A number of new laws passed this spring by the Legislature will take effect Sept. 1. They represent changing political winds in the Lone Star State. Texas Standard Host David Brown spoke about the new laws with two reporters who cover state government and politics. Lauren McGaughy writes for The Dallas Morning News. Matthew Watkins is the politics news editor for The Texas Tribune.
McGaughy says lawmakers loosened some restrictions on guns. As of Sept. 1, it will be easier to legally carry a gun during a state of emergency.
“There were some issues where people wanted to carry after Hurricane Harvey, and people got in some trouble for that,” McGaughy says.
But she says the new law even divided Republicans. Some felt “a little squeamish” about loosening carry rules, she says. The Legislature also clarified rules about whether churches could deny congregants the ability to carry a gun onto their premises. If a church wants to keep guns out, it must post a sign.
Watkins says that despite shock and outraged over the recent mass shooting in El Paso, there isn’t a current drive to pass gun restrictions during the next legislative session. Calls for such restrictions tend to rise after mass shootings, only to be thwarted by conservative opposition when lawmakers meet.
Another bill passed this year encourages local crime labs to move forward with the testing of rape kits. The kits contain evidence collected from a survivor after a sexual assault. The bill does not fully fund or require the testing, but Watkins says “there are procedures in place to get more money to allow the crime labs to do this.”
McGaughy says that law creates a timeline survivors can use to track a rape kit throughout an investigation, and it passed unanimously.
Lawmakers also addressed the state’s tobacco and alcohol laws. The legal smoking age in Texas will rise from 18 to 21. McGaughy says active military members are exempt from the new law. The Legislature also allowed “beer-to-go” sales: Texans can now buy beer from a brew pub and take that beer home.
The “lemonade stand” bill also passed this session. Children and others were previously not allowed to sell homemade drinks on street corners, without a permit. Now, they can.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.