Code, and Code of Criminal Procedure) in order to permit or require the attendance of a court hearing or proceeding remotely through the use of “technology and the Internet.”

Among other things, the bills (if passed) would allow a court to:

  1. Conduct a hearing or other proceeding as a remote proceeding without the consent of the parties (unless the United States Constitution or Texas Constitution requires consent);
  2. Allow or require a judge, party, attorney, witness, court reporter, juror, or any other individual to participate in a remote proceeding, including a deposition, hearing, trial, or other proceeding.

Prohibiting Certain Nondisclosure & Arbitration Agreements

Texas Senate Bill 209 (SB 209) — Introduced 11/18/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1980 (HB 1980) — Introduced 02/22/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, both SB209 & HB1980 seek to outlaw nondisclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements, or other agreements between an employer and employee which prohibit the reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment to local or state law enforcement agencies or any state or federal regulatory agency.

HB1980 also seeks to outlaw nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements which prohibit an employee from disclosing to any person, including during any related investigation, prosecution, legal proceeding, or dispute resolution, facts surrounding any sexual assault or sexual harassment committed by an employee of the employer or at the employee’s place of employment, including the identity of the alleged offender. Strangely, the text of HB1980 states that this would not apply to “a negotiated settlement agreement or administrative action.”

SB209 also seeks to make any mandatory arbitration agreement covering disputes involving allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment void and unenforceable.

CHILD SAFETY

Human Trafficking Awareness & Prevention

Texas House Bill 390 (HB 390) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 316 (SB 316) — Introduced 01/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 390 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 05/18/2021.

HB390 aims to establish a human trafficking awareness and prevention training program for employees of commercial lodging establishments (i.e., hotels, motels, inns, etc). In order to meet compliance, operators of these establishments would be required to have all employees complete said training program on an annual basis.

The training program must be approved by the attorney general, and will include guidance on how to recognize and report human trafficking, how to report suspected human trafficking, and more.

Employees who make a good faith report of a suspected act of human trafficking may not be disciplined, retaliated against, or otherwise discriminated against by their employer.

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Requiring video cameras in certain child-care facilities

Texas House Bill 1073 (HB 1073) — Introduced 01/03/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB1073 would require daycare centers to place video recording equipment in each area of the facility (excluding bathrooms) occupied by children who are two years of age or younger, and to record any time children who are two years of age or younger are present in the area.

These daycare facilities shall retain all recorded video required by this act for at least 30 days after the date the video is recorded.

Recorded video required by this act will be confidential, and may not be released or viewed by anyone except:

  • An employee who is involved in an alleged incident.
  • The parent(s) of a child who is involved in an alleged incident.
  • Appropriate commission, department, or law enforcement personnel as part on an investigation related to suspected abuse, neglect, or a licensing standard violation.
  • Contractor or employee performing job duties relating to the installation, operation, or maintenance of said video recording equipment.

Criminal Penalties for Failing to Report a Serious Injury to a Child

Texas House Bill 1009 (HB 1009) — Introduced 01/03/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB1009 would modify Section 261.101 of Texas’ Family Code to provide a criminal penalty for those who fail to report child abuse resulting in a serious injury.

According to the text of the bill, a person who knows that a child has suffered a serious bodily injury caused by abuse or neglect shall immediately make a report to law enforcement and/or the appropriate licensing agency.

If a person with such knowledge knowingly fails to make a report, they’re subject to a state jail felony. If the child was under seven (7) years old and died as a result of said injury, the offense is elevated to a third degree felony.

Outlawing Child Marriage in Texas

Texas House Bill 1590 (HB 1590) — Introduced 02/04/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Many states, including Texas, currently allow minors under the age of 18 to get married if they’ve received a court order “removing the disabilities of minority” (i.e., emancipation). If passed, HB1590 seeks to amend several sections of Texas’ Family Code in order to completely remove this exception.

Child Water Safety Requirements ("Cati's Act")

Texas House Bill 1676 (HB 1676) — Introduced 02/08/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB1676 (known as “Cati’s Act”) seeks to amend Chapter 341 of Texas’ Health and Safety Code in order to enact additional requirements for schools and youth camps which allow children under their supervision access to a swimming pools, lakes, rivers, or other bodies of water.

