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New Laws for the New Year
Article By: by Texas State Rep. Larry Phillips
Posted: 1/3/2014 Views: 1809  Impressions: 9292
Categories: Politics

Most bills that pass during a regular legislative session take effect on September 1 of that same year. A bill can take effect immediately if it receives a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate. However, it is sometimes necessary to delay the date the new law becomes effective. This week, I will write about a few laws that took effect on January 1, 2014.
Currently all Texas employers must report quarterly to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) the number of workers in their employment who are considered employees under the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (Act). The employer must then pay unemployment insurance (UI) taxes on the workers who are classified as employees each quarter in accordance with the Act. If an employer is found to have workers who are employees but are not being reported as such, TWC requires the employer to pay any retroactive UI taxes as well as any future UI taxes that are due for the employees. House Bill 2015 amends the Labor Code to establish that an employer (general contractors and subcontractors or person) awarded a contract for public works must ensure that any individual performing services under such contract (including individuals working for subcontractors) are properly classified as an employee or independent contractor. If it is found that a worker has been misclassified, the employer can be fined $200 per employee. This law went into effect on January 1, 2014.
Senate Bill 1611, known as the Michael Morton Act, amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to revise provisions relating to discovery in a criminal case. Previous law required the state to disclose certain evidence in a pending criminal action only on a good cause showing by the defendant and on notice to the other parties. The new law instead requires the state to produce and permit the inspection and the electronic duplication, copying, and photographing of certain evidence by the defendant or his attorneys. Under SB 1611, the state is required to disclose to the defendant any exculpatory, impeachment, or mitigating document, item, or information in the possession, custody, or control of the state that tends to negate the defendant's guilt or would tend to reduce the punishment for the offense charged. If at any time before, during, or after trial the state discovers any additional exculpatory, impeachment, or mitigating document, item, or information, the state must promptly disclose its existence to the defendant or the court. Additionally, before accepting a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or before trial, each party must acknowledge in writing or on the record in open court the disclosure, receipt, and list of discovery provided to the defendant.
For more information regarding these laws or any matter of state government, please contact my office by writing to P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 or by emailing me at My district office phone number is (903) 891-7297.

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