Hundreds of New Laws Effective 9/1/11

(Austin, Texas)—Hundreds of new laws impacting the everyday lives of Texas families, from the 2012-13 budget to changes to the TEXAS Grant program will go into effect on Thursday, September 1, 2011. Several key reforms championed by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) will also go into effect.

The key challenge of the 82nd legislative session was solving the $27 billion budget crisis. To fix this fiscal mess, funds for Texas schools, health care and seniors were slashed. Overall, the budget cut $18.3 billion from current state services, cut over $4 billion in state funding from Texas schools, cut $4.8 billion from Medicaid, slashed higher education by $1.5 billion and eliminated financial aid for over 43,000 students, including 29,000 students who will lose their TEXAS Grant. The impact from those cuts will be felt in full beginning September 1.

Many other key laws, from cracking down on human trafficking, to raising the speed limit to legislation reducing women’s right to choose also go on the books tomorrow. For a complete list of those laws go to: http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/sessions/effDates/billsEffective82.cfm#September11

Several of Senator Ellis’ top priorities go into effect tomorrow, including major criminal justice reforms, public health and disability awareness initiatives and more, such as:

* HB 215, which will enact a pivotal eyewitness identification reform recommended by the Tim Cole Advisory Panel to help reduce wrongful convictions. The bill requires all Texas law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt written eyewitness identification policies based on proven best practices by September 1, 2012;

* SB 122, legislation I authored to strengthen Texas’ post-conviction DNA testing law, another important reform recommended by the Tim Cole Advisory Panel. SB 122 will ensure that if there is DNA evidence available to prove someone’s innocence, it can and will be tested. No longer will the door to justice be shut just because of a procedural error;

* HB 417, legislation enacting comprehensive exoneree compensation reforms, including health care to the wrongfully convicted, standards for attorney’s fees in compensation claims, and removing bureaucratic hurdles in order for exonerees to receive the compensation they deserve. It gives exonerees access to health insurance through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It also modifies the current compensation statute so that individuals like Anthony Graves, who was recently denied compensation due to a technical error in his dismissal order, can get compensation in the future;

* HB 2229 which ensures a voice for advocates and individuals infected with HIV in the state’s HIV Medication Advisory Committee. This will be very important as the State examines ways to reduce costs in the life-sustaining HIV medication program;

* HB 3616, which establishes October as Persons with Disabilities History and Awareness Month providing Texans a positive and respectful image about the struggles and achievements of disabled Americans. This legislation will provide an opportunity for education, awareness, and discussion about disability in our society beyond that of environmental barriers;

* HB 1103, gives judges more options to address Texas animal cruelty cases.

“In this extremely difficult session, I am proud that several key reforms to improve the quality of life for Texas families and create a more safe and just Texas were signed into law,” said Ellis.

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