If passed, schools, preschools, kindergartens, nursery schools, day camps, or youth camps must determine whether a child is able to swim or is at risk when swimming, and provide the owner or operator of the body of water a written or electronic disclosure that clearly identifies each child who is unable to swim or is at risk when swimming.

At any time in which a child who is unable to swim (or is at risk when swimming) has access to a body of water, the organization shall:

  • Provide a US Coast Guard approved personal flotation device;
  • Ensure the child is wearing the personal flotation device, and;
  • Ensure that the device is properly fitted for the child.

Preventing HOAs From Prohibiting Swimming Pool Enclosures

Texas House Bill 67 (HB 67) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HOAs (AKA “property owners’ associations”) in Texas generally have a lot of leeway when it comes to enforcing restrictive covenants. If passed, HB67 seeks to amend Chapter 202 of Texas Property Code in order to prevent HOAs from the adopting or enforcing any provisions that prohibit or restrict a property owner from installing a swimming pool enclosure that conforms to applicable state or local safety requirements.

ALCOHOL SALES & SERVICE

Alcoholic Beverages To-Go

Texas House Bill 1024 (HB 1024) — Introduced 01/07/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 983 (HB 983) — Introduced 01/06/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1102 (HB 1102) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 298 (SB 298) — Introduced 01/07/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1779 (HB 1779) — Introduced 02/10/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 2662 (HB 2662) — Introduced 03/03/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: House Bill 1024 was signed into law on 05/12/2021.

In March of 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a waiver which permitted restaurants with a mixed beverage permit to offer beer, wine, and mixed drinks to-go with food purchases. If passed, each of the bills listed above seek to amend Chapter 28 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code in order to make these changes permanent.

Governor Abbott has already signaled his backing, and the bills are expected to receive bipartisan support when they comes up for vote.

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Expanded Hours for Alcohol Sales at Hotel Bars

Texas House Bill 1518 (HB 1518) — Introduced 02/02/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1517 (HB 1517) — Introduced 02/02/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 1518 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/18/2021.

HB1517 & HB1518 both seek to amend Chapter 105 of Texas’ Alcoholic Beverage Code in order to allow hotel bars to extend the hours during which alcoholic beverages may be sold and consumed on premises.

If passed, HB1517 would allow licensed or permitted bars located inside a hotel to extend the hours during which alcoholic beverages may be sold and consumed during “special events” — but only upon request of the chief executive officer of a municipality.

HB1518, if passed, goes a bit further by allowing a hotel bar to “sell or offer for sale alcoholic beverages at any time to a registered guest of the hotel.”

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Allowing Liquor to be Sold on Sunday

Texas House Bill 937 (HB 937) — Introduced 01/04/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1551 (HB 1551) — Introduced 02/03/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Texas’ “blue laws” currently state that alcohol retailers may not sell wine or “vinous liquor” containing more than 17 percent alcohol by volume on Sundays. It also states that no person may sell, offer for sale, or deliver any liquor before 10 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on any other day.

If passed, HB937 seeks to amend Section 24.07 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code in order to allow stores which hold a wine only package store permit and a retail dealer’s off-premise license to sell liquor on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. The bill would also allow liquor to be sold on any other day between the (expanded) hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Texas’ blue laws also state that stores may not sell beer on Sundays between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. HB1551, if passed, seeks to amend Section 105.04 of Texas’ Alcoholic Beverage Code in order to allow beer and wine stores (stores which hold a wine and malt beverage retailer’s permit or a wine and malt beverage retailer’s off-premise permit) to sell beer on Sundays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Allowing Counties and Cities to Permit Liquor Sales on Sundays

Texas House Bill 2232 (HB 2232) — Introduced 02/24/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1013 (SB 1013) — Introduced 03/04/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Both HB2232 & SB1013 seek to allow “wet” counties and cities in Texas the option to hold local elections in order to either prohibit or legalize the sale of liquor for off-premise consumption on Sundays.

If such a local option election does legalize the sale of liquor on Sundays, holders of package store permits in said area may sell, offer for sale, or deliver liquor on Sunday between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Holders of wholesaler’s permits may sell, offer for sale, or deliver liquor to a retailer anytime on Sunday, and holders of local distributor’s permits may sell, offer for sale, or deliver liquor to a retailer on Sunday between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Expanded Hours for Beer & Wine Sales on Sundays

Texas Senate Bill 585 (SB 585) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Texas’ “blue laws” currently state that alcohol retailers may not sell beer or wine for off-premise consumption on Sundays between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and noon. Retailers are authorized to sell beer for on-premise consumption between 10:00 a.m. and noon if the beer is served to a customer in conjunction with the service of food.

