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15 New (or Augmented) Texas Laws That Go Into Effect in 2017

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Announces Lawsuit Against Delaware Over Unclaimed Checks
Gabriella Demczuk, Getty Images

If you’ve been keeping up with Texas legislature this year, you’ve probably noted the many new or changed laws that either have or will go into effect in 2017. And the best way to not break a law, is to know the law – someone told me that, I think it was my grandfather…

The Houston Chron listed over 20 laws that are or going into effect sometime soon, so I chose the ones that affect the everyday Texan – I also listed a few that I believe demonstrate how we as a state are trying to do better year by year.


Civil Protection for “Good Samaritans”

Finally! This issue is addressed. Before this law, Texans could break into a vehicle if they were trying to save a child or disabled person inside without facing criminal charges. But they could still be on the hook for civil liability.

However, in the legislation provided, a new law beginning September 1 will protect ‘good Samaritans’ who break into cars if:

  1. there’s reason to believe the person inside is in imminent danger
  2. first notifies 911
  3. uses the appropriate amount of force to break in
  4. Samaritan remains with the person they saved in a safe location

No More Suspensions for Children Below Third Grade

Already in effect, schools are no longer able to suspend students below the third grade level. Austin Statesman reported that instead of suspension, public schools would need to discipline children in a way that enforced positive behavior based on research.


Texting and Driving Ban

This is long overdue. While many counties and cities adopted some version of texting and driving bans, it was only until this year that Texas put up a statewide ban. The law goes into effect on September 1.


People Can Carry Swords Now

Carrying certain knives were legal in Texas, but come September 1 you’ll be able to carry much more of your knife collection in public. All of these sharp edges will be fair game to carry.

  • dirks
  • stilettos
  • daggers
  • poniards
  • swords
  • spears
  • Bowie knives

Amnesty for Sex Assault Witnesses

After all of the incidents we’ve seen at Baylor and other Texas universities, this is a welcomed addition. Oftentimes students don’t report violence or assault because they were doing something illegal as well (ie; drinking, drugs). This will grant amnesty for witnesses who report a sexual assault – hopefully uncovering more crimes in the process.


Recording Higher Ed Sex Assaults Electronically

Per Chron: effective immediately, students and college employees will be able to submit electronic anonymous reports of sexual assaults in their institutions.


Ridesharing Allowed in All of Texas

It was big news when Austin ousted rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft from their city. Then Houston followed. But all of this was in vain as a new law – effective immediately – bans cities from enforcing certain measures on these companies, according to Fortune.


Now Cheaper to Carry a Gun

Under Senate Bill 16, the law lowers first-time license fees for a handgun. Initially $140, the fee has been dropped to $40 and the renewal fee also dropped from $70 to $40. Once in effect on September 1, Texas’ fees could be the lowest in the country.


David’s Law

This is a big one for our children. David’s Law criminalizes cyber bullying, which is absolutely an issue across the nation – not just Texas. The law, according to mySA, makes it a Class A misdemeanor “to harass or cyberbully someone under the age of 18 through texts, social media, websites or other means with the intent of causing them to commit suicide or harm themselves”.


Voter ID Changes

Starting September 1, if you don’t have valid photo identification, voters will be able to cast their votes by showing another form of documentation with name and home address (ie; utility bill or bank statement). Voters would also have to sign an affidavit saying there’s a valid reason they couldn’t get a photo ID, per Chron.


Anonymous Lottery Winners

This makes perfect sense. If you are fortunate enough to win the lottery with $1 million or more, you can request to remain anonymous. This starts September 1 according to US News.


Free Pre-K for Fallen or Injured Officers’ Children

Effective immediately, Chron reports young children of peace officers, firefighters and first responders who are injured or killed in the line of duty can attend state-funded Pre-k for free.


Spotting Human Trafficking

In an attempt to curtail human trafficking in Texas, public schools offering “commercial driver’s license training includes training on how to recognize and prevent human trafficking”. [Chron]


Longer Grace Periods for Students Without Lunch Money

Another good one for the kiddos. Going into effect September 1, the grace period for which parents need to settle the lunch bill at schools has been extended. This is so children without money aren’t “lunch or food shamed” and forced to eat cold sandwiches or be turned away altogether.


Attacking Police Officers Now Officially a Hate Crime in Texas

Anyone who attacks a former or current police officer could be found guilty the same way someone is found guilty of committing a crime because of a person’s color, disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, etc. This is characterized as a hate crime. intentional property damage is also treated as such.

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