Texas

Hundreds of new Texas laws go into effect Sept. 1. Here’s what you need to know

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Vapes and e-cigarettes have grown in popularity in recent years. Often advertised as a less dangerous alternative to cigarettes, medical professionals still have much to learn about their health effects.

Change is coming, Texans.

More than 800 new laws go into effect Sunday.

Granted, you might never know about some — and you might never need to know about them.

But others could immediately affect your life.

People under 21, for instance, will no longer be able to buy tobacco products, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes. And those under 18 will no longer be able to buy cough syrup if it contains a certain ingredient some teens use to get high.

Nearly 1 million Texans will be able to get their driver’s licenses back when the state’s driver responsibility program ends.

At the same time, gun owners will be able to carry their weapons in more places, and anyone who owns tomahawks, brass knuckles and security keychains will be able to legally carry them.

And lemonade stands, once and for all, will be legal for kids to operate.

“Many Texans will learn about changes to laws that affect them the old fashioned way — by experiencing it,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “At this point, Texans are more concerned with back-to-school activities than when laws passed months ago actually go into effect.”

The new measures are among the hundreds of new laws the Texas Legislature passed earlier this year with Gov. Greg Abbott’s approval. Some laws, such as banning red light cameras, already have gone into effect.

Here’s a look at some of the new laws.

New restrictions

Smoking age: People will have to wait until they are 21 to buy cigarettes and tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes. The only exception: Those actively serving in the military who show a military ID may still buy tobacco products. Health officials have said the goal is to keep youths away from tobacco as long as possible. This comes as the first death attributed to vaping was reported in Illinois and countless others who vape have turned up with lung disease in Texas and across the country. Senate Bill 21

Cough syrup: Children under 18 will no longer be able to buy cough syrups — ranging from DayQuill to Delsym — that contain the cough suppressant dextromethorphan, or DXM. Studies show that DXM is used by some teens to get high. More than a dozen other states, including New York and Florida, have banned the sale of the cough medicines to minors. House Bill 1518

Pain relief: Those who have surgery or suffer injuries soon will find there’s a limit to how much pain relief medicine they can receive. Prescriptions for some controlled substances used to help with “acute pain” will be capped at 10 days with no refills. This would not apply to people who receive the medicine as part of cancer, hospice, end-of-life or palliative care. The goal is to reduce the chances of Texans becoming addicted to opiods. HB 2174

Sexting: If you’re going to text sexually explicit images to someone, make sure they want to receive those pictures. Otherwise, you will be committing a crime. Offenses will be Class C misdemeanors, which carry a maximum fine of $500. HB 2789

Providing relief

Driver responsibility program: Nearly 1 million Texans can get their driver’s licenses back after the driver responsibility program ends Sunday. The program was supposed to encourage people to drive better but it ended up creating financial hardships for people convicted of traffic violations who had to pay fines as well as annual surcharges to keep their licenses from being suspended. “Individuals who could not pay were losing jobs and homes, becoming homeless for a minor ticket that wealthier drivers could simply pay and forget,” Phil Telfeyan, executive director of Equal Justice Under Law, said in a statement. “The repeal of this discriminatory policy is a huge step in the right direction for the State of Texas.” To make up for lost revenue, state traffic fines will grow from $30 to $50, the $2 fee drivers pay for motor vehicle insurance policies to be issued will increase to $4 and fines for some traffic offenses, including driving while intoxicated, will grow. HB 2048

Spoofing: Telemarketers will no longer be able to manipulate Caller ID. They have been able to change the number that shows up to match the same area code you use, so you think the call is coming from your neighborhood. Now, anyone who puts fake information on a Caller ID is potentially violating the law. HB 1992

Porch pirates: Anyone who steals a package from a porch will face felony charges. The penalties and charges grow as the number of thefts increase. If someone steals from more than 50 people, he faces a first-degree felony. Steal from 20 to 50 people and it’s a second-degree felony. And anyone who steals from less than 10 people faces a state felony. Fines can range from $4,000 to $10,000. HB 37

Drinks & dogs

Beer sales: Craft breweries may now sell up to a case of beer per customer every day. Craft brewers are celebrating on Sunday, which they’ve dubbed “Beer-To-Go Day,” holding events across the state. “September 1 marks a historic day for the Texas craft brewing industry and the consumers who will now be able to purchase beer-to-go directly from the source,” Texas Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Charles Vallhonrat said in a statement. Another new law allows restaurants to apply for permits to let them deliver wine and beer. HB 1545, SB 1232

Lemonade stands: Lemonade stands have been illegal in Texas for years because of old food establishment rules. State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, worked to change that, passing a measure to make these stands run by children legal. “#LemonadeFreedom is here to stay,” Krause tweeted earlier this year. HB 234

Dogs on patios: Many restaurants across the state already let customers bring their dogs with them to dine in outdoor areas. But some cities have put restrictions in place requiring those businesses to have inspections, apply for dog variances, pay fees and more. This law will allow restaurants to let customers with leashed dogs dine in outside areas under certain conditions. SB 476

Guns & more

Carrying guns into churches: Officials at places of religious worship in Texas may decide whether to allow handguns on their premises. Texas law for years has included houses of worship on a list where gun owners may not carry their weapons. Now officials at churches, synagogues and all places of worship may make that decision for themselves. SB 535

Carrying brass knuckles/security key chains: Add brass knuckles, tomahawks, night sticks, maces — and self-defense plastic key chains shaped like dogs or cats with pointy ears — to the list of weapons people legally may carry in most parts of the state. These items had been on the state’s list of banned weapons but no longer will be prohibited except in some areas, such as schools, nursing homes and jails. HB 446

Nixing “no firearms” clauses: Leases for apartments, condos and manufactured housing have been able to include “no firearm” clauses, preventing renters and owners alike from having firearms or ammunition at those properties. Rental leases may no longer include “no firearms” clauses. HB 302

Fishing and hunting licenses: Until now, Texans had to carry paper copies of their hunting and fishing licenses with them. As of Sunday, they may pull up their license on their phone to show to game wardens. HB 547

A list of all the new laws that go into effect Sunday and beyond can be found at the Legislative Reference Library of Texas.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.
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