If passed, SB585 would allow alcohol retailers to sell beer and wine (containing 17% or less alcohol by volume) for off-premise consumption on Sundays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Allowing the Delivery of Alcohol to "Dry" Areas of Texas

Texas House Bill 1519 (HB 1519) — Introduced 02/02/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

While Texas law currently permits alcohol retailers to make deliveries of alcoholic beverages to customers off premises, they cannot deliver alcohol to areas where alcohol sales are illegal (i.e., dry counties). If passed, HB1519 seeks to remove this restriction entirely.

Allowing Breweries, Brewpubs & Distillers to Ship to Consumers

Texas Senate Bill 757 (SB 757) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, SB757 seeks to allow holders of a distiller’s and rectifier’s permit, a brewer’s license, or a brewpub license to ship distilled spirits and/or malt beverages directly to consumers in the State of Texas. The bill also applies to distillers and brewers from out-of-state who wish to ship liquor and beer directly to consumers in Texas. Notably, the bill would permit the delivery of such beverages to consumers located in “dry” areas of the state.

Prohibiting BYOB at Texas Strip Clubs

Texas Senate Bill 750 (SB 750) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, SB750 seeks to prohibit operators of sexually oriented businesses (nightclubs, bars, restaurants, or similar commercial enterprises that provide for an audience of two or more individuals live nude entertainment or live nude performances) that do not hold an alcohol permit from allowing a person to:

  1. Consume alcoholic beverages on the business’s premises; or
  2. Bring alcoholic beverages onto or possess alcoholic beverages on the business’s premises for the purpose of consumption by the person on the premises.

Operators of these establishments (or their agents) who violate this law would be subject to a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty is raised to a state jail felony for a 2nd offense, and to a 3rd degree felony for any additional offenses.

Defining a "Public Place" in Regard to Alcohol Consumption

Texas House Bill 170 (HB 170) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1067 (SB 1067) — Introduced 03/05/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Texas law currently prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages during certain hours in a public place. HB170 & SB1067 both seek to adds language to Section 105.06 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code to further define a “public place” in this context.

If passed, the bills would define a “public place” as any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access. This includes any licensed or permitted premises (e.g., bars), as well as any street, highway, or park or a common area of a school, hospital, apartment, office building, transportation facility, shop, restaurant, or nightclub.

Allowing Alcoholic Beverage Sales at School District-Owned Stadiums

Texas House Bill 808 (HB 808) — Introduced 12/11/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Section 11.179 of the Texas Education Code currently allows school districts to adopt a policy allowing the consumption, possession, and sale of alcoholic beverages at an event held at a “performing arts facility” owned by the district (if leased to a nonprofit organization for an event not sponsored or sanctioned by the district, and held outside of regular school hours).

If passed, HB808 seeks to amend Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code to permit school districts to similarly adopt a policy allowing the sale and consumption of alcohol beverages at a “sporting or athletic event” held at a stadium or other athletic facility owned by the district—if certain additional conditions are met.

MARIJUANA REFORM

Allowing the Possession, Cultivation and Sale of Medical Marijuana

House Joint Resolution 11 (HJR 11) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
House Joint Resolution 13 (HJR 13) — Introduced 03/01/2021 (Read Full Text)
House Joint Resolution 28 (HJR 28) — Introduced 11/12/2020 (Read Full Text)
Senate Joint Resolution 16 (SJR 16) — Introduced 11/12/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Each of the four joint resolutions above propose an amendment to the Texas constitution which states that “the legislature by law shall authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis for medical use in this state.”

Laying the Legal Groundwork for Medical Marijuana in Texas

Texas House Bill 94 (HB 94) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 90 (SB 90) — Introduced 02/23/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 250 (SB 250) — Introduced 12/17/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

These three bills seek to amend Chapter 487 of the Texas Health and Safety Code in order to lay the legal groundwork for medical marijuana sales in Texas. Both HB94 and SB90 seek to allow the use of medical marijuana for patients with “debilitating medical conditions,” while SB250 seeks to allow the use of medical marijuana for “patients for whom a physician determines medical use is the best available treatment.”

If passed, these bills would establish rules and regulations regarding qualifying patients, a patient registry system, cannabis testing facilities, licensure of dispensing organizations, allowable amounts, taxes, fees, and more.

