New State Laws 6

New State Laws

Six hundred and sixty-six new Texas laws have now gone into effect. Debated, passed, and signed during the 87th Texas Legislature, these laws include changes to public safety, health care, and K-12 education.

Not every bill signed into law during the regular session will go into effect Sep. 1. Some bills went into effect as soon as they were signed. For example, Senate Bill 968, which banned “vaccine passports” in Texas, became law when Gov. Greg Abbott signed it in June. Other bills, like one that revises eminent domain negotiations between landowners and companies, will become law on Jan. 1, 2022.

The legislature is currently in its second special session, which Abbott primarily called to advance the GOP-backed voting restrictions bill. Lawmakers are discussing other topics, including changes to the bail system and limits on transgender Texans from competing on school sports teams. At least one more special session will be called this fall to address redistricting.

But in the meantime, here’s a list of the new laws you should know:

 

Texas’ 2022-2023 budget

SB 1 provides nearly $250 billion for Texas, with notable funds going toward public higher education. Abbott line-item vetoed the part of the budget that funds the Texas Legislature and the people who staff it — but lawmakers may restore funding during this summer’s second special session.

 

Abortion restrictions

SB 8 prohibits abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. In lieu of government enforcement, private individuals can sue abortion providers or people who assist abortion after an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers defined as a fetal heartbeat. Embryos at this developmental stage don’t possess a heart. Medical and legal experts say the sound Republican lawmakers are referring to is the motion of electrical pulses stimulating muscle cells in a tube that will eventually become part of the heart. Abortion providers are suing to block the law. Additionally, HB 1280 would outlaw abortion in Texas 30 days after any potential U.S. Supreme Court decision overturns Roe v. Wade.

 

Permitless carry

House Bill 1927 allows Texans ages 21 and older to carry handguns without training or a license as long as they are not legally prevented from doing so.

 

Medical marijuana expansion

People with any form of cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder now have access to low-THC cannabis for medical purposes. HB 1535 is an expansion of the Texas Compassionate Use Program, which allows people with conditions such as epilepsy and autism to access medical marijuana.

 

Funding the “1836 Project”

HB 2497 establishes an “1836 Project” committee to produce patriotic Texas history materials, which will be distributed through channels such as when people receive driver’s licenses. The initiative’s name mirrors the “1619 Project,” a New York Times publication examining U.S. history from the arrival of enslaved people.

 

Social studies curriculum changes

HB 3979 limits teachers from discussing current events and systemic racism in class. The bill also prevents students from receiving class credit for participating in civic engagement and bans teaching of the “1619 Project.”

 

“Star Spangled Banner Protection Act”

Professional sports teams with state funding are required to play the national anthem before games under SB 4.

 

Shielding companies from car crash liability

HB 19 requires drivers of commercial vehicles — including Ubers, Lyfts, and delivery trucks — to be found liable in court for causing a car crash resulting in injury or death before a case can be brought against their employer.

 

Active shooter alert system

HB 103 creates the Texas Active Shooter Alert System, which will notify Texans in the vicinity of an active shooting scene through their phones. The system can be activated by request of local law enforcement.

 

Police body cameras

HB 929 requires police officers to keep body cameras on during the entirety of active investigations. The law is named after Botham Jean, who was fatally shot in his apartment by a Dallas police officer in 2018.

 

Punishing cities that cut police budgets

If municipalities with a population of more than 250,000 reduce their police budget, HB 1900 allows the state to financially punish the cities by reducing sales tax revenues and preventing increases in property taxes.

 

Felony punishment for blocking emergency vehicles

HB 9 will make blocking access to a hospital or an emergency vehicle with its lights and sirens on a state jail felony. The bill was passed as a response to protesters being arrested for blocking ambulances during Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

 

Criminalizing homeless camping

HB 1925 makes camping in unapproved public places a misdemeanor crime that carries a fine of up to $500. Cities cannot opt out of the ban.

 

Reducing barriers to SNAP

SB 224 simplifies access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for seniors and disabled people on fixed incomes. Eligible individuals can forgo enrollment interviews and have a shortened application process.

 

Reducing pre-K class sizes

Prekindergarten classes are now capped at 22 students — the same maximum class size of other elementary school grades — under SB 2081.

 

New state employee retirement accounts

SB 321 enrolls new state workers hired after Sep. 1, 2022, in a cash-balance plan, which deposits a percentage of a worker’s annual compensation in retirement accounts and is similar to a 401(k) retirement account. Currently, employees have defined-benefit retirement accounts based on employment position and previous salaries.

 

Banning unnecessary police chokeholds

Police officers are now prohibited from using chokeholds or excessive force during arrests unless necessary to prevent officer or bystander injury under SB 69. Officers who witness violations are required to report the incident.

 

Online ballot tracking system

HB 1382 creates an online tracking system for mail-in ballots and applications for mail-in ballots. The system will be run by the Texas Secretary of State.

 

Disclosure: Lyft, the Texas Secretary of State, and The New York Times have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism.

 

A version of this story originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The post New State Laws appeared first on Fort Worth Weekly.

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