Presentation To Provide Overview Of Law Changes
Sept. 1, 2015
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
During its 84th legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed 1,282 laws related to everything from search warrants, to the publication of criminal records, to debit card charges, to the releasing of student academic information, and even “revenge porn.”
To help Sam Houston State University students, faculty and staff members wade through an overwhelming number of important changes, SHSU’s Student Legal and Mediation Services will highlight the 60 that are most relevant to the university community during a presentation on Sept. 23.
SLMS director Gene Roberts will lead “60 Laws in 60 Minutes” from noon to 1 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center Theater. A repeat presentation also is scheduled for Sept. 29, from 6-7 p.m. in the LSC Theater.
“This will be a fast-paced, bird’s eye view of these important changes for the SHSU community, as we continue to provide high-quality legal advice and point Bearkats in the right direction,” Roberts said.
A number of the bills passed this session address issues that are related to technology and a changing view toward criminal law, which may affect both students and faculty and staff members.
“For example, the legislature now requires public institutions of higher education to establish a policy on campus sexual assault that requires entering freshmen or undergraduate students to attend an orientation on the policy before or during their first semester,” he said. “General academic teaching institutions must also provide information about available mental health and suicide prevention programs.
“The legislature also enacted, based upon decisions from the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, a law that a peace officer cannot search a cell phone or other wireless communications device without obtaining a warrant,” he said. “And a peace officer cannot conduct a body cavity search during a traffic stop unless a warrant has been issued.
Other bills that may affect students more directly include the handling of alcohol- or drug-related offenses and issues related to landlord-and-tenant agreements.
“The legislature clarified that if a court orders educational classes for someone charged with an alcohol- or drug-related offense, the community service must be related to the charge. Previously, the law only authorized alcohol-related classes, not drug-related classes,” Roberts said.
“They also created new laws for landlords and tenants relating to rekeying costs for landlords, procedures to retrieve belongings from a past apartment, denying the landlord the ability to waive a jury trial in the lease agreement, and requiring landlords to give notice of damage prior to submitting the tenant to a consumer reporting agency or debt collector,” he said.
While many new laws will be discussed, the majority of what the presentation will cover will include changes to existing laws, which are important to be aware of because of the potential of unknowingly violating the changed laws.
“The laws change so much for a number of reasons, including the increased use of technology, that people learn ways around the old laws, and values change,” Roberts said.
“It’s important for all of us—as responsible citizens—to be informed about the laws that can affect us or the students that we serve. Our democracy requires that we know the rules so that we can live by the rules and, if we don’t agree with them, to communicate with our elected representatives to change the law.”
In addition, students can benefit most from this presentation because Roberts intentionally selected a large number of laws that affect them.
“Students are focused on their academics, and rightfully so. But they are not insulated from the laws, rules, ordinances, and administrative regulations simply because they are university students,” Roberts said. “Knowing the law is an essential component of civic responsibility, but it is also critical to know what your rights and responsibilities are.”
All attendees will receive a handout on topics addressed, and staff members who attend one of the sessions will be eligible for professional development credit through Talent Management.
For more information, contact the SLMS Office at 936.294.1717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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