AARP Eye Center
The start of September means a lot of new laws -- 774, to be precise -- are going into effect in Texas.
Debated, passed and signed during the 88th Texas Legislature, these laws include changes that impact virtually every aspect of life in the Lone Star State – crime, elections, health care, housing, transportation, the power grid, schools, taxes and more.
Some of the laws are ones advocated for by AARP Texas, including measures ranging from prescription drug affordability and funding for adult protective services to food assistance.
“During the 2023 legislative session, we helped achieve significant wins for Texans 50-plus,” said AARP Texas State and Federal Strategy Director Kathy Green. “The AARP Texas advocacy team had a big impact due, in part, to the many volunteers who came to Austin to testify in committee and meet with legislators, as well as the thousands of AARP advocates from around the state who wrote letters, signed petitions and made calls to lawmakers.”
Some new laws took effect immediately upon the governor’s approval and others hold until the new year. Here’s a look at new laws AARP worked to make happen on behalf of older Texans and their families that are effective Sept. 1.
Sales Tax Break for Adult Diapers, Hygiene Products
Texans will no longer need to pay a sales tax on personal-needs products like adult and baby diapers, wipes and menstrual products. Before now, state sales tax had been assessed on many personal care items, such as wound care dressings, menstrual products, child and adult diapers, and other baby care items. Many of these items are needed on a regular basis and the sales tax can make them cost prohibitive for some people. Many older Texans face the need for incontinence products, whether because of a medical condition, disability, or simply aging.
Peace officers will now be required to complete training for how to interact with individuals with dementia. The new law ensures that the nearly 400,000 Texans living with Alzheimer’s disease have the appropriate safety and support when interacting with law enforcement. Another new law requires all assisted living facility direct care staff to have four certified hours of Alzheimer’s training.
Prescription Drug Importation
Saving consumers money, a new program will allow Texas to import low-cost medicine from Canada.The Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Program allows the state to bring in low-cost medicine from Canada under tight regulatory safeguards approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The law is predicted to save Texans an estimated 60 percent to 70 percent off medications like EpiPens, blood pressure medicine and cancer drugs.
Preparing for the Future
By 2050, one in five Texans will be over 65. A new Interagency Aging Services Coordinating Council will help the state prepare for this future. The council will coordinate strategic planning and budget processes across state agencies and develop an aging plan for the Legislature’s consideration.
Community Care Attendant Wages
The base wage for community care attendants increases rom $8.10 an hour to $10.60. Community care attendances provide vital care for Medicaid recipients who are older or disabled. They help in daily tasks like bathing, dressing and housekeeping.
A new law requires hospitals in Texas to provide an itemized bill for services provided prior to attempting to collect any money from a patient.
Workplace Violence Prevention
Hospitals, nursing homes, home and community-based services, and numerous other health-focused facilities will be required to implement workplace violence prevention policies and measures, as well as education and training for employees on prevention, planning, and safe reporting procedures.
Health and Human Services Commission Staffing
AARP Texas worked to increase funding for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to improve their staffing. Understaffing there has hindered its responsibilities to administer Medicaid and food assistance benefits.
Changes taking effect will help older Texans facing hunger continue to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and to purchase healthy groceries. Specifically, a change will increase the allowable amounts for vehicles owned by SNAP recipients.
Personal Needs Allowance
The personal needs allowance that Medicaid recipients in nursing homes receive increases from $60 a month to $85 a month. The allowance helps cover needs not covered by the nursing facility, such as hygiene products.
Texas officials will be given broader authority to protect victims from financial abuse by care providers. A new law aims to make it easier to prove when a person with dementia has been exploited financially. Another new law makes it a criminal offense to abandon or endanger an elderly individual. And under budget requests backed by AARP Texas, additional state positions will be authorized to focus on elder financial exploitation.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
A new law protects consumers from paying to subsidize electric vehicle charging stations and encourages private investment in the projects.
Public Utility Commission budget
AARP Texas backed increases in funding for staffing the PUC and its Office of Public Engagement. The PUC regulates utilities and implements utility legislation.