Updates & Issues

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2011 Legislative Review
Highlights from the Texas Legislative Regular and Special Sessions

Budget and Taxes
The budget dominated this session of the legislature. During the session proposals were made to increase the mixed beverage tax, place a tax on carbonated drinks, repeal the early filer and sales tax reimbursement allowance and to accelerate tax payments.  All these proposals were defeated.

There is a scheduled phase out of the one million dollar exemption from the franchise tax that would affect smaller grossing restaurants.  Attempts to extend this exemption failed in the regular session but the exemption has been extended under legislation considered in the special session.

Restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages will see a fee increase when the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission increases surcharges by about $100.  This is fee increase is the result of current law which requires the TABC to cover its’ costs of operation through surcharges.

The Legislature did pass a bill allowing restaurants to show the amount of mixed beverage tax paid by the permittee on a customer’s receipt.  The Comptroller’s office will need to issue guidance or rules on this disclosure.  TRA had sought to convert the mixed beverage gross receipts tax to a sales tax and will pursue this in the next legislative session.

This appeared to be one of the hot topics for this session, with a proposal to require that employers use the federal e-verify system a virtual certainty for passage and the possibility for criminal sanctions for employers with undocumented workers.  In the end, nothing affecting private sector employers passed the legislature.

Legislation creating a Texas healthcare insurance connector failed to pass.  The state may still move forward on this through the Executive branch and existing administrative agencies.

Restaurant Signage Issues
A bill to require restaurants to post the country of origin for catfish failed to pass.  The requirement that restaurants post a sign depicting the Heimlich maneuver has been repealed.  If you still wish to voluntarily post a sign for assisting a person who is choking, TRA recommends a poster available from the American Red Cross that depicts the latest guidance.


Tort Reform
Legislation allowing judges to dismiss meritless lawsuits and assess costs to the plaintiff was passed.  This will put Texas in the judicial mainstream in which federal and most state judges have this authority.  By having the authority to dismiss a lawsuit prior to discovery taking place the costs of disposing of the suit are greatly decreased.

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