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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

New Texas laws starting Friday


Last updated 8/29/2023 at 5:42pm

Texas has 774 new state laws starting on September 1 that will affect different aspects from criminal laws to regulations for businesses that get state licensing.

The Texas Legislature meets in odd-numbered years and passes a myriad of laws and regulations that usually begin on the first day of September after the legislative session. The newest laws and regulations were set by the 88th Texas Legislature that met earlier this year. Orange County's State Representative Dade Phelan also serves as the Speaker of the House.

One new law will affect the cities here with juvenile curfews. The legislature decided the juvenile curfew ordinances do not cut crime and can have bad effects on youth. Bridge City, Orange, Pinehurst, and Vidor have curfews for juveniles. However, cities will be able to implement curfews during emergencies.

Ages for jury service will also be raised. Currently, anyone age 70 or older may get an exemption for jury duty. The new minimum will be 75, the same age the state requires for district judges to retire.

Boating under the influence is a Class A misdemeanor with fines and a possible stay in a county jail. Now, a person arrested for BWI with a juvenile aboard will be charged with a state jail felony. The new boating law will match the laws for driving while intoxicated.

Anyone convicted of intoxication manslaughter may be ordered to make payments to support the juvenile children of a victim who has been killed.

Another new law makes it a Class A misdemeanor for anyone besides a judge or justice to release or lead a court decision.

District and county clerks will be allowed to carry a handgun to work, plus some retired judges and justices will be able to carry handguns. In addition, it will now be a crime for the release or publication of photographs of human remains made by coroners, medical examiners, coroners, or other public employees for any reason besides an official office purpose.

Another new law is the requirement that murder and capital murder case be given preference when courts are setting dockets.

People may now be getting "Athena Alerts." Similar to the Amber Alerts about a missing child, the Athena Alert will give notice to people living within 100 miles of where a missing child was last seen.

Drivers will face more penalties for not yielding to emergency vehicles with flashing lights. Under the new law, a driver will need to make a lane change or drop their speed to 20 mph for ambulances, law enforcement, tow trucks, utility service vehicles, TxDOT vehicles or service vehicles with activated lights. Violations may carry enhanced fines based on circumstances.

Engineers with the Texas Department of Transportation will now be allowed to temporarily change speed limits on parts of highways because of bad weather or construction.

In schools, race-based hair discrimination will now be banned statewide. That will include Indigenous students with braids or long hair, and Black students with locs and braids. Also, schools are now required to send any student caught on campus to an alternative center.

School districts are now required to have armed officers at all campuses or armed staff members who have been trained. In addition, every classroom is to have a silent panic button. School staffs are now supposed to be able to identify students who may have mental health problems.

And to check on the safety at each public school, the Texas Education Agency with the Texas School Safety Center will be required to work together to assess campus security once every four years.

Cities and the county will now have more power to get charges against illegal dumping. Some of that dumping has involved businesses dumping scrap tires and other unwanted materials. Now the allow will allow not only individuals for dumping, but those who ordered the dumping, too.

Owners of electric vehicles will begin paying an additional $200 for their annual registration fee. The fee will double if the vehicle is new because the registration covers two years. The fee will make up for the lack of gasoline taxes the state collects for highway maintenance.

In an effort to crack down on the counterfeiting of paper temporary license plates, dealers will now be allowed to keep metal license plates in stock to give to vehicle purchasers.


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