From permitless carry to abortion restrictions: Big bills taking effect Wednesday in Texas

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More than 660 bills passed during the Texas Legislative Session will go into effect Wednesday, including the constitutional carry bill, fetal heartbeat abortion ban bill and expanded medical marijuana use. (Getty Images)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — While the second special session is currently underway, there are hundreds of bills from the Regular 87th Legislative Session that will officially take effect Wednesday.

That includes allowing Texans to carry a gun without a license in public, a ban on abortions after six weeks, and alcohol to-go is here to stay. Here’s a breakdown of what changes this week.

Permitless Carry

The permitless carry bill, House Bill 1927, will allow Texans 21 years and older to carry a firearm in public without a license.

Several law enforcement agencies testified against the original form of the bill, pointing out this would make it more difficult for officers to question someone openly carrying in public. But lawmakers added a provision that would try to address this problem.

In the final version of the bill, a peace officer can disarm a person any time they believe it is necessary for safety reasons, a provision called for by law enforcement advocates.

The Governor and Republican leadership were criticized by Democrats, since this was the first session lawmakers have had since the 2019 El Paso and Midland/Odessa mass shootings to pass gun reform.

But, a spokesperson for Abbott fought back against the suggestion that state leaders didn’t follow through on their promises to respond to the violence in El Paso.

“Following the horrific shootings in El Paso and Midland/Odessa, Governor Abbott took decisive action, directing state law enforcement to enhance anti-mass violence measures through eight executive orders and supporting DPS’ safe gun storage campaign,” press secretary Renae Eze said in May.

Fetal Heartbeat Bill

Senate Bill 8, a Republican priority measure, bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected without specifying a time frame. That usually occurs around six weeks into the pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant.

It allows any Texas citizen to sue abortion providers or anyone who aids or abets an abortion up to $10,000 if a heartbeat is detected in the womb.

The bill currently faces lawsuits at both the federal and state level, most of which are still pending.

Medical Marijuana Expansion

House Bill 1535 grows the state’s medical-marijuana program to include all Texans with cancer. HB 1535 will also include all forms of diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, rather than for veterans with PTSD as it was initially introduced.

The legislation was amended to raise the limit for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana — from 0.5% to 1% by weight.

Electric Grid Reforms

Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 3 both stem from the February freeze that left millions of Texans without power as temperatures plunged into the single digits in some areas of the state.

SB 2 will reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, cut the current ERCOT board from 15 members to 11, and allow the state’s top leaders to weigh in on those appointments rather than just the governor.

SB 3 is the omnibus post-winter storm reform bill, which requires electricity providers operating on the ERCOT grid to weatherize their equipment and improves communication during outages with an alert system.

Critical Race Theory Ban

House Bill 3979 would ban schools from requiring teachers to discuss polarizing current events or social issues in class.

One of those subjects is the Critical Race Theory, a framework that looks at how race relations have shaped the current social, cultural and legal world around us.

It would also require teachers who choose to discuss those issues with students to include viewpoints “from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.”

The Governor also added Critical Race Theory to the agenda during this special session, saying the bill that passed during the regular session did not go far enough to ban CRT in Texas classrooms.

National Anthem Required for Professional Sports Teams

Senate Bill 4, called the ‘Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act,’ aims to require professional sports teams in Texas to play the national anthem. 

More specifically, a government entity in Texas will not be allowed to enter into any agreement with a professional sports team unless there is an agreement in place that the national anthem will be played before events.

This was one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities during the regular session in February, after the national anthem hadn’t been played before the Dallas Mavericks’ first 10 games of the 2020-21 season.

Alcohol-to-Go 

House Bill 1024, which allows restaurants to sell alcohol to their customers to-go, will make permanent one of the Governor’s temporary pandemic mandates.

Abbott signed a waiver in March last year to allow to-go alcohol sales to aid restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. The waiver was originally set to last until May 2020, but it was extended indefinitely.

Another bill, House Bill 1518, will allow Texans to purchase beer and wine at stores at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Under current law, stores can’t sell booze until noon.

Body-Worn Cameras Required for Police

During the regular session, Democrats laid out House Bill 929 in honor of Botham Jean, the Dallas man who was killed by an off-duty police officer while inside his own apartment in 2018.

“Bo’s Law” would clarify the state’s Castle Doctrine to require someone to physically be in their home, car or place of work in order to use the stand-your-ground defense.

The proposal would also require a police officer to record all aspects of an investigation with their body-worn camera.

Blocking Emergency Vehicles

House Bill 9 was filed after protesters blocked many roadways during protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in June of 2020. 

The bill would make it a felony for protesters to knowingly block any emergency vehicle that’s sounding its sirens and flashing its lights.

Prostitution becomes a Felony

House Bill 1540 will make buying sex a state felony instead of a misdemeanor. The bill also adds penalties for those who try to recruit victims from shelters and certain residential treatment facilities.

You can find a complete list of all bills taking effect Wednesday here.

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