September 1 sees a host of new laws taking effect in the Lone Star State. From starting Sunday Funday two hours earlier and required playing of the national anthem at pro sports games, to abortion restrictions and preventing the failure of our state's power grid, here are the new laws Texans need to know.
Through the permitless carry law, Texans age 21 and older with a clean record will be allowed to carry handguns without a license or training.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1927 into law back in mid-June, eliminating the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry handguns if they're not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a gun. You also won't have to be fingerprinted.
However, the Texas Department of Public Safety is required to offer a free, online course in gun safety, but no one is required to take it.
The bill was hotly contested. Law enforcement groups were concerned that permitless carry would endanger officers and make it easier for criminals to get guns. In an attempt to allay those fears, the Senate added several amendments.
Opponents also fear it will result in more gun violence, which has risen drastically. Meanwhile, proponents argued that HB 1927 could help deter crime. They also argue that at least 20 other states have similar laws.
Cracking down on prostitution
Under House Bill 2795, the solicitation of prostitution is a felony punishable by up to two years in jail. This will make Texas the first state in America to codify this offense as a felony.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Texas is ranked No. 2 in the nation in reported sex-trafficking cases. In 2020, the state Department of Public Safety reported that approximately 1.8 million online commercial sex ads were posted and over 300,000 were suspected to be children.
Like violence, human trafficking has also seen a large rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The provisions of Senate Bill 8, which was signed into law by Gov. Abbott on May 19, ban abortions after an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers defined as a fetal heartbeat.
But sometimes that's as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when many women don't even know they're pregnant.
Prior to this law taking effect, the amount of time women had to decide to undergo the procedure was set at 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
Abortions rights advocates have said the new state law is the most restrictive ban on abortion in the nation. It's also expected to limit access to the procedure.
Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld a law allowing Texas to limit access to the most common procedure, medically known as dilation and evacuation, used to end a pregnancy in the second trimester.
Under SB 8, the ban also allows private citizens to sue providers who don't comply with the law. In addition, the person suing would not need to have an immediate connection to the person having the procedure, the Texas Tribune reports.
Anyone who "aids or abets" an abortion when prohibited under state law could also be sued. That includes insurance companies or even someone driving the person to the clinic.
Abortion "trigger" law - House Bill 1280
It should also be noted that the Texas Legislature passed a bill in May called a "trigger" law.
If the United States Supreme Court overturns the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, abortions in Texas would be outlawed completely.
The law would go into effect 30 days after the case is overturned or if a constitutional amendment gives the states the authority to prohibit abortion.
Pumping the brakes on street racing
Street racing is already illegal in Texas, but now under House Bill 2315, law enforcement will have the power to seize vehicles involved in or intending to be involved in misdemeanor or felony highway racing, especially if the person involved is a repeat offender.
Dallas County Democrat John Turner, who authored the bill, said that it also allows law enforcement to seize vehicles and potentially forfeit them if anyone is killed or injured or if the driver was intoxicated.
Expanding medical marijuana
Starting on September 1, the Texas Compassionate Use Program will expand to include people with PTSD and cancer of all stages, allowing them to use "low-THC cannabis."
THC is the abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of cannabis that produces the sensation of being high.
It can be consumed in a variety of ways, including swallowing capsules and eating edibles and oils, all allowed under this program. While THC can also be consumed through smoking, that method won't be permitted.
For cancer patients, THC helps to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy.
According to figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services, the state's cannabis program served fewer than 6,000 people as of May.
The new law will expand to include veterans with PTSD and an estimated 114,000 Texans who have cancer.
Critical race theory
Critical race theory is another topic that has been the center of heated debate over the past several months.
In June, Texas became one of the states to pass such legislation when Gov. Abbott signed a bill into law saying that critical race theory can't be taught to K-12 students in the state's public schools.
Critical race theory is an academic framework used to examine structural causes of racial inequality.
The bill, HB 3979, requires that students are taught about founding documents of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Federalist Papers. Students must also be taught "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong."
It also says that a teacher "may not be compelled to discuss a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs." Students also can't receive extra credit for political activism or lobbying officials on issues.
Some educators have expressed concern about how to navigate the law and impacts in their classrooms and there are education advocacy groups who call the law politically motivated, but supporters have said it helps combat personal biases bleeding into public education, pointing to a few individual instances in school districts across the state where parents have raised concerns.
Star Spangled Banner Protection Act
Under Senate Bill 4, professional sports teams that receive government funds from the state of Texas will be required to play the song.
Teams who do not follow the rule will be subject to penalties, including having to repay the money paid to the team by the state or any governmental entity and may make them ineligible to receive further money. In other words, they could lose out on millions.
Buying booze before noon on Sundays
In case you missed it, you soon won't have to wait until noon to start popping bottles on Sundays.
Starting September 1, Texans will be allowed to buy wine and beer in stores at 10 am, instead of waiting until noon, the requirement under the previous law.
In May, the Legislature approved House Bill 1518, which also allows hotels to sell alcohol to guests at any time of day. Finally, you can take rosé all day literally.
Gov. Abbott signed the bill on June 18.
Another alcohol-related item has already been law since May. House Bill 1024, or you might know it by its much catchier moniker "alcohol-to-go," allows beer, wine, and mixed drinks to be included in pickup and food delivery orders.
It was first introduced in 2020 to help businesses when they closed their dining areas due to the pandemic.
Texas power grid
What about the Texas power grid? It's likely none of us will forget what effect the freeze had on the state in February due to the failure of the power grid. Two bills were passed back in June and made effective immediately.
Senate Bill 2 relates to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. It's purpose is to reform the board, requiring the council's chairmen and board of directors to live in Texas.
It also requires the chairman to be selected by the governor, who would then require Texas Senate confirmation. Further, all changes to ERCOT protocols would need to be presented to the Public Utility Commission of Texas before adoption.
Senate Bill 3 is supposed to strengthen the state's prevention of and preparation for winter storm energy emergencies by:
- Establishing an emergency alert system so that Texans know when demand is exceeding supply. It also directs the Texas Department of Emergency Management to categorize winter storms similarly to how hurricanes are categorized.
- Requiring weatherization of all generation, transmission, and natural gas facilities and pipelines within the State of Texas. Failure to comply could mean getting hit with a $1million penalty per day.
Effective immediately, vaccine passports are a no-go in Texas. Gov. Abbott signed a law back in June prohibiting any Texas business or government entity from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine information.
Those who violate the ban will be barred from state contracts and risk losing their licenses or permits.