On September 1, 2021, more than 650 new Texas laws went into effect. As businesses ensure compliance with several of the new laws, Jackson Walker provides a summary below of a number of newly effective and upcoming laws.
For a general overview of the 2021 Texas legislative session, view "Overview of 87th Texas Legislature: Key Bills, the State Budget, and Jackson Walker's Role."
Now in effect, the Firearm Carry Act of 2021 authorizes Texans ages 21 and up, who are not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm, to legally carry a handgun without a license to carry. Under the law, property owners and business operators may prohibit the carrying of firearms on their premises, but must provide notice by posting a sign at each entrance to the property that
- states "Pursuant to Section 30.05, Penal Code (criminal trespass), a person may not enter this property with a firearm" or language that is substantially similar;
- includes the above language in both English and Spanish;
- appears in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height; and
- is clearly visible to the public.
For more information about the new law, see "Legislative Update: Impact of New "Constitutional Carry" Law on Commercial Landlords."
Three COVID-19-related bills were signed by Governor Abbott and are now in effect.
- SB 6, named the Pandemic Liability Protection Act provides retroactive civil liability protections for healthcare providers, first responders, and other businesses, and extends current immunity to physicians, healthcare providers, and first responders "during a man-made disaster, natural disaster, or a health care emergency." Also, under the bill, physicians and those other professionals are generally not liable for injuries or death "arising from care, treatment, or failure to provide care or treatment" related to or impacted by the pandemic.
- SB 25 requires nursing homes and assisted living centers to allow families to designate an "essential caregiver" who will be allowed in-person visits-even during a pandemic. The legislation clarifies that essential caregivers need not provide "necessary care" in order to qualify, and that a facility or provider cannot require a caregiver to provide such care. Under SB 25, nursing homes, state supported living centers, and long-term care facilities can petition the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to suspend visits by designated essential caregivers if in-person visitation "poses a serious community health risk." SB 25 limits the initial suspension of visits to seven days, regulates the length of any extension of the suspension approved by the HHSC, and caps the total number of days each year a facility or provider could suspend essential caregiver visits.
- SB 968 prohibits any business operating in Texas from requiring customers to show proof of their vaccination status or post-infection recovery status in exchange for receiving services. In addition to banning private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive services from the business, SB 968 provides that any business that does require proof of vaccination will not be permitted to engage in state contracts, and some state agencies that regulate different business sectors may screen for compliance with SB 968 in issuing licenses and permits. SB 968 states that it should not be read to prohibit businesses from implementing COVID-19 screening and infection measures in line with state and federal law.
See "Legislative Update on Pandemic-Related Bills Sent to Governor Abbott" for more information.
HB 3979 provides for the Texas State Board of Education's adoption of "essential knowledge and skills" in the social studies or civics curriculum, including an understanding of delineated U.S. social movements, founding documents, and even U.S. Supreme Court decisions. For any social studies course in the required curriculum, "a teacher may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs," and if the teacher chooses to do so, that teacher must "to the best of the teacher's ability, strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective."
Of note, HB 3979 provides that a teacher, administrator, or other employee of a state agency, school district, or open-enrollment charter school may not "be required to engage in training, orientation, or therapy that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of race or sex," "require or make part of a course" certain concepts, such as "an individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously" or "members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex."
More information about the new law can be found in the article "Texas Legislative Update on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion-Related Bills."
Jackson Walker partner Stacy Allen assisted longtime client Texas Association of Broadcasters (TAB) in advocating for government transparency during the 2021 Texas legislative session. The following three laws are now in effect:
- During periods subject to disaster declarations by the governor, governmental bodies whose offices were closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic used this as an excuse to postpone responding to requests under the Texas Public Information Act, even though their employees were working from home and could have made timely responses. SB 1225 specifies that a catastrophe would not include a period when the physical office of the governmental body was closed, but staff was required to work remotely and could electronically access information responsive to TPIA requests. Where work did not continue remotely, the bill caps the suspension period at 14 calendar days for each catastrophe and requires immediate resumption of compliance with the TPIA thereafter.
- SB 930 requires local and state health authorities to release information about infectious disease outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living centers, including the names of those facilities and the numbers of residents diagnosed.
- HB 54 prevents Texas law enforcement agencies from entering into contracts with "reality television shows" which film their activities while acting in the line of duty to be aired as "entertainment." Javier Ambler, the new law's namesake, died of heart failure after being tased and forcibly detained by a Williamson County sheriff's deputy following a 20-minute chase. The alleged offense was Ambler's failure to dim his headlights to oncoming traffic. A film crew for Live PD accompanied the deputy and captured the entire ordeal, a factor that bill sponsors cite as the reason for the heightened response leading to Ambler's death. While well-meaning, the bill when first introduced did not define what constituted a "reality television show" and thus could have been construed to include legitimate broadcast news reporting. TAB successfully added language to the bill that defines "reality television show" as one primarily for entertainment, and clarifies that it does not apply to newsgathering by a journalist as defined by the state reporter shield law.
To read more, see "Texas Outlaws TV Crews at the Intersection of Free Speech and Public Policy."
Three laws pertaining to sexual harassment in Texas are now in effect.
- SB 45 expands the definitions of an employer and sexual harassment and imposes a requirement on employers to take immediate and appropriate action when a sexual harassment claim is made.
- HB 21 amends Section 21.201(g) of the Texas Labor Code to increase the charge filing period with the Texas Workforce Commission from 180 days to 300 days from the date of the alleged sexual harassment. Notably, the expanded time period only applies to claims of sexual harassment; it does not apply to other forms of discrimination, namely discrimination based on sex (not constituting sexual harassment), race, color, disability, national origin, or religion.
- SB 282 amends the Texas Government Code by adding Section 576.001, which prohibits the Texas legislature from appropriating money and state agencies from using appropriated money to settle or otherwise pay a sexual harassment claim against an elected or appointed member of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of state government. For purposes of this law, school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, counties, municipalities, other special districts, and other subdivisions of the state are considered political subdivisions.
For additional insights, see "Changes on the Horizon: Major Revisions to Texas Sexual Harassment Laws" and the Jackson Walker Fast Takes podcast episode "Texas Expands and Redefines Sexual Harassment Laws."
Several key bills amending the Texas Business Organizations Code (TBOC) and Texas Business & Commerce Code (TBCC) were passed during the 2021 Texas legislative session, including:
- B. 1203, Business Organization Code Omnibus Amendment Package, effective September 1, 2021
- B. 1523, LLC Registered Series, effective June 1, 2022
- B. 1280, Securities Act Corrections, effective January 1, 2022
- B. 873, Business Purchase - Comptroller Tax Disclosure, effective September 1, 2021
- B. 3131, Certificates of Formation - Address, effective January 1, 2022
- B. 6, Pandemic Liability Shield, effective June 14, 2021
- B. 1578, Recovery of Attorney's Fees in Civil Cases, effective September 1, 2021
For more information about each bill listed above, see "New Texas Business Organizations Code Legislation for 2021."
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