Here is a summary for a number of the nearly seven hundred news laws taking effect in Texas today:
NEW TX CRIMINAL LAW
Certain synthetic compounds deceptively labeled as "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana products (K2 or spice) have been added to Penalty Group 2 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. (HB 2118, SB 331) Bath salts contain dangerous stimulants, and K2 mimics the effects of marijuana. Both have been sold in convenience stores and head shops, and have side effects that can be harmful and long-lasting.
· The electronic transmission or possession of visual material depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct ("sexting") has been added as an offense in the Penal Code. The penalty can range from a Class C misdemeanor to Class A misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances. This does not apply to minors involved in a dating relationship or spouses. (SB 407)
· The possession or use of tire deflation devices, commonly known as caltrops, for any purpose other than law enforcement use or as an antique or curio is prohibited. Criminal organizations have increasingly used caltrops as they attempt to evade apprehension, resulting in damage to patrol vehicles and innocent vehicles on the road. (SB 1416)
NEW TX WEAPONS LAW
A person may carry a handgun, knife, or club in a watercraft under the person's ownership or control. The handgun, knife, or club may not be in plain view, used while engaging in criminal activity, or carried by a member of a criminal street gang. (HB 25)
Employers may not prohibit employees with a concealed handgun license from having firearms or ammunition in their personal cars in the employer's parking lot. This does not apply to employees of public, private or charter schools, or employees of chemical manufacturers or oil and gas refiners. (SB 321)
NEW TEXAS TRAFFIC LAW
Tow trucks have now been added to the slow down or move over laws, which require drivers to slow down 20 miles per hour below the speed limit, or to vacate the lane closest to the stopped emergency vehicle that has emergency lights activated if the road has multiple lanes traveling in the same direction. (HB 378)
Speed limits will now be the same during night and day driving, and separate speed limits for trucks have been eliminated. The maximum speed limit on state highways may be raised to 75 miles per hour if approved after a finding by TxDOT that the increased speed would be reasonable and safe following an engineering and traffic investigation. (HB 1353)
A driver may not allow a child under 18 to ride in a watercraft while it is being towed on a street or highway. This does not include watercraft being towed on a beach or in a parade. (HB 2981)
NEW TX DRIVER LICENSE LAW
· Hardship driver licenses will be suspended if the holder is convicted of two or more moving violations during a 12-month period. DPS may no longer waive the driver education requirement to issue a 60-day hardship license. (HB 90)
· Drivers subject to the Driver Responsibility Program will be able to pay the entire three-year amount of surcharges owed for a violation in advance, rather than paying across all three years. (HB 588)
· Veterans will be exempt from the fee for a personal identification certificate if they can show honorable discharge and at least 60 percent service-related disability. Disabled veterans are exempted from driver license fees under current law. (HB 1148)
· A veteran designation will be displayed on a driver license for applicants who provide proof of military service and honorable discharge. (HB 1514)
· The Sunset Commission has been charged with reviewing the current oversight structure of driver education and driver safety schools, which are currently overseen by the Texas Education Agency, and determine if another state agency should have oversight. Providers of driver education courses, including DPS for the purposes of parent taught driver education, will be able to provide certificates of completion directly to those who have completed driver education courses. (HB 2678)
· DPS will establish a deferral program for surcharges assessed under the Driver Responsibility Program to military personnel actively deployed outside the U.S. for the duration of the individual's deployment. (HB 2851)
· Voters will be required to present a driver license, personal identification certificate, military identification, election identification certificate, United States citizenship certificate passport, or concealed handgun license to participate in an election. DPS must create an election identification certificate to be issued by DPS for registered voters who do not have any of the other acceptable forms of photo identification. The election identification certificate will be distinguishable from a driver license or personal identification certificate, and will be issued free of charge to persons only if they do not hold any other acceptable form of identification, as listed in Election Code 63.0101. These forms of identification include a driver license, personal identification certificate, military identification, a United States citizenship certificate, passport, or concealed handgun license. (SB 14)
· A four-hour driving safety course was approved for drivers under 25 years old. Drivers under 25 who are cited for a moving violation may be required to take this course. (SB 1330)
· Applicants for a driver license or identification certificate must provide proof that the applicant is lawfully present in the United States. Applicants who are not U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or admitted to the U.S. as refugees or asylees are considered temporary visitors. Driver license and identification certificates issued to temporary visitors expire concurrent with the end of the applicant's lawful presence, or after one year if the legal stay is indefinite. Driver license and identification certificates issued to temporary visitors are to be in the same format and contain the same information as those issued to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. (SB 1, 82nd 1st Called Session, effective September 28, 2011)
MOVE OVER LAW
Governor Rick Perry Signed HB 378, the Texas Move Over for Tow Trucks Bill, making it law that passing motorists must now Move Over into the next lane, or Slow Down to 20 MPH if in the lane closest to the Tow Truck. This law was pushed by the towing industry since the last legislative session in 2009, and has taken 2 very strong years of educating Texas Legislators of the dangers that Tow Operators experience on the public roadways, some having paying the ultimate sacrifice of death. Texas has ranked among the highest in the country of "Struck-Bys" and has lead the death rate in recent years.
