More than 600 new Texas laws take effect tomorrow. These are the most important ones to know.

by | Aug 31, 2021 | Policy, Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislature may be back for its second special session, but hundreds of new Texas laws — 666, to be exact — will go into effect tomorrow. Many of the new statutes focus on somewhat frivolous topics, like allowing beer and wine sales on Sundays. However, the most consequential pieces of legislation run the right-wing gamut, from an extreme expansion of gun rights to the most restrictive abortion limits in the country. Here, we break down which laws will immediately reshape Texans’ lives. 

HB 1927: Permitless Carry

If you thought Texas’ gun laws were freewheeling, then, boy howdy, we’ve got news for you. All Texans over the age of 21 will now be authorized to carry handguns without licenses or any other type of certification. You read that right: Outside of passing a federal background check when purchasing a weapon from a licensed seller, people can now carry pistols practically whenever and wherever they’d like. Gun licenses? Nope. Firearm training? No way. Welcome to the Wild West. 

SB 8: An All-Out Attack on Abortion

Championed by Gov. Greg Abbott and other members of the religious right, SB 8 is the most dangerous and the most maniacal threat to women’s reproductive rights in all of America. To start, it denies abortions to pregnant people as early as six weeks — a timeframe that’s so minimal that Whole Women’s Health estimates it would eliminate up to 90% of the surgeries in the state. Victims of rape and incest aren’t exempt, either. Furthermore, the law empowers anyone who opposes the medical procedure to file lawsuits against providers or those suspected to have helped someone obtain the surgery (including friends, family, or even Uber drivers who transport women to facilities). In other words, Republicans have effectively deputized private citizens to lead the latest, and most damaging, onslaught against abortion access

HB 3979: Protecting White Supremacy’s History

Throughout 2021, Republicans have pushed lie-riddled legislation seeking to entrench white-centric retellings of history within classrooms statewide — and HB 3979 is central to these efforts. The propaganda-fueled bill, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law in June, is widely opposed by teachers and advocates, who argue that it dictates what Texas students can learn and limits critical (and long-needed) discourses about race and racism in American history and society. As a cherry on top, educators are also prohibited from awarding extra credit to pupils for engaging in civic activities like political activism. 

HB 1230: Churches > COVID 

The COVID-19 Delta variant may be ravaging Texas communities and overloading emergency rooms, but Republicans clearly aren’t concerned. The new bill explicitly states that churches and other places of worship can’t be ordered to close for any reason — even a public health crisis that has killed nearly 60,000 Texans. Stay-at-home orders or once-in-a-generation pandemics be damned: If people here want to gather indoors en masse, the governor and his cronies have ensured they’ve got the right to do it. Somebody pray for this state. 

SB 4: Mandatory National Anthem

Passed in response to the Dallas Mavericks’ decision to stop playing the national anthem at their games, The Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act requires pro sports teams that have contracts with the state (read: all of them) to play the tune before the start of every game. Who needs to address police brutality or acknowledge the athletes protesting it when you can just force people to listen to the damn song?

SB 968: Vaccine Passports

Another law, another attack on common sense safety measures. This bill, which Abbott signed into law in early June, prohibits businesses from requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination. Pandemic? What pandemic? All you need is a little horse dewormer and you’ll be fine anyway. 

HB 9: Felony Charges for Protesters

Passed after protesters filled city streets during last summer’s nationwide protests following George Floyd’s murder, SB 8 makes it a felony for demonstrators who knowlingly block roadways when an emergency vehicle is present. Keep in mind, this law applies to police cars, meaning that officers now have that much more impunity when breaking up peaceful protests.  

Contributing Writer/Podcaster | + posts
Based in his hometown of Austin, David is a political reporter and feature writer whose work has appeared in the likes of The Washington Post, the Texas Observer, and Public Health Watch. He’s also a graduate of the University of Texas, where he studied government and wrote for the school’s newspaper, The Daily Texan. In addition to providing a blend of reported pieces and opinion columns for the Texas Signal, David is a frequent guest on the outlet’s signature podcasts. You can find him playing basketball or hanging out poolside in his free time.

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