Sept. 1 ushers in new laws for Texas

by Josie Fox

Sept. 1, 2019 not only marked the beginning of a new month, but also the date that over 800 new laws went into effect for the state of Texas. From changes in age restrictions, driver responsibility programs, guns, dogs and lemonade stands, here are a few of the more noteworthy changes:

•The minimum age to purchase any tobacco product; including but not limited to electronic cigarettes, cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco and vaping products, has increased to 21 under Senate Bill 21. The only exception to this new bill lies with active duty military members. If a person age 18 is active duty and shows an active military ID, they may still purchase tobacco products. Health officials have stated the goal is to keep youth away from tobacco products as long as possible in attempts to decrease health concerns related to the use of tobacco.

•Under House Bill 1518 the minimum age to purchase cough syrups that contain the cough suppressant ingredient of dextromethorphan, or DXM, has increased to 18. Products that contain DXM include Delsym, Dimetapp, Mucinex DM, Tylenol Cough & Cold. DayQuil/NyQuil, Alka Seltlzer Plus, and many more, including store brand versions of these products. Studies have shown that DXM is used to get high, and more than a dozen other states, including New York and Florida, have also banned the sale of cough medicines to minors.

•House Bill 2174, will affect some controlled substances prescribed to those who have had surgery or suffered injuries to help control acute pain will be capped at 10 days with no refills. The goal is to reduce the chances of individuals becoming addicted to opiods. This new law will not apply to individuals receiving controlled substances as part of cancer, hospice, end-of-life or palliative care.

•House Bill 2048 put an end to the driver responsibility program and an estimated one million Texas drivers will be able to get their driver’s license back. The program was initially put in place to encourage people to drive better, and insured, but ended up creating financial hardships for those having to pay not only the fines for the traffic violations, but annual surcharges to keep their license 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 and intoxicated driver fines are planned to increase:

- $3,000 for the first conviction within 36 months;

- $4,000 for a subsequent conviction within 36 months; or

- $6,000 for a conviction if it was shown that the person’s alcohol concentration level was 0.16 or more.

•Under House Bill 2789, “sexting” or sending unwanted sexually explicit images to someone will be a Class C misdemeanor and can have a fine up to $500.

•House Bill 1992 states telemarketers will no longer be able to manipulate Caller ID. Many have been victim to telemarketers being able to change the number so it appears the call is coming from a local individual. With this new law, anyone who puts fake information on a Caller ID is potentially in violation.

•Persons stealing packages from a porch will now face felony charges under House Bill 37. The penalty and fines will increase with the number of thefts and if an individual steals from more than 10 people they will face a state felony. Stealing from 20-50 will warrant a second-degree felony and stealing from more than 50 will result in a first-degree felony. Fines for “porch pirates” can range from $4,000 to $10,000.

•Several changes went into effect in regards to carrying guns, brass knuckles and no firearms clauses on Sept. 1. Those changes include:

- House Bill 302: Rental leases for apartments, condos and manufactured house preventing tenants from having firearms or ammunition will no longer be able to include a no firearms clause.

- House Bill 446: Brass knuckles, tomahawks, night sticks, maces, and self defense plastic key chains are no longer on the list of banned weapons and Texans may now carry these in most parts of the state. However, these items will still be prohibited in some areas such as schools, nursing homes and jails.

- Senate Bill 535: Places of worship in Texas may decide if handguns are allowed on their premises. For years, Texas law had included houses of worship on a list where gun owners could not carry their weapons. Now officials at all places of worship may make that decision.

- House Bill 1177: If the governor declares a natural disaster, Texas residents in the affected area may carry their handguns – even if they are unlicensed- for up to one week. This law was placed in effect following complaints from Harvey victims who were not able to take their guns during the mandatory evacuations

•Outdoor enthusiasts who hunt and fish will no longer have to carry a paper copy of their hunting and fishing license under House Bill 547. Under this new law, individuals may pull up their license on their phone to show game wardens.

•House Bill 1545 and Senate Bill 1232 will directly affect craft brewers and delivery of wine and beer. Individuals will now be able to purchase beer-to-go from craft breweries, and restaurants can apply for permits allowing them to deliver beer and wine. Texas Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Charles Vallhonrat said in a recent statement that ‘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.’

•House Bill 16, also known as the “Born Alive Act” will require doctors to treat a baby born alive in the rare instance of a failed abortion attempt. Under this bill, any physician that fails to treat an abortion-surviving infant with the same professionalism and urgency as another infant born at the same gestational age can face a minimum civil penalty of $100,000.

Additional laws that went into effect on Sept. 1 include new rules for female inmates (House Bill 650); free speech on campus (Senate Bill 18); measures to fight surprise medical bills (Senate Bill 1264); seller disclosures for houses within a floodplain (Senate Bill 339); lemonade stand sales on private property (House Bill 234); dogs on restaurant patios (Senate Bill 476); and many more.

For a complete list of the new laws that went into effect on Sept. 1, visit the Legislative Reference Library of Texas at