News You Can Use: Recent Changes In Texas Laws

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had until June 21 to approve (or allow to become law) a variety of bills passed by the Legislature in the 2015 session. It remains to be seen how he decides on all of the bills on his desk. What follows is a summary of the bills that particularly affect lawyers and individuals who hope to obtain relief through the civil justice system. It is based on a June 1, 2015, article in the Texas Lawyer.

Bills Awaiting Approval

The governor must decide on these and other bills that passed both houses of the Texas Legislature:

  • HB 1403 changes the state’s medical malpractice statute to exclude certain types of labor claims.
  • HB 1492 changes the process for asbestos and silica injury claims.
  • SB 1457 changes the patent infringement lawsuit process.
  • SB 1135 adds “revenge porn” as a civil cause of action, allowing people to sue their partners for posting sexual pictures of them on the Internet.
  • HB 39 changes the state’s guardianship system for elderly and disabled people.
  • SB 1060 imposes limits on insurance adjusters who help people file hail damage claims.
  • HB 2089 repeals the occupational tax for licensed professionals, including attorneys.
  • HB 2633 limits the ability of lawyers to obtain car accident reports for the purpose of soliciting clients illegally.
  • HB 1079 expands funding sources for low-income Texans seeking legal help with civil lawsuits and other civil legal matters.
  • SB 339 legalizes a type of marijuana extract for treating patients with epilepsy who do not respond to other medications.

If the governor signs any of these bills, they would become law at the time specified in the bill. New laws often go into effect on Sept. 1 or Jan. 1.

Update: The governor signed all these bills into law.  Most of them will take effect either immediately or on September 1.

Changes In Traffic Laws In 2015

These laws took effect on Jan. 1, 2015, and have been published in the Texas Driver Handbook:

  • A justice of the peace can issue an occupational driver’s license.
  • The expiration dates of certain types of drivers’ licenses changed.
  • Fines for illegally passing a school bus increased.
  • The “move over” law expanded to include vehicles of the Texas Department of Transportation as well as law enforcement and emergency vehicles.

These are state laws; individual cities often have additional traffic restrictions. For example, Denton, San Antonio and Austin are among the 40 or so cities that prohibit texting while driving at some level. Although younger drivers and others are prohibited from texting while driving throughout the state, Texas is one of six states without a universal prohibition against using mobile devices.

Our law firm supports efforts to educate young people about the dangers of texting and driving. To that end, we sponsor an annual scholarship and support opportunities to educate young people about the very real danger of texting and driving. For more information, call us at 800-594-4884.