AUSTIN - Here is a quick roundup of some of the bills recently passed during the 85th Texas Legislature this year. Most of these new Texas laws go into effect on Sept. 1, 2017, but some have already gone into effect.
BAN ON TEXTING AND DRIVING
House Bill 62, which will take effect on Sept. 1, will prohibit drivers on public roads from using a wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle.
Texting and driving in Texas will be punishable by a fine of $25-$99, which raises to $100-$200 for any subsequent offenses. This new law will preempt all “texting and driving” ordinances previously passed by cities, but does not preempt city ordinances which go beyond texting while driving.
The law also states that if a car accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, the offender can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year.
ELIMINATION OF STRAIGHT-TICKET VOTING
House Bill 25, which will take effect on Sept. 1, 2020, eliminates straight-ticket voting in Texas. Voters will no longer be able to hit a single button to vote for all candidates by party affiliation.
CHILDREN LEFT IN HOT CARS
House Bill 478, which will take effect on Sept. 1, states that a person who, by force or otherwise, enters a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a vulnerable individual from the vehicle is immune from civil liability for damages resulting from that entry or removal.
Essentially, they cannot be sued for damages if they had good faith and reasonable belief, based on known circumstances, that entry into the motor vehicle is necessary to avoid imminent harm to the individual.
From 1998-2016, there have been at least 107 children in Texas alone who’ve died after being left in a hot car.
ILLEGAL KNIFE REPEAL
House Bill 1935, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, eliminates daggers, dirks, stilettos, poniards, swords, spears, and Bowie knives from Texas statute, effectively allowing them to be carried anywhere in the state.
Blades over 5 1/2 inches are now defined as “location restricted” knives. These knives may be carried throughout the state except in a narrow list of places. Minors under the age of 18 are also restricted from carrying these types of knives.
DAVID'S LAW (ANTI-CYBERBULLYING)
Senate Bill 179, which will take effect on Sept. 1, will modify the existing definition of bullying and create a new definition for cyberbullying. The law mandates that public and private schools adopt policies relating to cyberbullying, and includes a provision that would require the reporting of potential bullying offenses to local law enforcement.
The act provides that a person commits an offense if the person directs multiple written, oral, or electronic communications toward a child in a manner that is reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend the child, with the intent that the child commit suicide or engage in conduct causing serious bodily injury.
The law was named after 16-year-old student David Molak, who took his own life in January of 2016 after enduring relentless cyber-bullying.
WEDDING CAPITAL OF TEXAS
House Concurrent Resolution 70, which goes into effect immediately, designates Dripping Springs as the official “Wedding Capital of Texas” for a 10-year period beginning in 2017.
HOG HUNTING FROM HOT AIR BALLOONS
House Bill 3535, which will take effect on Sept. 1st, 2017, states that a qualified landowner or landowner’s agent may contract to participate as a hunter or observer in using a hot air balloon to take depredating feral hogs or coyotes under the authority of a permit.
You read that right. It’s now legal to shoot feral hogs and coyotes from a hot air balloon in Texas, as strange as that sounds.