Want more fireworks in Texas?
If so, good news may be heading your way soon.
State lawmakers recently passed a bill giving Texans more time to buy fireworks — and not just around July 4 and New Years Day.
Just don’t plan on setting them off at rest stops along some Texas highways, because lawmakers also signed off on a measure to make some of those areas off limits.
“I’ve always said what we need in Texas is more days to buy fireworks,” joked Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
All jokes aside, these are among the many proposals state lawmakers approved this year that could impact Texans in their daily lives.
“I think they are trying to help,” he said.
Lawmakers this year approved more than 5,500 new laws and resolutions, although Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to weigh in on many of them. The governor has until June 21 to sign or veto measures or they automatically become law.
Here’s a look at some that could impact many Texans’ everyday lives:
Fireworks: Residents have more time to stock up on these explosive pyrotechnic devices.
Fireworks may already be sold from June 24 to July 4; Dec. 20 to Jan. 1; and May 1 to May 5 if the sale takes place no more than 100 miles from the Texas-Mexico border and is in a county where county commissioners have approved the sale of fireworks, according to the bill.
This measure lets Texans buy fireworks from Feb. 25 to March 2; April 16 to April 21; and the Wednesday before the last Monday in May through midnight on the last Monday in May.
But don’t fire them off at rest stops along some Texas highways. Another measure lets county commissioners statewide ask Texas transportation officials to make those stops in unincorporated areas of the county off limits.
Starting vehicles: Right now, it’s illegal to leave a vehicle running on a street or highway if someone isn’t in it. A new proposal would let Texans start vehicles remotely, using fobs that replaced keys, and not break the law.
Drinking places: Fans who attend sporting events and have found that they have to quickly finish their mixed drinks to cross into an area that only allows beer may no longer have to slam their drinks. This bill eliminates barriers that only allow certain alcoholic drinks in certain areas.
Gift cards: Ever get tired of holding on to gift cards to stores that only have a couple of dollars on them? Lawmakers approved a proposal to let shoppers redeem the value of those store gift cards for cash if they have less than $2.50 on them.
New form of ID: Texans could soon start to use their concealed handgun licenses as a valid proof of identification to do everything from buy beer to cash checks, under this measure.
Swim up bars: Even though Texas law says swim-up bars that serve drinks and food to people in swimming pools are illegal, that law has rarely been enforced. This proposal would make it legal to eat or drink in a public swimming pool that is privately owned and operated.
Drones: If you happen to have a drone, or an “unmaned aircraft,” just don’t take it into the Texas Capitol Complex. As of Sept. 1, using an unmaned aircraft in the Capitol Complex can get you a Class B misdemeanor. Abbott has already signed this bill into law.
Hair: Barbers and hair stylists will be able to leave their salons and legally help Texans prepare for special events, such as weddings, under this measure that has already been signed into law.
Raffles: Some sports fans could soon be going home with a handful of money. Lawmakers passed a measure letting raffles be held at major sporting events to raise money for charities and fans. They could be held at games of professional teams from the Texas Rangers to the Dallas Cowboys to the Dallas Mavericks. They are known as 50-50 raffles because half the winnings go to charity and half to the lucky winner. Right now, nonprofit organizations may operate raffles twice a year and can give away anything ranging from a car to a house — but not cash. This measure would change that. Abbott has already signed this into law, meaning it could go into effect as soon as next year if Texas voters approve a constitutional amendment this November allowing it to happen.
Protecting skin: Texas students would have the ability to bring sunscreen to school under this measure.
Some of these measures are drawing criticism from political observers.
“Conservative lawmakers should do as little as necessary,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Fireworks sales and charitable raffles at sporting events should not even be in legislative purview. Only those bills necessary for the health and safety of citizens, not to regulate everyday living.
“I am amazed that thousands of bills are introduced every legislative session,” he said. “Where do they get these thousands of ideas from?”
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610