New Texas laws for 2017 go into effect September 1

Nearly 700 Texas laws go into effect Friday, September 1; here's just a peek at some of the most controversial and talked about in the new Lone Star reality.

House Bill 62 - Texting While Driving

Texting while driving is now illegal in the State of Texas. This affects all of us, one way or another, who are ever on a Texas road. If the car is moving, the driver cannot be texting. It's a misdemeanor with a $25 to $99 fine, unless you're a repeat offender -- then it can jump to $200.

 

Senate Bill 762 - Cruelty to Animals, Including Bestiality

As of September 1, 2017, bestiality is finally illegal -- a third degree felony -- in Texas. And, anyone convicted of this or other violent animal abuse (poison, serious injury, or torture) faces from 2 to 10 years in prison. PRISON. Not jail. And repeat offenders could be looking at 20 years.

House Bill 478 - Liability for Breaking Into a Car to Rescue Someone

This law limits liability for those rescuing a 'vulnerable individual.' So, anyone who breaks a window to rescue a child under seven years, any age person with physical or mental limitations, or an animal is protected from civil liability or damages resulting from the act.

Granted, there are stipulations, the car must be locked, the rescuers must be acting in good faith and believe the individual is in danger, damages should not exceed what was necessary, and they must call 911 first.

House Bill 3859 - Religious Refusal of Adoption

Adoption agencies and other child welfare organizations can now (legally) use "sincerely held religious beliefs" to deny adoptions or other services to parents and children. Faith-based agencies can place a child in a religious school and refuse to work with other organizations that don't have the same religious beliefs. Additionally, they can deny referrals for certain drugs, devices, or contraceptives. The organizations are required by law to refer the turned away parents or children to a different agency.

House Bill 2908 - Attacking Police Officers or Judges = Hate Crime

Attacking a police officer or a judge in the State of Texas is now considered a hate crime and terroristic threats made toward a peace officer is upgraded from a misdemeanor to a state jail felony.

Senate Bill 4 - Illegal Immigration and Sanctuary Cities**

Allows police officials in Texas to ask about a person's immigration status if they have been legally detained and forces local law enforcement agencies to carry out federal immigration directives. The proposed law has been a sore subject for sanctuary cities like Austin that refuse to abide with the federal law's mandated locking up of undocumented immigrants.

**On Wednesday, just two days before becoming law, a federal court struck down nearly all of Texas Senate Bill 4, so this controversy will continue well past September 1.

House Bill 1774 - Insurance Claims and Lawsuits Over Property Damages

Policyholders (and their attorneys) filing a lawsuit against their insurance carrier for taking too long to repay on claims or for not paying enough on claims will have to give more detail when they give notice of their intent to file a lawsuit. And IF an insurance carrier is ordered to pay, the new law reduces the penalty interest on their late fees from 18% to around 10%.

This is why so many are urging victims of Hurricane Harvey to hurry up and file a claim before Friday, even though most will not be able to return to their homes by then to assess damage.

House Bill 3535 - Hunting Feral Hogs and Coyotes From Hot Air Balloons

Landowners tired of feral hogs and coyotes say using hot air balloons is a "particularly effective method for taking these animals." They'll be getting help with population control as this becomes legal September 1.

House Bill 1935 - Open Carry of Long Knives or Swords or Spears or Daggers or Machetes

Knives with blades longer than 5 1/2 inches have been illegal in the Lone Star state for years and years, but not anymore come September 1, 2017. Under the new law, they can be openly carried in public places, but NOT allowed in most bars, schools, sporting events, polls, correctional facilities, hospitals, amusement parks, racing parks, or places of worship.

Senate Bill 969 - Amnesty for Sexual Assault Witnesses

Aiding the fight against sexual assault on campus, this new law grants amnesty to students who report or witness a sexual assault while they themselves are engaged in other illegal activity, such as public intoxication.

Senate Bill 16 - Cheaper Renewal of Handgun License

Texas will now have the lowest handgun license renewal rate in the nation. New applicants were paying $140 before September 1, 2107; they'll pay just $40 starting that day, under the new amendment. Renewals will drop from $70 to $40.

House Bill 59 - Lotto Winner Anonymity

Lotto players who win $1 million or more can now choose to conceal their identity and be kept private from media.

Senate Bill 1696 - Lunch-Shaming

Parents of students who owe money on their school lunch accounts will now have a grace period. During the grace period, their children will get a cold sandwich at school instead of a hot meal.

House Bill 1424 - Drone No-Fly Zones

The new law bans remote-controlled, unmanned aircraft (drones) from flying over correctional facilities and immigration detention centers.

House Bill 1075 - UIL Background Checks

Sports officials with the University Interscholastic League will have to go through an initial criminal background check, followed by an updated check every three years.