Everyone in the restaurant industry should know what new laws affect them. This last legislative session addressed a variety of laws from immigration to fat and smoke, and the this article provides those results.
The latest session of the Texas Legislature ended on June 1, 2009. Comprising the 81st Session of the Legislature, Texas lawmakers were reluctant to pass restaurant legislation in general. Of the six primary bills affecting restaurants, only one passed, which related to food handler certification. The following is a brief summary of the results of this latest legislative session.
Ban on Trans Fats – Did Not Pass
Senate Bill 204 was introduced to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants. As reported here previously, there were a variety of loop holes and special causes that could have still used such ingredients, despite the bill’s prohibition. Despite restaurant trends against the use of trans fats and despite the further public sentiment away from their use, this bill did not pass.
State-Wide Ban on Smoke in Public Places – Did Not Pass
Senate Bill 544 was the much sought smoking ban that attempted to make the individual county and city smoking bans across Texas uniform. The argument was that this ban would have leveled the playing field in adjacent communities where one community banned smoking, but the other allowed it. However, this bill failed to pass, so for the present, it is left to individual communities to decide whether allowing smoke in public places like restaurants is favored or banned.
Bring Your Own Wine Bill – Did Not Pass
Senate Bill 2523 would have allowed patrons to bring their own wine to restaurants that served it. It was intended to allow greater public awareness of the significant tax on alcoholic beverages. However, like the others mentioned above, this also failed to pass.
Calorie Labeling Bill for Menus – Did Not Pass
Despite similar bills from both California and New York, which are now the law there, Texas failed to pass similar legislation in the form of House Bill 1845 relating to caloric information disclosures on menus. In light of a federal bill that could become law soon, which is known as the LEAN Act, this may or may not be all that bad. Accordingly, restaurants should know that despite the failure of the Texas bill, food menu labeling is not gone from consideration. Follow this link for more information on the LEAN Act.
Immigration Bills – Did Not Pass
There were several immigration bills under consideration. However, none of this legislation became law.
Food Handler Certification – Passed
House Bill 3012 passed both houses and is making its way to the Governor’s office to be signed. Among other things, this bill provided the State of Texas and its counties with the power to “require certification under Subchapter D, Chapter 438, for each food handler who is employed by a food service establishment in which food is prepared on-site for sale to the public and which holds a permit issued by the county, the public health district, or the department.” Follow this link for a copy of the “enrolled version” of the bill, but keep in mind that it is not law until signed by the Governor.