New voting, abortion and gun bills in Texas become law: NPR

Jessica Marie Ramirez attends a voting rally outside the Texas State Capitol on July 8 in Austin, Texas.

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Jessica Marie Ramirez attends a voting rally outside the Texas State Capitol on July 8 in Austin, Texas.

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In Texas, more than 650 new laws go into effect Wednesday passed by the Republican-led state legislature in the 202nd regular session. Among them are top conservative priorities passed in other red states in the country this year, but none as big as Texas with over 29 million residents.

Meanwhile, Texas Democrats have returned to the state after leaving to protest a restrictive voting law. This bill was finally passed on Tuesday, but will not immediately become law.

Here are some of the top new laws that will go into effect on Wednesday, September 1 in Texas:

New voting laws. (No, not that one)

The most attention-grabbing Texas voting bill this year is the Senate Bill 1, backed by the Republican Party, passed this week. This still needs Governor Abbott’s signature, but some less-spoken voting laws will go into effect Wednesday.

One prohibits Texas voters from registering using a mailbox as an address, another allows the Secretary of State to cut funds for voter registrars who do not remove certain people from the lists, and another makes it difficult to apply. voting by mail for medical reasons.

There are also other, less controversial voting laws. One that allows people to track ballot boxes by email and another that makes it clear who may be at a polling station: voters, election workers, election observers, election judges, and law enforcement.

On May 29, in Austin, a protester had a sign outside the Texas State Capitol. Thousands of protesters came out in response to a bill banning abortions after heart activity was detected in an embryo, sometimes at six weeks pregnant.

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On May 29, in Austin, a protester had a sign outside the Texas State Capitol. Thousands of protesters came out in response to a bill banning abortions after heart activity was detected in an embryo, sometimes at six weeks pregnant.

Sergio Flores / Getty Images

Prohibition of abortion of cardiac activity

Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers passed a bill that could ban the vast majority of abortions in the state.

It prohibits abortions once cardiac activity is detected in an embryo, which can happen just about six weeks before many know they are pregnant.

Unlike other similar bills across the country, Texas law does not provide criminal sanctions for violating the ban. Instead, the law allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps someone have an abortion.

Advocates for abortion rights have called on the U.S. Supreme Court to block the law, saying that if it goes into effect, it will essentially remove access to abortion in Texas.

“If this law goes into effect, anti-abortion protesters could use this law to harass clinics with endless processes that consume their time and resources and could force them to close,” lawyer Marc Hearron, the lawyer, told reporters. main representing the plaintiffs in the case. in July.

Prohibition of the “critical theory of races”

Teachers say they don’t teach it. Educators say most people, including critics, don’t know what it is. Still, lawmakers this spring passed laws banning the teaching of critical theory of race in schools.

Nikki Jones, who teaches African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, described critical race theory as a way to understand how race has been used to influence laws in the United States.

“It’s a way of looking at the race,” Jones says. “Seeing understandings about race, seeing racism, in places where otherwise it can’t be evident on its surface.”

The new law adopts the critical theory of race without ever naming it. The Republican, a sponsor of the House bill, says the new law is aimed at teaching complex issues such as slavery and racism without white children feeling guilty.

“We have to teach about evil, but you can’t blame this generation,” Toth says. “The children are being atoned for.”

Texas history teachers say no goat scapegoat to anyone.

Crimes for protesters blocking roads, hospitals

Texas protesters could be charged with felonies for blocking a road or entrance to a hospital after a new law goes into effect Wednesday.

The bill was introduced after a protest in California that sparked protesters blocking two deputies to go to the emergency room.

In Texas, protesters had faced a felony count of up to six months in prison for that crime. The new law increases the sentence to two years.

“As a nurse working in emergency situations, the latter are important,” says Republican state Rep. Stephanie Klick, one of the authors of the bill. “A delay of just a few minutes in emergency care can mean the difference between life and death.”

But Democratic State Representative Joe Moody of El Paso says the punishment is too severe.

“What we do here is create a mandatory minimum that is not congruent with anything else we have,” Moody says.

A woman explains handgun merchandise to a client during the July 10 CPAC Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas.

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A woman explains handgun merchandise to a client during the July 10 CPAC Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas.

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Transport without permission

Texans have had the right to carry a weapon in public since 1995. Since then, more gun-friendly legislation has been followed. However, you always need to get a license to be able to take the gun out of the house or vehicle.

As of Wednesday, this is no longer the case.

The new law allows anyone who can legally own a firearm to carry it in public, as long as it is in a holster. It is the first time since the Reconstruction.

Texas is now the twentieth state to enact what some call “constitutional,” which supporters say is a right granted by the Second Amendment.

The law does not change eligibility for gun ownership. Texas gun owners must still be at least 21 years old and may not have served a sentence for a felony or domestic violence in the past five years. And the new law also adds several offenses to the list, including assaults that cause bodily harm, deadly conduct, terrorist threat, and disorderly conduct with a firearm.

The law is unpopular among some Texas law enforcement and, according to University of Texas and Texas Tribune polls, about 60% of Texans oppose transportation without permission.

“I think it’s going to mean more guns in public,” says Gyl Switzer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense. “And the data shows us time, time after time, time after time that guns don’t make us safer.”

The ban on homeless camps

Another new law would ban homeless camps across the state, making it illegal to establish shelters or store objects for an extended period of time, creating a new Class C crime punishable by a fine of up to $ 500. dollars.

Many believe the legislation is a response to Austin decriminalizing homeless camping in 2019, a move Austin voters voted to repeal in May. The law also prohibits cities from using parks for temporary camps.

Expanding access to medicinal cannabis

Thousands more jeans will be eligible Wednesday for low-THC medicinal cannabis oil through the state’s compassionate use program.

The new law makes all forms of cancer eligible for the program. Previously, only patients with “terminal” cancer were eligible.

“It’s debatable that any form of cancer can be terminal, right?” says Jax Finkel, executive director of the Texas National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform. “So I found it a very arbitrary descriptor.”

It also expands the use of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Originally, only veterans were eligible. This changed, in part, after the supportive influence of veterans who stated that everyone with PTSD should have equal access.

The state program, however, remains one of the most restrictive in the country.

According to a survey conducted this year by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, only more than 10% of Texans believe marijuana should remain illegal in the state.

Educational credits for the service of veterans

A new law could help the approximately 1.5 million veterans living in Texas gain academic credit for the skills they learned in the military by creating a universal catalog to translate what military training would apply to certain degrees. and certificate programs at Texas vocational schools and colleges.

Democratic State Representative Alex Dominguez, who co-authored the bill, says it was about reducing veterans ’redundancy and giving them a quicker entry into the civilian workforce.

“My goal is to publish this list so that the veterans themselves can see what they would qualify for,” Dominguez says. “It is possible for a veteran to leave military service as long as he has worked in the infantry, for example, but you may find that he has developed enough skills that would help them get a job, for example, in the police or being a paramedic, for example. example. “

Andrew Schneider and Florian Martin of Houston Public Media; Bret Jaspers of KERA, Haya Panjwani, Ana Perez and Bill Zeeble; Ashley Lopez, Jerry Quijano and Andrew Weber of KUT; and Carolina Cuellar and Jack Morgan of Texas Public Radio contributed to the reporting of this story.


Credit – https://www.npr.org/2021/09/01/1032894148/in-texas-666-laws-take-effect-sept-1-including-many-conservative-priorities