New Texas Laws Going Into Affect September 2019

There are 820 new laws passed during the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature will go into effect on September. They range from the huge — a $250 billion two-year budget — to the symbolic — a number of bills to rename parts of Texas highways. Here’s a sample of several that will impact Texans’ lives:

The 2020-2021 budget: The state’s two-year budget calls for spending roughly $250 billion on priorities including public school funding, teacher salaries and early childhood intervention programs.

The “Born Alive Act”: This law, House Bill 16, requires doctors to treat a baby born alive in the rare instance of a failed abortion attempt.

A new smoking age: This new law, Senate Bill 21, will raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Defunding abortion providers: This measure, Senate Bill 22, will prohibit state and local governments from partnering with agencies that perform abortions, even if they contract for services not related to the procedure.

No more Driver Responsibility Program: This new law, House Bill 2048, will eliminate this much-maligned program, which critics say traps low-income Texans in a cycle of debt. It had survived past attempts to kill it because money from fines helps fund the state’s emergency trauma care system. The bill offers alternative funding sources for trauma care.

New rules for female inmates: House Bill 650 makes a series of changes to state law that are designed to make state prisons more accommodating to female inmates. The bill will ban the shackling of pregnant women, require a trauma screening of each incoming female inmate and require the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to study the effects of visitation policies on women and their children.

Free speech on campus: Senate Bill 18, filed in response to concerns that conservative voices were being stifled on campus, requires schools to allow people to engage in “expressive activities” in outdoor common spaces.

Fighting surprise medical bills: Senate Bill 1264 aims to prevent Texans from being hit with surprise medical bills when their health care provider and insurance company can’t agree on a payment. The measure ushers the disputes into a state-overseen arbitration process, keeping patients out of the fight.

Lemonade stands: Neighborhoods and cities will no longer be allowed to enact regulations that block or regulate children trying to sell nonalcoholic drinks like lemonade on private property. Support for this new law grew after police in the East Texas town of Overton reportedly shut down a lemonade stand by two young siblings who were trying to earn money to buy a Father’s Day present.

The right to pump breast milk: Starting Sunday, Texas law will make clear that women can pump breast milk wherever they want. Previous law allowed breastfeeding anywhere but didn’t specify pumping.

Carry your handgun during a disaster: House Bill 1177 will allow people to carry their handguns — even if they are unlicensed — in the week after the governor declares a natural disaster.

Seller’s disclosure for houses in a floodplain: Senate Bill 339 expands the rules for selling property to require disclosures when a home is in a 500-year floodplain, a flood pool, or in or near a reservoir. They must say whether the home has flooded in a catastrophic event.

No more stealing packages: Thieves who steal packages from people’s front porches will start facing stiffer penalties. Penalties range from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on the number of addresses mail is taken from.

Cough syrup: Children under 18 will no longer be able to buy cough syrups — ranging from DayQuill to Delsym — that contain the cough suppressant dextromethorphan, or DXM. Studies show that DXM is used by some teens to get high. More than a dozen other states, including New York and Florida, have banned the sale of the cough medicines to minors. House Bill 1518

Pain relief: Those who have surgery or suffer injuries soon will find there’s a limit to how much pain relief medicine they can receive. Prescriptions for some controlled substances used to help with “acute pain” will be capped at 10 days with no refills. This would not apply to people who receive the medicine as part of cancer, hospice, end-of-life or palliative care. The goal is to reduce the chances of Texans becoming addicted to opiods. HB 2174

Sexting: If you’re going to text sexually explicit images to someone, make sure they want to receive those pictures. Otherwise, you will be committing a crime. Offenses will be Class C misdemeanors, which carry a maximum fine of $500. HB 2789

Dogs on patios: Many restaurants across the state already let customers bring their dogs with them to dine in outdoor areas. But some cities have put restrictions in place requiring those businesses to have inspections, apply for dog variances, pay fees and more. This law will allow restaurants to let customers with leashed dogs dine in outside areas under certain conditions. SB 476

Carrying guns into churches: Officials at places of religious worship in Texas may decide whether to allow handguns on their premises. Texas law for years has included houses of worship on a list where gun owners may not carry their weapons. Now officials at churches, synagogues and all places of worship may make that decision for themselves. SB 535

Carrying brass knuckles/security key chains: Add brass knuckles, tomahawks, night sticks, maces — and self-defense plastic key chains shaped like dogs or cats with pointy ears — to the list of weapons people legally may carry in most parts of the state. These items had been on the state’s list of banned weapons but no longer will be prohibited except in some areas, such as schools, nursing homes and jails. HB 446

Nixing “no firearms” clauses: Leases for apartments, condos and manufactured housing have been able to include “no firearm” clauses, preventing renters and owners alike from having firearms or ammunition at those properties. Rental leases may no longer include “no firearms” clauses. HB 302

Fishing and hunting licenses: Until now, Texans had to carry paper copies of their hunting and fishing licenses with them. As of Sunday, they may pull up their license on their phone to show to game wardens. HB 547

A list of all the new laws that go into effect can be found at the Legislative Reference Library of Texas.