Newly-enacted Texas legislation that may affect you

S. David Ramirez, Staff reporter

More than 600 new laws from the Texas Legislature took effect September 1.  Some of these laws, which have already been signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, may directly impact students.

Here are 14 new bills that may affect students.

Legislative actions are not typically given formal names, but these have been created to give context.

House Bill 124 – No more salvia extracts
This bill amends the Health and Safety code to put Salvia into the Texas Controlled Substances Act listing.  Salvia divinorum, a psychoactive plant that was previously available in certain specialty stores, will now join compounds of opium, peyote and other drugs in the Group 3 Penalty group.  Possession of a Group 3 drug is a Class A misdemeanor which could warrant a fine of up to $4,000, a confinement of up to one year or both.  Salvia is still allowed as a shrub or outdoor decorative plant.

Senate Bill 279 – Protective orders for pets
This bill allows a judge to expand a personal protective order, often used in cases of family violence, to include a pet or assistance animal.  This includes prohibiting any persons from hurting or threatening harm to that animal.

Senate Bill 1151 – Money from munchies

This bill extends the sales tax to cover “snack items” with include a variety of sport snack bars.

Senate Bill 329 – No tanning for minor miners

This bill enforces an age requirement to use a commercial personal tanning device.  All users must be at least 18.

House Bill 1752 – Teacher residency program
This bill creates a Teacher Residency Program to create partnerships between higher education institutions and regional public schools. Participants are given help to progress towards a Master’s degree and state certification.  These partnerships will help recent graduates find faculty vacancies in primary and secondary schools.

House Bill 2090 – Español por favor
This bill requires that any signed written statements taken during “custodial interrogation” be scribed in a language that the “accused can read and understand.”  This means that if an individual is taken into custody and signs a confession, it will potentially be thrown out unless it is in their native language.

House Bill 2099 – Nursing common application
This bill requires the Texas Higher Education Board to adopt a common electronic application for admission into an undergraduate nursing program.  This could make it easier for new or transfer students to apply to multiple schools and standardize the process.

House Bill 3536 – New taxes on tobacco

This bill adds a fee to all tobacco products that do not have a tax-stamp affixed or are distributed by a company that has not signed a settlement with the state.  This includes cigarettes, cigars and oral tobacco products.

Senate Bill 67 – Tell us about your stem cells
This bill requires institutions of higher education to file a special annual report about research use of stem cells, amount spent on that research and the source of funding.

Senate Bill 131 – Wineries are living after midnight
This bill allows wineries, with Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission permission, to sell wine until 2 a.m.  Many wineries previously stopped sales at 9 p.m. or midnight.

House Bill 697 – Boosters and clubs are sales tax free
This bill allows clubs or “school support organizations” to sell food products, meals or candy without applying a sales tax.  This only applies to primary and secondary schools with the warning that all money must “benefit the school or school district.”

House Bill 1347 – Mission Valley pride
This bill creates a new specialty license plate representing the El Paso Lower Valley. Proceeds from the sale of these plates will be used to support the Socorro and Ysleta missions, and the San Elizario Presidio-Mission.

House Bill 347 – No use of cell phones in vehicles on school property
This bill limits the use of cell phones without a hands-free device in school areas. This includes parking lots and properties adjacent to school crosswalks.

A full list of all approved and now-effective house bills can be viewed at the Texas Legislature Website.

S. David Ramirez may be contacted at [email protected]