On Sunday, several bills will become law following the 86th Texas legislative session.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed several bills that will go into effect Sunday, which range from school finance and school safety to tobacco and nicotine product purchases, mail theft and human trafficking.
For school finance, House Bill 3 put $6.5 billion into public education and teacher raises as well as $5.1 billion to lower school district taxes.
Aledo ISD was able to lower its tax rate by 10 cents to $1.4933 per $100 valuation.
“We are grateful that the legislature delivered on its promise to be able to fund, at least for now, more money into public education and at the same time a tax rate reduction. I would like to be positive that they will take care of this long term,” AISD Superintendent Dr. Susan K. Bohn said.
AISD was also able to provide a general pay increase for its teachers, librarians, nurses and other staff members.
Senate Bill 11, House Bill 18 and House Bill 1387 were all signed by Abbott in relation to school safety.
SB 11 aims to strengthen emergency preparation and response protocols, threat assessment protocols and established the Texas Child Mental Health Consortium. It also included extra funding for schools.
“Senate Bill 11, what that’ll do is put everyone on the same page of helping each other, with TEA, with Health Services, with school districts,” Brock ISD Student Services Director Jerry Hunkapiller said. “So, it’s a great deal. It’s going to do a lot of great things for kids and for schools.”
HB 18 focuses on mental health needs by increasing mental health training for district staff and will also improve access to mental health and behavioral health services.
HB 1387 removes the cap for the number of marshals on school campuses in the school marshal program. The purpose of a school marshal is to prevent the act of murder or serious bodily injury on school premises, and act only as defined by the written regulations adopted by a district’s board of trustees or governing body. But in Parker County, most school districts do not use the school marshal program and instead, at least three use the guardian program, which still allows some staff members to be armed at the discretion of the school board.
Tobacco, nicotine product purchases
Senate Bill 21 will raise the age for purchasing tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21, with exemption for military members.
Dr. Sakthiraj Subramanian with Medical City Weatherford said the new law will allow youth to mature and better understand the impact smoking could have on their health.
“We are realistic and understand that the passing of this bill will not eliminate smoking in the age category, but it is a step in the right direction,” Subramanian said. “By implementing hurdles to purchase tobacco products, we’re advocating for an extended window for these young adults to mature and to better understand the impact the habit might have on their health.”
Texas will join California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, Massachusetts and Virginia in the new law.
Human trafficking, rape kit backlog
Abbott signed HB 8, HB 2613 and SB 20, which will address human trafficking and the rape kit backlog.
HB 8 aims to clear up the state’s backlog of untested rape kits and dictates that rape kits be tested within 90 days of receiving evidence. The bill also eliminates the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases in which the evidence hasn’t been forensically tested. About $54 million in state funding has been set aside to train rape kit examiners.
“This one is wonderful, something that’s been needed for some time,” Freedom House Sexual Assault Manager Pamela Donnelly said.
SB 20 and HB 2613 both tackle human trafficking — SB 20 will increase penalties for people involved with online human trafficking and is suppose to help victims seal their criminal records and HB 2613 makes operating a stash house for human trafficking or prostitution a crime.
Although there haven’t been signs of human trafficking in Parker County, Sheriff Larry Fowler said they are constantly monitoring these situations.
“Anytime legislature gives us another tool for our toolbox, it’s much appreciated,” Fowler said. “There’s no telling what is coming across that border.”
House Bill 37 will criminalize mail theft with penalties ranging from a class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on the number of addresses mail is taken from.
Punishments will range from one year in jail and a fine of $4,000 to between two and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The punishment can increase to a first degree felony if there’s proof that an offender intended to obtain someone’s identifying information or steal from the address of a disabled or elderly person.
Other laws taking effect on Sept. 1 include:
• House Bill 446, lifting of the ban on brass knuckles and similar self-defense items.
• House Bill 1545, allowing certain breweries and restaurants to deliver beer and wine to customers and purchase cases of craft beer to go.
• Senate Bill 22, prohibiting state and local governments from partnering with agencies that perform abortions.
• House Bill 234, legalization of children’s lemonade stands; eliminates neighborhoods and cities’ abilities to enact regulations for children selling non-alcoholic drinks on private property.
• House Bill 16, requiring doctors to treat a baby born alive in the rare instance of a failed abortion attempt.
• House Bill 2048, eliminating the Driver Responsibility Program.
• House Bill 2789, making the electronic transmission of sexually explicit material a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.