New Year Brings New Laws
With the start of the new year, it is important to know about the laws that have gone into effect. Certain laws that were passed during the 85th Legislative Session came into effect on January 1, 2018. These new laws range from bills addressing ad valorem taxes to the operation of vehicles transporting fluid milk. Each of the bills that took effect on January 1 went through a 140-day legislative session. During that 140-day period, these bills went before House and Senate Committees before going before the Texas House and Senate as a whole and then going to the Governor’s office.
The laws mentioned below represent some of those pieces of legislation that passed and went into effect on January 1:
• Senate Bill (SB) 1345 relates to the exemption from ad valorem taxation of property owned by a charitable organization and used to provide tax return preparation and other financial services without regard to the beneficiaries’ ability to pay. A wide variety of charitable organizations receive a property tax exemption for their buildings and tangible personal property if they meet the explicit criteria in Section 11.18, Tax Code, and the property is used exclusively by the qualified charitable organization. Some of the organizations eligible for a property tax exemption perform the following services: provide health care without regard to the beneficiaries’ ability to pay; support low-income senior citizens and the disabled; preserve historical landmarks; operate a museum or symphony; promote athletic development among children; preserve wildlife; promote education development through loans or scholarships to students; promote humane treatment of animals; or operate a radio or television station that provides public interest programming. Non-profit community tax centers, however, do not currently qualify for the exemption despite their work to help low-income Texans complete tax forms, student financial aid forms, and assist with other financial matters. SB 1345 extends the property tax exemption provided in Section 11.18, Tax Code, to charitable organizations that provide, without regard to the beneficiaries’ ability to pay, tax return preparation services and assistance with other financial matters.
• House Bill (HB) 493 relates to the College Credit for Heroes program that was created in 2011 to help veterans transition more quickly into the workforce. Participating colleges can award credit hours based on prior training, education, or military experience. Each institution of higher education determines how many credit hours they will award, which varies from college to college. Lack of data on how much credit is awarded makes it difficult to track the success of the program. HB 493 requires that the Texas Workforce Commission, in consultation with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, report how many academic or workforce credit hours are awarded each academic year.
• SB 1383 relates to the to the operation of vehicles transporting fluid milk. The Milk Transportation subchapter of the current statute dates back several years and was last updated in 1995. As agriculture and dairies grow larger and move further away from urban areas, where the fluid milk processing facilities are located, there is pressure for our transportation system to grow as well. Current statute allows for tractor-trailers hauling milk to run as heavy as 80,000 pounds on county roads, farm-to-market roads, and state highways. SB 1383 would allow a fluid milk truck to operate loads on county, state, and federal interstate highways up to 90,000 pounds with a permit for tandem axle trailer, rather than the current 80,000-pound limit.
It is important to learn and know about the new laws that were passed by the 85th Texas Legislature. If you would like to view any of the other legislation that was passed during the 85th Session, these websites are great resources:
If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).
– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32
Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 512-463-0672.