85th Texas Legislation: What’s changed?

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By Ximena Ramirez

The 85th Texas Legislative Session came to a close on the end of last month. The 140 days of the regular session were turbulent amongst both sides of the isle as well as within the parties. Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special summer session to finalize several seemingly unceasing bills.

Texting while driving in Texas is now illegal after House Bill 62 was signed. This bans texting or emailing while driving a motor vehicle but it does not criminalize adjusting a GPS signal. Violations will be punishable by a fine ranging from $25 to $99.

Texas Senate Bill 8 also passed which means the remains of an aborted fetus is no longer disposable as “medical waste” and will now force the woman to cremate the fetus or have a burial in a cemetery.

Senate Bill179 was also passed which emerged after David Molak, a 16- year-old San Antonio native, took his own life because of vicious cyberbullying. The bill known as “David’s Law” requires school districts to include cyberbullying in their districts bullying policies,

The most controversial bill was unequivocally Senate Bill 6. This bill would require transgendered people to use bathrooms that accord with their “biological sex” and the gender that appears on their birth certificate. The bill died in the regular session; however, Gov. Greg Abbott declared that the summer session agenda must include similar bathroom regulation proposals.

A “bathroom bill” like legislation will need to jump hurdles to pass given that the GOP is divided between evangelical conservatives who support the bill and fiscally conservatives who oppose the bill given that there could be financial consequences. For example, in Texas, the “bathroom bill” could determine if the NFL decides to desist holding the 2018 NFL draft in The Lone Star State.

“If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events,” said Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s vice president of communications.

Immigration was also one of the most discussed topics on the Texas floor – resulting in national coverage and controversy. The immigration proposals ignited heated and emotional debates. Both parties were divided as they both scored wins and setbacks.

House Bill 39 and House Bill 573, which wanted to require undocumented students to pay out of state tuition rates regardless of how many years they lived in Texas, failed to be heard.

The bill banning sanctuary cities, Senate Bill 6 was recently signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. In the immigration community, this is known as the “show me your papers” law after Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer added an amendment that directed police officers to inquire about legal status upon the time of detainment even in a routine traffic stop. If chiefs and sheriffs do not comply with the federal request, they could face jail and be removed from office.

SB 6 will go in effect in September. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), along with the City of San Antonio, recently sued the State of Texas because of the discriminatory climate it will create between immigrant communities and public safety.

More 6,000 bills were filed in this year’s regular legislative session. The summer session will pick up on July 18.  To find out more about which bills became law and when they go into effect go to www.capitol.state.tx.us.

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