DALLAS — With every new year comes reflection, resolution and, of course, new laws that go into effect on Jan. 1.

The 87th Texas Legislature passed more than 660 bills this year during what seemed like an endless number of sessions. Most of them have already gone into effect, many of them amid controversy and legal challenges. 

What You Need To Know

  • The 87th Texas Legislature passed more than 660 bills this year, 23 of which will go into effect Jan. 1

  • Many of the bills address tax exemptions for churches, chicken coops and veterans

  • Large counties must get voter approval before reducing or redirecting police funding

At the start of 2022, at midnight on Friday, 23 laws will come into effect in Texas. Here’s a rundown of some of the laws you might have missed but which could have an impact.

Clarifying who's delivering your restaurant order

Senate Bill 911 addressed concerns raised during the height of the pandemic when many people were using third-party delivery services to bring them their favorite restaurant’s food during the lockdown.  Many restaurants partnered with delivery services to help them get their customers’ orders out, but confusion ensued at times when a delivery service would add a restaurant to their list without the restaurants’ permission, and the menu information given to customers was either out-of-date or inaccurate. 

This law seeks to regulate third-party delivery services in this case by requiring them to remove a non-contractual restaurant within 10 days of receiving a request and prohibiting deceptive advertising of an establishment on the delivery platforms. The bill also sets a definition of a restaurant in the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Code. Establishments with mixed beverage permits will be reclassified as restaurants if alcohol sales are 60% or less of the establishment's sales.

Elections required before changing police funding

Counties who are considering reducing or redirecting funding of their law enforcement agencies must hold an election first to get voter approval on the measure, according to Senate Bill 23. The law only applies to counties with populations of 1 million or more. The Republican-led bill comes in the wake of heated debates across the country on issues related to "defunding the police."

A watchdog for long-term care facilities

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, particularly for those who were in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Preventing the spread of the COVD-19 virus meant long bouts of isolation for many residents of these facilities as relatives and friends were barred from visiting. House Bill 3961 now requires these facilities to post on their websites clear instructions on how to contact the state’s long-term care ombudsman, which the Texas Health and Human Services describes as the office responsible for advocating for resident rights and helping to protect “the quality of life and quality of care of anybody who lives in a nursing home or an assisted living facility.”

Tax exemptions for veterans

Senate Bill 794 kicks in on Jan. 1 and exempts homestead taxes for all veterans whom the Department of Veterans Affairs classifies as 100% disabled.

And more laws with tax exemptions

Churches and other religious organizations now have 10 years of tax exemption on land intended for construction for the organization’s use. The land must be adjacent to the organization’s primary place of worship, according to House Bill 1197. Previously, the law only gave six years of tax exemption on such land. 

If you’re a charitable organization and you’ve been helping out the homeless by providing them housing and other assistance during tough times, there’s good news. House Bill 115 will give you a tax exemption as long as you meet the criteria outlined in the bill. If the organization is located within a county, it must have been in existence for 20 years. If it’s in a municipality, then it must have been in operation for at least two years. In addition, the housing provided must be on a permanent basis, meaning not just for a night or two.

Real estate located within a registered historic district is often subject to various laws restricting how and what can be reconstructed, repaired or altered. House Bill 3971 requires a chief appraiser when considering the market value of a piece of property in a state, city, or federal historic zone, to take those restrictions into consideration when determining the property’s value.

Love your chickens but hate that your carefully constructed coop could raise your tax bill? House Bill 2535 should offer some relief. Under the new law, tax assessors will be prohibited from including personal chicken coops or rabbit pens from being included in the value of a home.