New Laws in Texas: 88th Regular Legislative Session

Texas Appleseed advocated for the bills below, which have been signed into law by Governor Abbott. Funding for the court text reminder program was included as a budget item in HB 1.

Ending Juvenile Court Fees 
SB 1612 is part of a civil fees clean-up effort and abolishes the remaining juvenile court fees levied against youth and their families. Now, justice-involved youth and their families can focus on rehabilitation instead of worrying about paying burdensome court fees.

Ending Juvenile Curfew Ordinances
HB 1819 abolishes a local government’s ability to enact a juvenile curfew ordinance that targets youth and can subject them to a criminal record and high court fees, all without appointed counsel. Now, vulnerable youth, including those who may be homeless or fleeing abuse, cannot be punished for simply being in a public space at certain hours.  

Diverting Juvenile Class C Misdemeanors 
HB 3186 requires local governments to adopt a diversion plan for youth charged with fine-only offenses in municipal and justice courts. Currently, municipal and justice courts can only order diversion strategies after a case has been convicted or deferred, whereas this bill allows diversion at the front end of a case.

Establishing Registration Requirements for Data Brokers
SB 2105 creates a new requirement for data brokers to register with the state and to implement an information security program with safeguards to protect personal data. Data brokers currently collect and sell individual data with almost no oversight or limitations. By requiring registration, the bill establishes transparency and is an important step towards giving Texans more control over their personal data. This bill helps vulnerable adults and survivors of domestic violence, as it offers a step towards protection from use of this data for financial abuse.

Establishing Basic Privacy Protections for Personal Data Collected by Businesses
HB 4 establishes the state's first comprehensive data privacy protections. It provides Texas residents the right to know, access, correct, and delete personal data held by covered businesses, as well as opt out of the collection and sale of personal data. Texas Appleseed successfully advocated for enhanced consumer protections in the bill, including stronger enforcement rights and the creation of a guide to assist Texans in understanding and utilizing their data privacy rights.

Establishing a Pilot Program to Ensure Youth Aging Out of Foster Care have Bank Accounts
SB 1379 implements a pilot program to ensure youth aging out of foster care are provided a checking and savings account. Foster youth aging out of care are faced with providing for themselves at a young age. Not having a bank account makes this already challenging transition even more difficult. Many foster youth are currently unable to get bank accounts because they do not have a reliable parent or guardian who can serve as a co-signer.

Allowing Occupational Licenses Earlier
HB 3743 includes multiple provisions related to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, one of which allows incarcerated people to apply for occupational licenses prior to release. Previously, incarcerated people had to wait until after release to apply for a license, hindering employment in the field in which they were trained while in prison.

Increasing Parental Rights Regarding School District Threat Assessments
HB 473 strengthens parental involvement in the school-based threat assessment process.

New Text Messaging System
We successfully advocated to include a new text messaging system for court reminders in the Texas budget. Similar programs have decreased failures to appear for court dates by 20%-25% in other jurisdictions. Based on that experience, we believe this program will result in tens of thousands more Texans getting to required court dates and reducing the number of arrest warrants for failure to appear substantially throughout the state.