Some pretty badass new laws in Texas will go into effect on Sept. 1st and there’s a good chance at least one of them will impact your life.
Some major law changes were inspired by the coronavirus pandemic and Winter Storm Uri, while others are related to guns, education and the use of medicinal marijuana. A total of 666 new laws will take effect Sept. 1.
Please note that these descriptions are not all-encompassing and only highlight some of the major points of that particular piece of legislation, all of which are linked in full.
HB 1927 – Constitutional Carry
Texans over the age of 21 will now be able to carry a handgun without a license in Texas.
Referred to as “constitutional carry,” this law removes the requirement of obtaining a state-issued license (and the training and background check that is part of that process) in order to carry a handgun in public. Background checks are still required by federal law when purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.
Texans may carry pistols openly or concealed, as long as they are not prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Long guns, including shotguns and rifles, do not require a license to carry in public in Texas.
SB 8 – Anti-abortion legislation limits procedure to as early as 5 weeks
Referred to as the “heartbeat bill,” this new law bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can sometimes be as early as 5 weeks after a missed period. Victims of rape and incest are not exempt, meaning they must carry the pregnancy to term once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Additionally, any person in Texas, with the exception of state and local government employees, will be allowed to sue abortion providers or anyone they allege to have assisted a woman in obtaining the procedure. That could include providing transportation to a clinic.
It also adds a requirement that doctors are not allowed to perform abortions without first performing a test to see if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The only exemption to this rule is if a physician believes there is a medical emergency, which makes the abortion necessary.
HB 929 – Body-Worn Cameras
Police officers will now be required to keep their body-worn cameras on during investigations.
This law was inspired by the death of Botham Jean, a black man who was shot dead in his own apartment by former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for his murder.
Previously, officers were allowed to turn off their cameras if they were in a “nonconfrontational” encounter with a person. The new law requires them to record any part of an investigation.
HB 1518 – Beer and Wine Sales on Sundays
Previously, Texans could not buy beer and wine until noon on Sundays. This new law expands hours for the sale of beer and wine from 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.
The sale of liquor is still prohibited in stores on Sundays but is allowed on other days from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. except on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day.
HB 1239 – Churches Can’t Be Closed
While churches already have robust protections from state and federal laws, they aren’t necessarily guaranteed special treatment during a public health crisis or in other matters of public safety under those laws.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Governor Abbott’s executive order on March 19, 2020, limited indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people and churches were not explicitly exempted. On March 31, Abbott said his orders exempted essential services, including churches and houses of worship, but orders from some local jurisdictions, including Harris County, continued to include churches in their general stay-at-home orders.
The new law explicitly states that places of worship cannot be ordered to close for any reason by any government agency or public official – including during a disaster.
HB 3979 – Critical Race Theory
Texas is now one of just a handful of states that is banning the teaching of so-called critical race theory, or more acutely, how race and racism have impacted the social structures of the U.S.
The new law requires that Texas students learn a specific list of documents. According to the Texas Tribune, many educators and education advocacy groups have opposed the bill, saying it limits honest conversations about race and racism in American society. Teachers are also banned from giving extra credit to students for participating in civic activities that include political activism.
HB 1535 – Medical Marijuana
Hundreds of thousands of additional Texans will have access to low-THC cannabis thanks to this expanded law that deals with the compassionate use of medical marijuana.
People like veterans, who suffer from post‑traumatic stress disorder, cancer patients and other medical conditions that have been approved for certain research programs, will have access to medical marijuana and doctors will be able to prescribe low‑THC cannabis for qualifying patients.
The new law also raises the dosage limit of THC from .5% to 1%. Texas medical marijuana law remains one of the more restrictive in the country, but proponents have made progress each session since 2015, when the state’s law was first passed.
SB 4 – Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act
The Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the U.S. and in recent years it has become a topic of debate with athletes kneeling in protest of police brutality and some sports teams choosing not to play the national anthem before games. However, this new law will require professional sports teams that have contracts with the state to play the anthem prior to the start of every game.
HB 9 – Blocking Emergency Vehicles
Protesters who block roadways will face felony charges if they knowingly block an emergency vehicle that has audible sirens and visual signals like flashing lights. The offense was previously a Class B misdemeanor. This bill was passed after protesters blocked roadways during nationwide protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd.
While these are just a handful of new laws that go into effect Sept. 1, 2021, following the 87th legislative session, there are other laws that passed this year and that have already gone into effect that you may have missed.
HB 1024 – Alcohol To Go
Alcohol-to-go sales became permanent after Gov. Greg Abbott initially waived certain regulations allowing alcohol delivery from restaurants on March 18 as a way to help support the hospitality industry during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Legislature followed up by codifying that change. Beer, wine and mixed drinks can now be included in food orders for pickup and delivery in Texas.
After Winter Storm Uri, state legislators took steps to address issues with the Texas power grid, which was put under the microscope following the disaster. Senate Bill 2 changes the makeup of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, board of directors and how those members are appointed. Senate Bill 3 will require power companies to upgrade their power plants and transmission lines to withstand more extreme weather.
Read more on those here.
SB 968 – Vaccine Passports
Abbott signed this into law in early June and said “vaccine passports are now prohibited in the Lone Star State.” No business can require customers to provide proof of vaccination or they will be in violation of the law. Businesses that violate this ban will be barred from state contracts and from receiving state grants.
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