Allowing Doctors to Prescribe Medical Marijuana in Texas

Texas House Bill 43 (HB 43) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1982 (HB 1982) — Introduced 02/22/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Texas’ Compassionate Use Act currently allows physicians in Texas to prescribe “low-THC cannabis” to patients suffering from epilepsy, a seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, terminal cancer, or an incurable neurodegenerative disease.

If passed, HB43 seeks to amend Chapter 169 of Texas’ Occupations Code in order to give physicians the authority to prescribe medical cannabis (as opposed to low-THC cannabis) to patients “when a physician determines that medical cannabis is a medically necessary treatment.”

HB1982, if passed, would amend Chapter 481 of Texas’ Health and Safety Code in order to add a section on medical cannabis prescriptions, which states that medical cannabis may be dispensed to a patient only by a pharmacist licensed under Subtitle J, Title 3, Occupations Code, at a pharmacy licensed under Chapter 560, Occupations Code, under a valid prescription. The bill also seeks to amend Section 481.111 of Texas’ Health and Safety Code to exempt pharmacists, patients, and cultivators from provisions of this chapter relating to the possession, distribution and delivery of medical cannabis.

Allowing the Possession, Cultivation and Sale of Recreational Marijuana

Texas House Bill 447 (HB 447) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 140 (SB 140) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 269 (SB 269) — Introduced 12/22/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 4089 (HB 4089) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Each of the bills listed above seek to lay out the groundwork for legalizing and regulating the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, sale, testing, possession, and use of cannabis and cannabis products in Texas. If passed, they would legalize the possession of limited amounts of marijuana (2.5 ounces) for people 21 and over, while establishing the framework for a retail cannabis industry in Texas.

While these bills are similar to each other in many ways, there are key differences between each of them—including how the tax proceeds would be allocated.

Allowing Individual Cities & Counties to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Texas House Bill 3248 (HB 3248) — Introduced 03/08/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1345 (SB 1345) — Introduced 03/10/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, SB1345 seeks to give individual counties in Texas the choice of whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana by local election. HB3248, on the other hand, seeks to allow both counties and municipalities (cities) to do so by order or local ordinance.

HB3248 & SB1345 both lay out the infrastructure for cannabis sales, the licensure of cannabis growers, retailers, testing facilities, and more. HB3248 states that adults over the age of 21 could use and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates, as well as cannabis paraphernalia. SB1345 states that adults over the age of 21 could use and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, up to 15 grams of cannabis concentrates, cannabis paraphernalia, as well as the cultivation (for personal use) of not more than 12 cannabis plants in a private residence.

According to HB3248, a 10% tax would be imposed on each sale in this state of cannabis and cannabis products.

Expanding the Ability of Physicians to Prescribe Low-THC Cannabis

Texas House Bill 1233 (HB 1233) — Introduced 01/21/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

The Texas Compassionate Use Act (first passed in 2015) already allows physicians in Texas to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients diagnosed with “epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, terminal cancer, or an incurable neurodegenerative disease.”

If passed, HB1233 seeks to amend Sections 169.002 and 169.003 of the Texas Occupations Code in order to remove these specific qualifying conditions. This would effectively allow physicians in Texas to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients diagnosed with any “medical condition that produces symptoms, or the treatment of which produces symptoms, that are alleviated by medical use of low-THC cannabis.”

Prescribing Low-THC Cannabis to Those Diagnosed with PTSD

Texas House Bill 1001 (HB 1001) — Introduced 01/06/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 327 (SB 327) — Introduced 01/12/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1440 (SB 1440) — Introduced 03/10/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

As mentioned previously, the Texas Compassionate Use Act currently allows physicians in Texas to prescribe low-THC cannabis only to patients diagnosed with “epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, terminal cancer, or an incurable neurodegenerative disease.”

If passed, both HB1001 and SB327 seek to amend Section 169.003 of the Texas Occupations Code to allow physicians in Texas to also prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

SB1440, on the other hand, seeks to allow physicians in the state to prescribe low-THC cannabis to veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Prescribing Medical Marijuana to Those Diagnosed with PTSD

Texas House Bill 809 (HB 809) — Introduced 03/01/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB809 seeks to allow the possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If passed, the bill seeks to amend Chapter 487 of the Texas Health and Safety Code in order to allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis use to qualified individuals, as well as establish rules and regulations regarding the licensure of dispensing organizations.

