© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Texas Matters: New laws and Paxton on trial

Ways To Subscribe
Image by Alberto Adán from Pixabay

The first day of September is the day that most of the laws passed in the previous Texas regular legislative session go into effect.

But not if they are blocked by the courts for violating the Constitution. This applies to the Texas drag show ban, the Death Star bill that ends home rule for Texas cities, the online porn ID law and a book rating slash banning law.

With almost 800 bills becoming law there are many that will have a direct impact on the lives of Texans, including SB 379 which ends the so called "Tampon Tax" which is the sales tax on many family care products. The average sales tax rate in Texas is 8.2 percent.

State Representative Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, had fought for this bill session after session and saw it come up short. But this time, it passed and was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.

School Safety Law
Another of the new laws that takes effect is one that aims to address school safety concerns after last year's shooting at Uvalde's Robb Elementary. House Bill 3 requires all public schools in the state to have an armed officer on campus during school hours plus meet other new safety guidelines.

But HB 3 has received mixed responses from parents. Houston Public Media’s Rebecca Noel reports some school districts are struggling to comply with the new law.

Bills That didn't make it
It’s only natural that we tell you about the new laws that Texans now have to live under. But what about the big bills that didn’t become laws?

Last May Andre Harris testified before the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee about HB 181—a bill that directly impacts his life and so many others.

“I didn’t mention that I also live with Sickle Cell disease,” said Harris.

Sickle Cell is a genetic disease that affects red blood cells. The vast majority of people who have it are Black. It’s estimated that Texas has the third largest population of people with Sickle Cell; however, that’s a crude estimate because Texas doesn’t have a Sickle Cell registry.

Harris was testifying hoping to change that.

“In 1979, when I was born, my family was told I would not live this long,” he said.
Harris beat those odds but says a Texas Sickle Cell registry would help others also living with the disease.

“We do need bills like this to hold the medical system and government accountable for how Sickle Cell patients are treated,” Harris said.

The bill easily passed but ran into a problem with Governor Greg Abbott. It was one of 76 bills that he vetoed. In his veto statement Abbott said a sickle cell registry would violate the privacy of people with sickle cell.

Representative Jarvis Johnson carried the bill and rejects Abbott’s reasoning for the veto.

“This disease has crippled a population and they’ve been underserved and so there was no rhyme or reason because we have multiple registries. And those registries are simply put in place to insure that we understand what how people are affected,” said Johnson.

Johnson added if the Texas legislature had a functioning veto override – which is in the state constitution – then Abbott’s veto wouldn’t stand.

“And so we’ll just have to go back to the drawing board next session,” he said.

Cheers erupted after a House committee approved one of the session’s most followed bills—to raise the age to buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21.

This bill was a reaction to the school shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 students and two teachers. The families of the victims, including Bret Cross, spoke out on the capitol steps trying to pass that new law.

“So fight with us and help us demand change because you don’t want to be fighting from this side with a hole in your heart that cannot go away,” Cross said.

However, the raise-the-age bill wasn’t given a vote on the House floor. And despite being supported by 75 percent of Texans didn’t become law.

Cross today says he is angry.

“It would have gone into effect September 1, and until we are able to fight again for it, there will be another mass shooting—with an AR— with somebody under the age of 21,” Cross said.

Cross and the other Uvalde families say they will keep fighting for gun safety laws that they say will better serve Texans.

But that’s going to have to wait until the next legislative session.

Paxton on Trial
On Tuesday the impeachment trial for suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton gets underway.

And new polling from the Texas Politics Project at U-T Austin shows nearly half of all Texans agree that Paxton's actions justify removing him from office. Jim Henson directs the Project.

The poll also showed a possible split among Paxton’s Republican base.

Joe Jaworski
Opinions about Paxton and his future in Texas politics will likely change as the impeachment trial gets underway, testimony is heard, and more people learn about the hard evidence behind the charges.

Joe Jaworski is a third-generation Texas trial attorney and former Galveston, TX Mayor. He was a recent andidate for the Democratic nomination for Texas Attorney General. Jaworski warns that if Paxton isn’t convicted by the state senate it will be destructive to state politics.

Paxton’s impeachment trial will be live streamed on the Texas Senate webpage starting Tuesday at 9am.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi