Senator Zaffirini Announces New Laws Effective September 1

(AUSTIN) –Twenty-seven new laws, including 13 Senate Bills (SB) authored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and 14 House Bills (HB) that she sponsored during the 2009 legislative session will become effective on Sept. 1.

Eight focus on improving access to and the quality of state health and human services, always among Senator Zaffirini’s highest legislative priorities. With the passage of SB 39, for example, Texans with life-threatening illnesses will be able to enroll in medical clinical trials with the hope of finding a cure while having their routine care costs covered by their health insurance.

Because insurance companies will be required to cover routine medical care, patients can participate in clinical trials without fear that their insurance companies will refuse to reimburse routine medical expenses or drop them completely from coverage.

With Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, Senator Zaffirini passed HB 806, the companion to her SB 26, to require group health insurance plans to provide coverage equal to Medicare benefit levels for prosthetic devices, thereby protecting medically insured Texans who lose a limb and otherwise could not afford their prosthetic devices.

Significant measures designed to enhance public safety also will become effective Sept. 1, including Senator Zaffirini’s SB 61. The new law requires booster seats for children younger than eight, unless they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. It is expected to reduce by 59 percent children’s risk of serious head, spinal cord or internal organ injuries due to adult seat belts.

Driver’s license holders voluntarily can provide emergency contact information to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), as allowed by Senator Zaffirini’s SB 652. Data will be used only to reach loved ones during emergencies, and it is expected that the database will reduce greatly time required to locate next-of-kin in an emergency and secure medical information needed for life-saving care.

The bill was suggested by Laredoan Sally Vasquez and sponsored by Rep. Stephen Frost, D-Atlanta.

“These new measures are the result of a successful legislative session,” Senator Zaffirini said, “and I am grateful to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and my colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives for working to enact policies to benefit the families of SD 21 and our state.”

Of the 65 bills that Senator Zaffirini passed in 2009, the 27 that will become effective on Sept. 1 are summarized below:

  • SB 28 prohibits and creates penalties for the unauthorized use of another’s computer for purposes such as collecting personally identifiable information without a person’s consent, blackmail and click fraud.
  • SB 39 requires health benefit plans to cover the costs of routine patient care for insured participants in clinical medical trials.
  • SB 52 increases penalties for illegally using parking places designated for persons with disabilities.
  • SB 58 streamlines the administration of the Juvenile Justice Case Management System.
  • SB 61 requires child passenger safety seats for children younger than eight years old who are shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches.
  • SB 63 creates a career ladder for interveners who provide services through the deaf-blind with multiple disabilities waiver program.
  • SB 652 allows driver’s license holders voluntarily to provide emergency contact information to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for use only to reach loved ones during emergencies.
  • SB 1145 establishes a method for properly folding the state flag.
  • SB 1795 clarifies political contribution and expenditure reports in connection with runoff elections.
  • SB 1796 streamlines the process for approving certain construction projects at higher education institutions.
  • SB 1803 simplifies the procedures for participating in the Glenda Dawson Donate Life-Texas Registry for organ donation.
  • SB 1804 allows for medical assistance reimbursement for wheeled mobility systems for recipients of medical assistance.
  • SB 1806 allows for liens for certain veterinary care charges for large animals.
  • HB 19 requires new labeling requirements for drugs dispensed by pharmacists.
  • HB 549 creates an affirmative defense to the prosecution of certain sex offenses.
  • HB 802 creates the lifespan respite services program.
  • HB 806 requires health benefit plans to cover certain prosthetic and orthotic devices.
  • HB 1177 allows peace officers and firefighters involved in the legislative process to obtain leave from their jobs.
  • HB 1178 authorizes the creation of the Starr County Drainage District.
  • HB 1282 creates a penalty for the theft of a driver’s license or personal identification certificate.
  • HB 1622 creates a grant program to provide for children at risk of hunger or obesity.
  • HB 1793 requires instruction for judges who hear complaints alleging certain misdemeanor offenses by children.
  • HB 2330 allows the expanded availability of laboratory tests measuring kidney function.
  • HB 2804 authorizes salary increases for Duval County Juvenile Board members.
  • HB 2813 authorizes salary increases for Starr County Juvenile Board members.
  • HB 3303 improves the adult fatality review and investigation process.

Information about these and other new laws is available via www.zaffirini.senate.state.tx.us or the Texas Legislative Reference Library, 512/463-1252.