According to Texas legislative records, a total of 666 bills will take effect Wednesday. Here are a few high-profile bills among that tally.
Senate Bill 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act
As of today, it is illegal in Texas to abort a child with detectable cardiac activity. A fetal pulse typically develops around six weeks into a pregnancy.
Unlike heartbeat laws passed in other states, Texas’ law is not enforced by the government. It authorizes Texans to sue anybody in the state — other than the mother herself — that performs, aids, or abets a post-heartbeat abortion.
A number of abortion providers and counselors sought an injunction in court to preemptively stop these lawsuits, but the effort failed. Their case is still active at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
House Bill 957, the Suppressor Bill
To buy a firearm suppressor, also known as a silencer, federal law requires Americans to go through a months-long registration process and pay a $200 tax stamp. Dealers also have to pay a special occupational tax to sell suppressors. Mere ownership of a suppressor without abiding by these regulations is a third-degree felony in Texas.
Under a new state law, suppressors that are made in Texas may skirt these regulations.
HB 957 attempts to avoid Washington’s reach by exempting suppressors from federal law if they are made and sold in Texas, asserting state supremacy under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.
D.C. appears unconvinced. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) warned Texas firearm dealers that although HB 957 “claims” to exempt Texas-made suppressors from federal law, ATF officers will still enforce federal regulation against them.
To keep Texans from jumping the gun and facing felony charges, the law tasks the attorney general with testing it first. Before trying to sell or buy Texas-made suppressors, HB 957 says that weapons dealers should ask Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to get a declaration from federal court that the law is constitutional.
In another win for Second Amendment advocates, HB 1927 by Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) will legalize the carrying of a handgun without a license in most places.
Individuals who are otherwise banned from carrying or owning firearms will still be prohibited from doing so. Additionally, Texans may not carry in school zones, courthouses, and other gun-free areas or outside their property while intoxicated, among other exceptions.
Texas becomes the 20th state in the Union to legalize what is known by supporters as constitutional carry, though it is the most populated state to do so.
In Texas, carrying handguns was illegal from 1871 until the state legislature set up a licensure program in the 1990s.
The permitless carry bill received both bipartisan support and opposition, with Reps. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass), and Tracy O. King (D-Batesville) in favor and Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) against.
HB 3979, the Critical Race Theory Bill
Introduced as a prevention against critical race theory in Texas classrooms, HB 3979 may be divided into four broad sections.
First, it requires students to gain familiarity with seminal American documents and historical figures.
The second section deals with classroom discussions. Under the bill, teachers may not be compelled to discuss controversial topics. Teachers who choose to discuss them must strive to explore them “from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”
The third section says that students may not earn credit for political activism, a teaching method known as “action civics” or “service learning.”
The final section deals with critical race theory most directly, prohibiting lessons that teach collective guilt or inherent racism. Each concept applies to both race and sex. For example, the first line says teachers must not require students to learn that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.”
Governor Greg Abbott added this subject to the two special sessions that followed, leading to some changes in the bills that would replace HB 3979. One of those bills may still pass the legislature. While changes to the bill’s required reading list have incited accusations of whitewashing, the most substantial changes involve classroom discussions and training for teachers, especially since most of the reading list is already required in the state curriculum.
Unless a supplemental bill passes during this special session, HB 3979 is current law.
HB 1925, the Statewide Homeless Camping Ban
Undoubtedly related to the City of Austin’s experiment with allowing homeless camping, the Texas legislature passed a bill to ban camping on public land across Texas “without the consent of the officer or agency having the legal duty or authority to manage the public place.” Violations of this law are Class C misdemeanors.
Under this law, cities and counties may not enforce their own policies that allow camping bans. They also may not “prohibit or discourage a peace officer or prosecuting attorney” from enforcing the ban.
SB 1137, Hospital Price Transparency
Following a regulatory rule of the Trump administration, SB 1137 aims to let healthcare consumers know what their procedures cost before they undergo them. Under the law, hospitals must maintain a list of all standard charges and make them both easily accessible for the public and free of charge to access. Price disclosure must include the gross charge, the minimum and maximum negotiated charges, the discounted cash price, and the insurance negotiated rate.
Hospitals that violate this law will face administrative penalties by the Health and Human Services Commission.
HB 1987 requires officeholders in statewide political parties to resign their offices before running for another position. Days after the legislature passed the final version of the bill, former Republican Party of Texas Chairman Allen West announced his resignation, exactly one month before he would launch his campaign for governor.
Championed by Rep. Cody Vasut (R-Angleton), the bill had a number of controversial provisions temporarily added — including one that bracketed the bill to only apply to the Republican Party of Texas — but was later restored to its original version.
HB 3610, Property Tax Exemption for Charter Schools
In a squeaker 68 to 67 vote that defied usual party lines, the Texas legislature approved a bill to grant a property tax exemption to charter schools. State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) explained the rationale behind the bill as a cost-saving measure to funnel more tax dollars into education. Since charter schools are public schools — even though they lack the power to collect property taxes, like traditional districts — the money they use to pay property taxes comes from the state.
“So, we’re just transferring tax dollars from one bucket to a different bucket,” Huberty said. “Instead of taking the money and putting it to the kids to educate the kids.”
SB 25, the Nursing Home Bill
After state agencies sprang to respond to COVID-19 and locked down nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, another risk to the elderly emerged: loneliness. The Department of Health and Human Services eventually allowed two “essential caregivers” for each resident of a nursing home to visit and provide companionship. SB 25 would codify this allowance in statute. It passed through both chambers of the legislature with zero nay votes.
SB 4, the Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act
After it was reported that the Dallas Mavericks had quietly stopped playing the national anthem before home games, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick added to his priority list the Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act.
In the aftermath of the report, a number of teams from various sports, the National Basketball Association and a number of teams from various sports confirmed that they would continue to play the anthem.
SB 4 requires that if a professional sports team is going to be in a contract with the state that involves taxpayer dollars, the team must provide “written verification” that the United States national anthem will be played before games.
HB 1900, Repercussions for Police Defunding
After a great deal of controversy over the so-called “defund the police” movement, a new law will take effect designed to prevent municipal governments in cities with more than a quarter million people from removing funds from their police departments.
Among other consequences, cities that defund the police face a property tax freeze and a prohibition on annexation for a decade following the fiscal year in which the budget cuts were enacted. Proponents of the law characterize it as necessary for public safety as large cities experiment with redirecting police funding, while opponents view it as an impingement on local control.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."