Many families, friends, co-workers, and employers attended hearings on the Bill introduced by Representative Ryan Guillen of South Texas. He led a very strong line of supporting Legislators that helped strengthen even more support from the House of Representatives and the Texas Senate. At times, the testimony was very emotional and drew many tears from the attending audience.
Jody Wade, Owner of Big Daddy's * Collins* Donnies Towing and Recovery Services stated, " This law is one of the most important laws the towing industry asked for this session, and our appreciation is expressed to Sen. Craig Estes, and Rep Lanham Lyne for their support. Our operators are faced with danger every day, they underneath vehicles on the roadway where they are unable to monitor oncoming traffic. I have the up most respect that our law enforcement officers will enforce this law with zero-tolerance" said Wade.
HB 378 passed the House unanimously and the Senate with only 1 No vote.
There are two issues that will be addressed in the next few months, and into the rules making process. The first deals with the Lighting Requirements for Licensed Tow Trucks. We may get a specific and new lighting requirements on tow trucks that will unexpectedly bring much debate and opinions. We will be looking for a lot of industry input to assist with this.
The second issue is one of great importance and that is Awareness! In order for this law to be effective, all tow operators, their friends and families, and any media outlets we can get must put the word out there that this is the Law and ask for the general public and motorists to be aware of this law and respect it. Awareness starts with our industry and lives will undoubtedly count on everyone spreading the message!
Here is a copy of HB 378:
relating to stationary tow trucks on a highway; providing a penalty.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1.Section 545.157, Transportation Code, is amended
by amending Subsection (a) and adding Subsection (d) to read as
(a)On approaching a stationary authorized emergency
vehicle using visual signals that meet the requirements of Sections
547.305 and 547.702, or a stationary tow truck using equipment
authorized by Section 547.305(d), an operator, unless otherwise
directed by a police officer, shall:
(1)vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle
or tow truck when driving on a highway with two or more lanes
traveling in the direction of the emergency vehicle or tow truck; or
(2)slow to a speed not to exceed:
(A)20 miles per hour less than the posted speed
limit when the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or more; or
(B)five miles per hour when the posted speed
limit is less than 25 miles per hour.
(d)In this section, "tow truck" means a vehicle that:
(1)has been issued a permit under Subchapter C,
Chapter 2308, Occupations Code; and
(2)is operated by a person licensed under Subchapter D,
Chapter 2308, Occupations Code.
SECTION 2.Section 545.301(b), Transportation Code, is
amended to read as follows:
(b)This section does not apply to an operator of:
(1)a vehicle that is disabled while on the paved or
main traveled part of a highway if it is impossible to avoid
stopping and temporarily leaving the vehicle on the highway; [or]
(2)a vehicle used exclusively to transport solid,
semisolid, or liquid waste operated at the time in connection with
the removal or transportation of solid, semisolid, or liquid waste
from a location adjacent to the highway; or
(3)a tow truck, as defined by Section 545.157(d),
that is performing towing duties under Chapter 2308, Occupations
SECTIONA3.Section 547.305(a), Transportation Code, is
amended to read as follows:
(a)A motor vehicle lamp or illuminating device, other than
a headlamp, spotlamp, auxiliary lamp, turn signal lamp, or
emergency vehicle, tow truck, or school bus warning lamp, that
projects a beam with an intensity brighter than 300 candlepower
shall be directed so that no part of the high-intensity portion of
the beam strikes the roadway at a distance of more than 75 feet from