5 new state laws you need to know
Over 660 laws were passed during the state legislative session, many of which will go into effect on Sept. 1.
WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Over 660 laws were passed during the 2021 state legislative session, many of which will go into effect on Sept. 1.
While many won’t change Texans’ daily lives, certain pieces of legislation will. Here’s a list of the top five laws that could impact residents of Wichita Falls.
1. Allowing open carry of handguns
HB 1927 allows Texans over 21 who can legally possess a firearm to openly carry a handgun. Texas law previously required a permit for this type of open carry.
The bill specifies that handguns can only be carried in non-prohibited public places. It also lists specific exceptions of locations where Texans can’t openly carry firearms, including sporting events, bars, schools (including universities and school activities), amusement parks, announced government meetings, and federal property. Private businesses can also continue to ban unlicensed carrying by providing notice with signage.
HB 1927 also increases penalties for illegal possession of firearms, particularly for those who have been previously convicted of felonies. It specifically upgrades the penalty for people convicted of certain crimes with family violence: unlawful possession of a firearm will then be upgraded from a Class A misdemeanor to a 3rd degree felony.
People who were previously convicted of unlawful carry of a handgun can now seek expungement of that record.
2. Increasing sale of beer and wine on Sundays
Texans were previously unable to buy beer or wine until noon on Sundays. House Bill 1518 expands those hours of sale from 10 a.m. to midnight.
3. Banning critical race theory
Critical Race Theory has come to define House Bill 3979 despite never being explicitly mentioned in the legislation. The educational doctrine essentially teaches that racism is not just individual prejudice, but rather inherently embedded in the social systems and structures of the U.S. Governor Abbott and other lawmakers have referred to HB 3979 as a way to ban Critical Race Theory in the classroom, while opponents have decried it as a restriction on free speech and the rights of educators.
News Channel 6′s Tanner Deleon previously reported on the legislation, which contains mandates that ban teachers from giving extra credit to students participating in civic activities.
4. Preventing winter storm damage
Winter Storm Uri wreaked havoc on Wichita Falls and Texas as a whole back in February. Senate Bill 3 aims to prevent that type of catastrophe from reoccurring by requiring power companies to upgrade equipment and facilities withstand more extreme weather. Companies who don’t comply with the mandate could be hit with a million dollar fine, daily.
In addition to these measures, SB 3 establishes an emergency alert system that will notify Texans when demand is exceeding supply. It also mandates Texas’ Department of Emergency Management to begin categorizing winter storms similarly to how we currently categorize hurricanes.
5. Changing abortion law
Texas law previously banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Senate Bill 8, also known as the “heartbeat bill,” takes this legislation much further by banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be only five or six weeks after a missed period. Critics have vehemently decried the legislation, which does not give exemptions to victims of rape or incest.
In a sweeping and controversial move, SB 8 also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who “aids abets” the procedure. This broad definition is said to apply even to a person who drives a patient to the doctor’s office.
The bill is expected to be contested in court.
Other laws passed during the legislative session include:a
- HB 968: A ban on vaccine passports.
- HB 103: The implementation of an active shooter alert system, which allows law enforcement to alert Texans who are in close proximity to an active shooter event.
- HB 1540: Makes Texas the first state to prosecute solicitation of prostitution as a felony.
- HB 1535: Expands access to medical marijuana to cancer patients and veterans suffering from PTSD.
- HB 2315: Street racing was already illegal, but now police can seize vehicles and maybe even forfeit them if someone was killed or the driver was drunk.
- HB 1925: Prohibits camping in unapproved public places. Cities cannot opt out of the ban, which essentially means that people experiencing homelessness can’t pitch tents.
- SB 2081: Caps pre-kindergarten classes at 22 students, which is the same maximum class size of other elementary school grades.
- HB 1024: Codifies Governor Abbott’s temporary allowance of alcohol in food orders for pickup and delivery.
The Texas legislature is currently in its second special session, which has been extensively covered by KAUZ reporter Ebonee Coleman. Topics such as banning transgender athletes from UIL sports and changes to the bail system are still under discussion, and lawmakers are expected to call a third special session this fall.
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