Significant changes in Texas state law go in effect this week and range from expanding the ability of people to legally carry handguns to banning abortions if fetal heartbeats can be measured.

Here are some laws taking effect Sept. 1:

H.B. 1927: FIREARM CARRY ACT OF 2021

This law will allow anyone 21 years of age or older to carry a handgun openly or concealed unless they’re intoxicated, or are already prohibited from possessing a firearm, or are in the act of committing a crime more severe than a class C misdemeanor, or are in a location where carrying firearms is prohibited for the public.

Places in Texas where carrying is generally prohibited include the grounds of a school or educational institution, school bus, any area in which a school-sponsored activity is taking place, on the premises of a polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress, on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court and other locations. 

The law amended Section 46.02 of the Texas Penal Code, "unlawful carrying weapons," to state that a person commits the offense if the person "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun," and "at the time of the offense" "is younger than 21 years of age" or "has been convicted of an offense under Section 22.01(a)(1), 22.05, 22.07, or 42.01(a)(7) or (8) committed in the five-year period preceding the date the instant offense was committed" and is not "on the person's own premises or premises under the person's control" or "inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person's control."

A person also commits the offense if the person "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a handgun in a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person's control at any time in which" "the handgun is in plain view, unless the person is 21 years of age or older or is licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and the handgun is carried in a holster." A person also commits the offense if the person who has the handgun in the vehicle or watercraft is "engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic or boating" or is "prohibited by law from possessing a firearm."

S.B. 8: TEXAS HEARTBEAT ACT

This law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May, stipulates that unless there’s a medical emergency, “a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant women if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child as required by Section 171.203" or fail to perform a test to detect a fetal heartbeat.

The fetal heartbeat is detectable as early as the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy, according to medicalnewsdaily.com

The law also provides for civil penalties for violating this law, and for “aiding or abetting” its violation. This may have ramifications for people who donate to an organization that helps women obtain abortions criminalized by the law. Multiple lawsuits have been filed to challenge the law in court, with plaintiffs including a social worker who told KTSM News 9 this month she’s concerned about liability from assisting victims of sexual assault or abuse. An attorney who donates to women’s health clinics also sued to challenge the law for similar reasons, KTSM reported.

Anyone could bring suit under the new law, as the statute provides that “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state, may bring a civil action,” with damages “not less than $10,000,” and court costs and attorneys fees, against any person who performs or induces an illegal abortion, knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, "including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this chapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced.”

H.B. 3979, OPPOSING CRITICAL RACE THEORY

This law amends the Texas Education Code to outlaw the application of Critical Race Theory concepts in public schools and state agencies. 

The statute bans agencies and educators from teaching that meritocracy and work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race. It also bans teaching that the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States. 

The law also bans educators from using the New York Times’ 1619 Project in courses. 1619 Project materials can be read at https://nyti.ms/3sYdj7l

The law also bans teaching that “slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality. 

The law stipulates that “a teacher, administrator or other employee of a state agency, school district or open-enrollment charter school may not be required to engage in training, orientation or therapy that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of race or sex.” The law also bans such individuals from including in a course the idea that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex, “or that an individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” The law bans the above people from teaching that “an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual's race, or that members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.” 

The law bans the teaching in public schools of the idea that “an individual's moral character, standing or worth is necessarily determined by the individual's race or sex,” and that “an individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,” or that “an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's race or sex,” among other provisions.

S.B.4, STAR SPANGLED BANNER PROTECTION ACT

This statute requires professional sports teams that receive government funds from the state of Texas to play “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Those who do not follow the rule will be subject to penalties, including having to repay the money, or being ineligible to receive further money. 

H.B. 1518, ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE SALES 

Wine and beer shall now be allowed to be sold starting at 10 a.m. Sundays, instead of noon. Additionally, hotels may sell alcohol to guests at any time of day.

H.B. 1024, ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES-TO-GO

This alcohol-related measure already has been law since May, when the governor issued an executive order to protect businesses forced to close their interiors due to the pandemic. H.B. 1024, allows beer, wine and mixed drinks to be included in pickup and food delivery orders.

H.B. 2315, STREET RACING

This law empowers peace officers to seize vehicles involved in or intending to be involved in highway racing, especially if the accused driver is a repeat offender.

H.B. 1540, PROSTITUTION

This statute will make it a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, to solicit prostitution and enhance the maximum punishment from a year in county jail to two years in state jail.

H.B. 1535, MEDICAL CANNABIS

This law will allow people with cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder to receive a kind of medical marijuana. The bill caps the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, in the drug at 1%. 

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