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Senator Judith Zaffirini: District 21
Press Release
January 2, 2020
Contact: Sarah Pollock
Zaffirini: New Laws Take Effect with New Year
They Include Court Costs Reform, Taxpayer Protections

(AUSTIN) — Legislation passed during the 2019 Session continues to take effect, with 24 new laws becoming effective on New Year’s Day. Three of those bills were authored or sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo): Senate Bill (SB) 346 and House Bills (HB) 69 and 1885.

Her SB 346 significantly reforms Texas' confusing system of court costs, fines and fees by consolidating some and eliminating unnecessary others. "The criminal court cost system in Texas has been difficult for defendants to navigate, for county and district clerks to administer and for the state to audit for compliance," Zaffirini said. "SB 346 not only will make the system more streamlined and efficient, but also will protect vital programs that currently are funded by court costs.

"In 2021 we will propose similar improvements for civil cases."

Zaffirini sponsored HB 69 by Rep. Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio), which ensures representatives of a deceased person's estate can fairly terminate a lease and retrieve his or her belongings. "While many leases include protections for this type of situation, the law formerly did not provide guidance, nor were such protections available to all tenants," Zaffirini said. "HB 69 establishes a reasonable process for all involved parties, ensuring persons are not exploited following the death of a loved one."

Zaffirini also sponsored HB 1885 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), which provides a waiver for penalties and fees related to a property tax bill that becomes delinquent as a result of an error by a bank or other mortgage lender.

"Taxpayers should not be held liable for mistakes made by their financial institutions," Zaffirini said. "HB 1885 addresses this problem by allowing taxing entities to waive penalties in cases where borrowers receive their bill late but pay their taxes timely upon receipt."

A section of SB 38, the senator's landmark hazing reform legislation, also became effective: requiring universities to provide students a report including a summary of state hazing laws and information regarding student organizations recently disciplined for or convicted of hazing.

"Ensuring students are aware of hazing on their campus is a critical part of eliminating this horrific practice," Zaffirini said. "Only by holding universities and student organizations accountable will we save lives."

She passed 127 bills during the 2019 legislative session, breaking her personal record for the third consecutive session and passing more bills than any other legislator. Since 1987 she has sponsored and passed 1,160 bills and 36 substantive resolutions—more than any other legislator in Texas history.

"Even after 32 years of serving in the Senate, my constituents continue to amaze me," Senator Zaffirini said. "Some of our best laws began with their suggestions. They can count on me to listen and develop additional legislation for the next regular session that convenes on Jan. 12, 2021."

Senator Zaffirini is Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development and of the Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety. She is a member of the Administration, State Affairs and Business and Commerce committees and serves on the Texas Judicial Council and the Texas Access to Justice Commission.

Her legendary work ethic is reflected in her 100 percent perfect attendance in the Texas Senate since 1987, except for breaking quorum deliberately to prevent an untimely re-redistricting that the U.S. Supreme Court (2006) ruled violated the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchised voters in SD 21. Continuing her career-long 100 percent voting record, she has cast more than 64,000 consecutive votes.

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THREE NEW LAWS effective Jan. 1 were authored or sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. They include measures to combat hazing, streamline court costs and protect homeowners and relatives of deceased tenants.