Medical Marijuana for Veterans Diagnosed with PTSD

Texas House Bill 1109 (HB 1109) — Introduced 01/14/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

While similar to HB1001 and SB327 (which would allow PTSD patients to be prescribed low-THC cannabis), HB1109 seeks to allow veterans with PTSD to apply for a permit in order to purchase medical marijuana from a cultivating or dispensing facility in Texas.

The bill, if passed, would also set the legal groundwork for licensing cultivators and dispensaries, manufacturing practices, safety testing, and more.

Cite & Release, Lower Penalties for Possession of Marijuana

Texas House Bill 99 (HB 99) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 441 (HB 441) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 498 (HB 498) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 585 (HB 585) — Introduced 11/17/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1609 (HB 1609) — Introduced 02/04/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 2588 (HB 2588) — Introduced 03/02/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 950 (SB 950) — Introduced 03/03/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1626 (SB 1626) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1989 (SB 1989) — Introduced 03/12/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Currently, Texas law states that possession of two (2) ounces or less of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor. If passed, HB441, HB498 & SB1989 all seek to amend Section 481.121 of Texas’ Health and Safety Code to classify possession of one (1) ounce or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor, and possession of more than one (1) but less than two (2) ounces of marijuana as a Class B misdemeanor.

HB585 seeks to classify possession of two (2) ounces or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor (lowered from Class B), as well as lowering the charges for possession of four (4) ounces or more of marijuana from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B misdemeanor. HB1609 goes even further by seeking to classify possession of four (4) ounces or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor

Both HB99 and HB441 also seek to amend Article 14.06 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure to state that an officer who is charging a person only with a Class C/B misdemeanor for possession of marijuana may not arrest the person, and shall issue the person a citation instead.

HB2588, SB950 & SB1626 on the other hand, each seek to amend Chapter 2 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure by adding a section titled “Cite and Release Policy.” For HB2588, this policy would state that law enforcement agencies in the state shall adopt a written policy regarding the issuance of citations for all misdemeanor offenses, other than violent misdemeanors. For SB950 & SB1626, this policy would state that law enforcement agencies shall adopt a written policy regarding the issuance of citations for all misdemeanor offenses, other than assaultive offenses and public intoxication.

Lower Penalties for Possession of Two Grams or Less of Marijuana

Texas House Bill 616 (HB 616) — Introduced 11/20/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Similar to the bills above, HB616, if passed, seeks to amend Section 481.121 of Texas’ Health and Safety Code to classify possession of two (2) grams or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor. Possession of more than two (2) grams and less than two (2) ounces of marijuana would still be a Class B misdemeanor.

Reducing Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Concentrates

Texas House Bill 439 (HB 439) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 151 (SB 151) — Introduced 11/10/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 2718 (HB 2718) — Introduced 03/03/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Under current Texas law, even possession of less than 1 gram of marijuana concentrates (e.g., edibles, vape pens, etc.) is an automatic felony charge. If passed, both HB439 and SB151 seek to create a new, lower punishment range for possession and/or delivery of marijuana concentrates.

HB2718, on the other hand, seeks to reduce the penalty for possession of a single e-cigarette containing THC or a tetrahydrocannabinol derivative/analogue from a state jail felony to a Class B misdemeanor.

Removing Criminal Penalties for the Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Texas House Bill 1178 (HB 1178) — Introduced 01/19/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB1178 seeks to amend the heading to Section 481.125 of Texas’ Health and Safety Code in order to remove all criminal penalties for the possession of drug paraphernalia under the Texas Controlled Substances Act (possession of drug paraphernalia is currently a Class C misdemeanor).

A Defense for the Possession of Consumable Hemp Products

Texas House Bill 307 (HB 307) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

HB307 seeks to amend Section 481.111 of the Texas Health and Safety Code to expand on defenses to possession of certain consumable hemp products containing a controlled substance or marijuana.

If passed, a person does not commit an offense involving the possession of a controlled substance or marijuana if:

  • The person possesses a product that purports by the product’s label to contain a consumable hemp product that is authorized under state or federal law;
  • The product contains a controlled substance or marihuana, other than the substances extracted from hemp in the concentrations authorized by law; and
  • The person purchased the product from a retailer the person reasonably believed was authorized to sell a consumable hemp product.

