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Denton When Texas college students return to their campuses after winter break, they may find that the lights are still off in their campus diversity offices.
This is because a new law outlawing such work in higher education institutions in the state comes into effect from January 1.
Another 29 laws will also take effect in the new year that aim to transform the economy, tax code and criminal justice system.
Many of the new laws attempt to streamline the tax code and update property assessment procedures, while others touch on more unique issues such as e-cigarette use among minors and commemorative state license plates. Here are some laws:
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts at Public Universities: Senate Bill 17 requires public universities to end so-called diversity, equity and inclusion work. Universities will also be unable to provide training on diversity and inclusion for their faculty and staff, or require diversity statements in hiring processes. Universities also must confirm to the Legislature between legislative sessions that they are in full compliance.
While the law is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, many Texas public universities have already begun reducing their DEI practices and programs after the Governor’s Chief of Staff sent a memo in February that included defunding DEI recruiting initiatives. Has been declared illegal. Since the laws were passed in May, general counsels for universities have issued various levels of guidance throughout the semester on how to continue supporting a diverse student body while staying within the bounds of the law.
In addition to the dissolution of DEI offices, universities have also shuttered university-led student aid programs as concerns grow over whether they also violate the law, but some colleges are looking for solutions. University of North Texas President Neil Smatresk announced in an email to students on December 1 that with the closure of the school’s Multicultural Center and Pride Coalition, a new Center for Belonging and Engagement will be established to promote inclusivity.
The law’s restrictions do not apply to classroom instruction, materials required for federal grant applications or student organizations on campuses, but several university officials have said the law has made it more difficult to hire new faculty.
Streamlining tax breaks for the elderly and heirs: Several new laws loosen appraisal requirements for spouses and children who inherit property and change some appraisal procedures. Senate Bill 1381 allows certain tax exemptions on a homestead to be passed on to the spouse of a person age 65 or older after their death, and House Bill 4077 removes the requirement for seniors to apply for the homestead exemption, Instead it makes it the responsibility of the local. Assessment District. House Bill 2354 would create that if a landowner leaves property to his or her spouse, the land will not be treated as transferred ownership for tax purposes.
Diversion of minors accused of category C misdemeanor: House Bill 3186 creates an alternative to fines for minors accused of Class C misdemeanors, such as petty theft or alcohol possession, by allowing them to instead enroll in diversion plans designed to support them. The law outlines several options for programs ranging from community service to mandatory mental health treatment, and requires judges and municipal courts to adopt the outline of its plan. It also allows courts to appoint a youth diversion coordinator to help track program participants. A child is eligible for the program only once every 365 days, and is ineligible if the state attorney objects or the child has already unsuccessfully participated in a diversion program. A child can be removed from criminal proceedings only with the written consent of his parents.
Extension of exemption to charitable organizations: Several laws coming into effect will provide tax relief for charitable organizations, especially those investing in new low-income housing. House Bill 1058 gives tax credits to people who invest in low-income housing, and House Bill 4645 allows organizations to receive tax breaks on building low-income housing, even if they lease that land. Are giving on which construction is going on. House Bill 456 exempts charitable organizations from taxes on certain mineral interests on properties they own.
Creating new standards for homeowner association fees: House Bill 614 requires homeowners association boards to adopt standardized enforcement policies detailing how they enforce fines, including how much the fine is. It requires a list of potential violations that HOAs must display on their website.
Limiting e-cigarette advertising to minors: House Bill 4758, in an effort to slow down the use of vaping among minors, creates a Class B felony to sell e-cigarette products that use images of food, celebrities or cartoon characters on their packaging. According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than two million K-12 students nationwide use e-cigarette products.
Helping doctors understand patient insurance plans: House Bill 4500 would require insurance providers to create an Internet portal health care providers can use to determine what types of insurance plans their patients have in order to streamline the insurance process. The secure portal will tell physicians if the provider is covered by the patient’s insurance and the patient’s co-payments, deductibles and, where applicable, co-insurance.
Disclosure: The University of North Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization funded by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters have no role in Tribune’s journalism. Find their full list here.