Legislative Update: Notable Laws That Take Effect Sept. 1
New laws impacting Texans’ lives in a variety of ways take effect this week, and many remain controversial as lawmakers’ efforts this year reflected continued partisan priorities -- everything from a slight expansion in medical marijuana access to new firearms laws. Here are a few of the most notable changes Texas residents should be aware of.
Permitless Carry – House Bill 1927 allows any gun owner in the state to carry it legally in public with no permit required. No training or license will be required. The law is also known colloquially as “Constitutional Carry.” State background check requirements have also been removed since background checks and training were part of the licensure process. Federally licensed gun dealers must still conduct background checks.
Medical Marijuana – Thanks to the passage of H.B. 1535, more Texans, including cancer patients and those suffering from PTSD, will have access to medical marijuana. Lawmakers also doubled the allowable amount of THC from .5 percent to a more potent 1 percent THC. Advocates estimate that more than 2 million people would qualify for the state’s Compassionate Use program under the newly expanded list of qualifying medical conditions, up from the 3,500 Texas registered for the program currently.
Trucking Injuries – We’ve written in opposition to H.B. 19 which will take effect Sept. 1 as well. The new law makes it more difficult to hold trucking companies financially responsible for damages and injuries if their drivers are involved in a crash. Proponents argued that the industry is plagued by high insurance costs stemming from frivolous lawsuits. However, trucking accident lawsuits serve as an important source of accountability for trucking companies that may fail to maintain their equipment or that incentivize speed over safety. The bill prioritizes commercial trucking companies over individual Texas drivers. Apart from shielding the corporate trucking companies from financial liability, the bill may even have an unintended consequence of making trucking industry jobs less attractive, thus driving up costs anyway.
Hours for Alcohol Sales – H.B. 1518 modifies the state’s blue law and expands the hours when alcohol may be sold on Sundays. Previously, retailers could not sell alcohol until noon on Sundays but now may sell beer and wine beginning at 10 a.m. Liquor sales are still not permitted on Sundays.
Blocking Emergency Vehicles – Protesters who block roadways can now be charged with a felony if they block emergency vehicles with audible or visible emergency signals ON such as lights and sirens. Previously the offense was a Class C misdemeanor but was bumped up to a felony in response to protestors blocking roadways during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Alcohol to Go – We can thank the coronavirus pandemic for one silver lining – at least you can now buy a margarita to consume at home. Gov. Greg Abbott waived certain regulations to allowing alcohol delivery from restaurants to support the restaurant and hospitality industry law March. The change was made permanent this Legislative session.