WAXAHACHIE — Four statewide legislative bills were passed that will directly affect restaurant regulations throughout Texas and are believed to benefit the local food industry.

The Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce hosted a legislative briefing for its members in the restaurant business, informing of recent industry changes coming to Ellis County.

Led by Andy Rittler, Executive Director of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, the "Restaurant Roundtable" meeting covered the effects of the 85th Texas Legislative Session that came to an end on May 29.

“We had a 100 percent success rate, and I don’t usually get to say that,” expressed Rittler.

Among the 200 bills dealing directly with the food industry, four bills that the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) introduced were passed and signed into law by Governor Gregg Abbott.

Rittler noted the approved bills included: House Bill 2101 – the food and beverage certificate bill, House Bill 2029 – known as the “barbecue bill,” House Bill 1463 - Americans With Disabilities Act bill, and Senate Bill 1089 - elimination of local food handler fees.

“It’s essential to keep up with current bills, and we’ve seen that time and time again. If a business is not paying attention, they can get tripped up by some pretty complicated and pretty expensive regulations,” expressed Pete Havel, President of the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce, during the meeting on June 27.

“House Bill 2101, that was Senator [Brandon] Creighton and Representative [John] Frullo, and that amends the food and beverage certificate for the TABC [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission],” Rittler explained the first bill.

According to the TRA, jurisdictions that have had successful local option elections for the “sale of mixed drinks in restaurants” require a restaurant to have a food and beverage certificate.

House Bill 2101 will increase the alcohol sales threshold from 50 percent to 60 percent of total sales, require a more uniform calculation by the TABC, and provide due process rights.

“For House Bill 2029, was the thing we had the most fun with," Rittler moved on to the next bill. "Because it had to do with taking on a restriction of archaic rules and laws that were on the books but not necessarily ruled upon for many years."

Authored by Rep. J.M. Lozano and Sen. Charles Perry, the bill relieves establishments that serve food for immediate consumption from the Texas Department of Agriculture, exempting them from the requirement of maintaining a certified scale with a visible “consumer protection sticker” on it.

“If you sell food by the weight, you would have to have a scale that has a sticker, and the scale would have to be calibrated through the Texas Department of Agriculture,” Rittler explained. “Secondly, it had to be in view of the customer at all times, and this included drive-throughs.

“It’s $35 to get the sticker for the scale, but the cost when you look at having to retrofit drive-ins so that you could see the scale in the drive-through window was absolutely ridiculous."

The third bill to be passed was Senate Bill 1089, which the TRA confirmed will eliminate all local food handler fees, and documentation requirements for all food service employees who successfully pass an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited or state registered food handler course.

The last bill presented by Rep. John Smithee and Sen. Kel Seliger was House Bill 1463, combatting the “drive-by” lawsuits, that demanded particular “settlement” totals from businesses for suspected infractions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

“The remedy we came up with and we were able to successfully put in place was a 60-day remedy period,” Rittler recalled.

Requiring the plaintiff to give a 60-day notice to a business suspected of a violation, the notice must disclose the name of the individual making a claim, the nature of the breach, and the time, place, and evidence of the discovered matter.

Each bill will take effect on Sept. 1.

“The Chamber is always pleased with any time laws are passed that make doing business easier for our members,” Havel acknowledged. “We’re just happy to provide programming that can keep them on the leading edge of what’s happening, and what to watch out for.

“Anytime you can bring together members of the business community, in this case – restaurants, to have them talk about issues of importance to them and bring value to our members, I think people left that room pleased with some of the good pro-business legislation that was passed.

For more information about the 85th Texas Legislative Session bills passed by the Texas Restaurant Association, visit txrestaurant.org/news/85th-texas-legislative-session-recap or call (800)-395-2872.

To connect with the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce, visit waxahachiechamber.com or call (972)-937-2390.

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Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer

(469)-517-1450