POLICE & LAW ENFORCEMENT

Prohibiting Police from Contracting with Reality Television Shows

Texas House Bill 54 (HB 54) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 223 (SB 223) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 54 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 05/26/2021.

Following the tragic death of Javier Ambler, who died of heart failure in the custody of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office during a recording of the now-canceled “Live PD” TV show last year, many people have argued that we shouldn’t allow policing to become entertainment in our community. Many have argued that reality TV shows like “Live PD” and “Cops” may encourage some law enforcement officers to use excessive force.

HB54 seeks to prohibit law enforcement departments in Texas from contracting with television crews to create reality shows. According to the bill, “Any law enforcement department that employs peace officers may not authorize a television crew to film peace officers while acting in the line of duty for the purpose of creating a reality television show.”

Now passed, this law takes effect immediately.

The "Botham Jean Act"

Texas House Bill 929 (HB 929) — Introduced 01/04/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 380 (SB 380) — Introduced 01/21/2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: HOUSE BILL 929 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/16/2021.

HB929 (known as the “Botham Jean Act” or “Bo’s Law”) seeks to clean up ambiguous guidelines in Texas’ castle doctrine law, to clean up language regarding “mistake of fact” when used as a legal defense, as well as to standardize police body cam policy and increase police accountability and transparency with regard to body worn cameras.

If passed, the Botham Jean Act (as introduced) would:

  • Require a peace officer who participates in an investigation to keep a body worn camera activated for the entirety of the investigation.
  • Make it a third-degree felony to intentionally or knowingly deactivate, order the deactivation of, or cause to be deactivated a recording device being used during an investigation. Currently, there is no specific penalty for turning off a camera during an investigation.
  • Address the topics of privacy, what constitute a private space, and when and under what circumstances a body camera can or should be turned off.
  • Clarify that “mistake of fact” could be raised to negate the legally required mental state of mind of the person using deadly force at the instant in time they choose to use that force.
  • Amend Section 9 of Texas’ Penal Code (self defense and defense of a third person) to add that deadly force may only be presumed to be reasonable if the perpetrator was also “physically present in the actor’s own habitation, vehicle, or place of business or employment at the time the deadly force was used.”

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Prohibited Techniques When Using Force to Make an Arrest or Search

Texas Senate Bill 69 (SB 69) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 418 (HB 418) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 268 (HB 268) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 831 (HB 831) — Introduced 12/15/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 1784 (HB 1784) — Introduced 02/10 /2021 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: SENATE BILL 69 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/14/2021.

SB 69 seeks to amend Subchapter E, Chapter 9 of the Texas Penal Code in order to add a section regarding prohibited techniques used by law enforcement officers in Texas. The bill states that “A peace officer may not intentionally use a choke hold, carotid artery hold, or similar neck restraint in searching or arresting a person unless the restraint is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to or the death of the officer or another person.”

The bill also states that officers have a “duty to intervene” to stop or prevent another peace officer from using force against a person suspected of committing an offense if:

  1. The amount of force exceeds that which is reasonable under the circumstances; and
  2. The officer knows or should know that the other officer’s use of force:
    • Violates state or federal law;
    • Puts a person at risk of bodily injury, as that term is defined by Section 1.07, Penal Code, and is not immediately necessary to avoid imminent bodily injury to a peace officer or other person; and
    • Is not required to apprehend the person suspected of committing an offense.

Finally, a peace officer who witnesses the use of excessive force by another peace officer must also promptly make a detailed report of the incident and deliver the report to their supervisor.

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

Requirements for the Installation & Use of a Mobile Tracking Device

Texas Senate Bill 112 (SB 112) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 356 (HB 356) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

UPDATE: SENATE BILL 112 WAS SIGNED INTO LAW ON 06/14/2021.

Currently, under Texas law, a district judge may issue an order for the installation and use of a mobile tracking device if an authorized peace officer submits an affidavit which states the facts and circumstances that provide “a reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity has been, is, or will be committed; and the installation and use of a mobile tracking device is likely to produce information that is material to an ongoing criminal investigation of that criminal activity.

SB 112 simply seeks to change “a reasonable suspicion” to “probable cause to believe” (a higher standard).

Now passed, this law will take effect on 09/01/2021.

