New Year, New Laws: What Rules Took Effect Jan. 1

Laws passed during the last legislative session and in November range from strengthening sexual violence reporting to constitutional amendments.

By Jill AmentJanuary 2, 2020 12:25 pm

A new year means some laws passed in 2019 are now in effect. They range from to protections against surprise medical bills to constitutional amendments to stiffer penalties for those who fail to report sexual violence on college campuses.

Brian Smith is an associate dean and political science professor at St. Edwards University in Austin. He says the Jan. 1 start date for some laws gave the state time to “set up the infrastructure.”

“You just couldn’t say, ‘Let’s start now.’ You needed time,” Smith says.

Sexual violence reporting
Smith says faculty members were already so-called mandatory reporters. Now, he says all employees at public and private colleges and universities are required to report incidents of sexual violence.

“As a mandatory reporter, you report or else there’s going to be a misdemeanor,” Smith says. “That could result in a fine, a misdemeanor on your record or termination.”

Protection from surprise medical bills
This law only applies to state-regulated health insurance plans like that of the Texas Teacher Retirement System, for example, or plans for others working in state government

“It only affects about 16%, I think, of all insured Texans,” Smith says.

The inmate paperwork law
It’s meant to help those leaving the prison system to obtain or update paperwork for essential documents like driver’s licenses, résumés and Social Security cards.

“We have an obligation to people leaving the justice system to help them, or they’re gonna end up back in the justice system,” Smith says.

Regulating ‘pill mills’
New laws crack down on what Smith calls “semi-legal pain centers that are dispensing opioids like candy.”

Constitutional amendments
One amendment, passed by voters in November, allots $200 million from the rainy-day fund to go toward flood protection, disaster relief and more.


Written by Caroline Covington.