The Good and the Bad in the 666 Bills That Took Effect This Week in Texas
This week in Texas, 666 new laws took effect. Aside from its satanic implications, that seemingly large number has no special significance, since most of the bills neither shrink nor expand government in any substantial way. But the new laws include several that libertarians will be inclined to applaud, along with some that are bad in ways that conservatives tend to be bad, such as mindless cultural warfare, tough-on-crime posturing, and ideologically motivated interference with local decisions. Here are some of the highlights.
As of Wednesday, Texans 21 or older who are legally allowed to own handguns no longer needed a special license to carry them in public places. H.B. 1927 makes Texas the 20th state, and by far the most populous, to adopt that policy, which is based on the premise that law-abiding people should be able to exercise the constitutional right to bear arms without jumping through bureaucratic hoops. Handguns remain banned in certain places, including courthouses, polling places, prisons, state-run hospitals, government meetings open to the public, schools, racetracks, airports, amusement parks, and bars.
Texas stores are now allowed to sell beer and wine anytime after 10 a.m. on Sundays; the previous cutoff was noon. H.B. 1518 also lets hotels sell alcoholic beverages to registered guests on any day and at any time. Outside of hotels, the sale of distilled spirits remains illegal on Sundays, except for “mixed beverages” in bars and restaurants. Baby steps.
H.B. 567, which Lenore Skenazy has covered for Reason, specifies that the grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship do not include “allowing a child to engage in independent activities that were appropriate and typical for the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, developmental abilities, or culture.” The Department of Family and Protective Services is “prohibited from taking possession of a child based on evidence that a parent allowed a child to engage in such activities.” Nor would the fact that a parent has tested positive for marijuana justify removal, unless “the department had evidence that the parent’s use of marijuana had caused significant impairment to the child’s physical or mental health or emotional development.” The new law also tightens the definition of child neglect.
S.B. 69 imposes new limits on neck restraints, saying police may use them only when it is “necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to or the death of the officer or another person.” The law also requires officers to intervene when a colleague uses excessive force.
H.B. 929—known as the Botham Jean Act, after the man who was killed in 2018 by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who said she mistook his apartment for hers—requires that police officers keep their body cameras on during an active investigation. As the NBC station in Dallas notes, testimony in Guyger’s murder trial revealed that “Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata asked another officer to turn off a camera inside a squad car at the scene of the shooting so Guyger and Mata could speak privately.”
Criminal Justice Reform
When people commit misdemeanors that are not punishable by incarceration, H.B. 569 requires that judges reduce the fines and fees they owe by $200 for each day they spent in jail for a prior offense. The official bill analysis explains the rationale for that reform:
Upon release from incarceration, many people go home to find out that they have outstanding tickets, fines, and warrants for fine-only misdemeanors, which can preclude the person from securing a driver’s license or identification necessary to find employment and pay off their debts. This can lead to formerly incarcerated individuals sometimes driving to work without a license or ID in order to pay off their outstanding debts at the risk of receiving another ticket, which can result in further debt and the possibility of more jail time relat
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