The "George Floyd Act"

Texas House Bill 88 (HB 88) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

If passed, HB88 (known as the “George Floyd Act”) seeks to address qualified immunity for police officers by allowing civil lawsuits at the state level “for deprivation of rights under color of law,” require the use of de-escalation tactics, require officers to intervene if another officer is using excessive force, require officers to provide aid immediately to any person who needs medical attention (including as a result of the use of force), to further define when and why police officers can use nonlethal and lethal force, to ban chokeholds, as well as prevent arrests for misdemeanor fine-only offenses.

The bill would also require each law enforcement agency in Texas to adopt a detailed written policy regarding the use of force by peace officers employed by the agency. These policies must:

  1. Emphasize conflict de-escalation and the use of force in a manner proportionate to the threat posed and to the seriousness of the alleged offense;
  2. Mandate that deadly force is only to be used by peace officers as a last resort; and
  3. Affirm the sanctity of human life and the importance of treating all persons with dignity and respect.

Law Enforcement Policies on De-escalation & Proportionate Response

Texas House Bill 562 (HB 562) — Introduced 11/13/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 833 (HB 833) — Introduced 12/15/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Both HB562 and HB833 seek to amend Chapter 2 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure to add a section titled “Law Enforcement Policy on De-escalation and Proportionate Response.”

If passed, HB562 would require each law enforcement agency in Texas to adopt a detailed written policy regarding the use of force by peace officers employed by the agency. These policies must:

  1. Emphasize the use of conflict de-escalation techniques; and
  2. Authorize force to be used by officers only after attempts to de-escalate a situation have failed.

HB833, if passed, goes a bit further than HB562 by requiring that the commission develop and make available to all law enforcement agencies in this state a model policy and associated training materials regarding the use of force by peace officers. Among other things, HB833 also states that deadly force is only to be used by peace officers as a last resort, and that before using force, officers must attempt to de-escalate the situation and issue a warning that force will be used. Additionally, officers must ensure that:

  1. The force used is proportionate to the threat posed and to the seriousness of the alleged offense;
  2. The force used does not present a serious risk of injury to any person other than the actor or the person against whom the force is used; and
  3. The use of force must be terminated the moment the person against whom force is used becomes compliant or is subdued.

Law Enforcement Policies on the Use of Force

Texas Senate Bill 71 (SB 71) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Similar to the above bills, SB71 seeks to amend Chapter 2 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure to add a section titled “Law Enforcement Policy on Use of Force by Peace Officers.”

If passed, SB71 would require each law enforcement agency in Texas to adopt a detailed written policy regarding the use of force by peace officers employed by the agency. These policies must “provide peace officers employed by the agency with explicit guidelines for the use of force that ensure that force will only be used against a person in a manner proportionate to the threat posed by the person.”

Requiring Intervention when Peace Officers Use Excessive Force

Texas House Bill 563 (HB 563) — Introduced 11/13/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 68 (SB 68) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 2011 (HB 2011) — Introduced 02/22/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas House Bill 832 (HB 832) — Introduced 03/01/2021 (Read Full Text)
Texas Senate Bill 1601 (SB 1601) — Introduced 03/11/2021 (Read Full Text)

FAILED TO PASS

Each of the above proposed bills seek to amend Chapter 2 of Texas’ Code of Criminal Procedure in order to add a policy requiring law enforcement officers in the state to intervene in order to prevent another peace officer from using excessive force.

If passed, HB563 states that each law enforcement agency in Texas shall adopt a detailed written policy requiring peace officers employed by the agency to intervene to stop or prevent another peace officer from “using excessive force against a person suspected of committing an offense, if an ordinary, prudent peace officer would intervene under the same or similar circumstances.”

SB68, HB2011 & SB1601, if passed, would also require peace officers who witness the use of excessive force by another peace officer to promptly make a detailed report of the incident and deliver the report to their supervisor, as well as the supervisor of the officer who used the excessive force.

HB832, if passed, would require officers to intervene if the use of force by another peace officer violates state or federal law, puts any person at risk of bodily injury (unless necessary to avoid imminent harm to a peace officer or other person), or is not required to apprehend or complete the apprehension of a suspect. The act would also require officers to provide aid immediately to any person who needs medical attention as a result of the use of force by a peace officer, as well as require identification as a peace officer before taking any action within the course and scope of the officer’s official duties (unless the identification would render the action impracticable).

Reporting on the Use of Force by Peace Officers

Texas Senate Bill 70 (SB 70) — Introduced 11/09/2020 (Read Full Text)