Over six hundred new laws in effect for Texans

Lawmakers approved many new bills during the legislative session and Gov. Rick Perry signed 1,571 into law. On Sept. 1, 659 of these laws went into effect.

The new laws range from letting Texans sample food at farmers markets to making it legal for the first time in decades to buy switchblades.

Anyone who flees the scene of an accident will face a longer prison sentence and a bigger fine. Underage Texans won’t be able to use indoor tanning beds. And some seeking unemployment benefits will have to be tested for drugs.

There are also laws about using cell phones in school zones, children and school breakfasts and getting out of the way when  first responders are rushing to an emergency.

Since the 1950s, it had been a Class A misdemeanor to have, make, repair, sell or transport a switchblade in Texas. But, HB1862 changed the law.

Texans under the age of 18 can no longer use indoor tanning beds. Their parents may give approval, but that is not enough for SB329. Supporters say the goal is to reduce younger Texans’ exposure to artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to skin cancer.

SB376 is meant to encourage those children who are eligible for free or reduced school meals to actually participate in the program. It is the hope of lawmakers, this law will improve their health, boost their academic achievement and improve their “lifelong healthy eating habits.”

HB 347 expands the current limitations on wireless communication devices, cell phone use in an active school crossing zone to include the property of a public elementary, middle, or junior high school for which a local authority has designated a school crossing zone. The use will only be restricted during the time a reduced speed limit is in effect for the school crossing zone. Further, it will not apply to vehicles that are stopped, or drivers using a hands-free device or making an emergency call.

HB 1174 amends current the statute to increase the minimum fines for the misdemeanor offense of passing a stopped school bus loading or unloading children. The minimum fine increases from $200 to $500, and the maximum fine for such an offense increases from $1,000 to $1,250. The bill also enhances the penalty for a second or subsequent conviction of that offense committed within five years to a misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $2,000.

But, if caught, SB181 will allow them to show proof of insurance on their cell phone.

Drivers will now be required to move over for TXDOT vehicles with flashing lights according to SB510. This law requires drivers  to get out of the lane that runs alongside the vehicle, or slow down to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. Texas already requires drivers to move over for tow trucks as well as police, fire, and other emergency vehicles.

HB 3668 carries a possible 10 year prison sentence, for  drivers following a wreck who fail to stop and render aide if the person is injured.

Hit-and-run fatality crashes will now carry the same penalty as intoxication manslaughter, up to 20 years in prison. In SB 275. Lawmakers realized drivers might leave the scene of the crime if they were drunk because it would mean a lesser charge.

“The message is strong,” Perry said in a press release. “If you’ve got a drug problem, there are ways that we can help you get that licked, but we’re not going to entice individuals to not be responsible.” SB21 was passed so some Texans will be required to take drug tests. Texas Workforce Commission staffers will create a system that will lead to drug tests if answers to a questionnaire show potential drug use. People who refuse or fail the test won’t receive benefits until they pass it.

HB1382 has changed how a farmer’s market can do business. Now, they can legally offer samples, cooking demonstrations and more.

Home bakers may now make and sell from their homes even more foods such as baked goods, candy, fruit butters, canned jams, fruit pies, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, cereal, popcorn, pickles, mustard and more. In addition, buyers no longer have to come to the baker’s home. Home bakers may sell at farmers markets, farm stands and community events, according to HB970.

SB191 makes it a requirement  for every Texas emergency room to have a rape kit.

However, a recent case was made against the state when there were huge numbers of rape kits which were collected, but never tested. Lawmakers in SB1 included $11 million into the Texas Department of Public Safety’s funding so they can process the kits.

HB 1421 gives law enforcement the go-ahead to sell confiscated firearms. The law previously stated they could only use them or destroy them.

False reports such as bomb threat was addressed by lawmakers. HB 1284 increases the penalty for the offense of initiating, communicating or circulating a false report of an emergency involving an institution of higher education from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony.

HB 2637 provides that an individual fraudulently using identifying information to avoid registering as a sex offender to be punished at the next highest degree felony.

HB 124 adds Salvia divinorum, unless unharvested and growing in its natural state, including all parts of the plant, seeds and extracts from a part of the plant  to Penalty Group 3 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

Finally, there will not be anymore inmate weddings. Instead, all parties must be present in order to get married in Texas, according to HB 869. Inmates were once able to have someone stand in for them, a proxy wedding if they wanted to get married while incarcerated. Now, those allowed a proxy wedding are in the military and stationed outside of the US. Weddings cannot be conducted inside Texas prisons.

For more information on other Texas laws go to www.capitol.state.tx.us/.