A total of 774 new laws went into effect Sept. 1, affecting Texans in many areas of their lives, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The new laws concern property taxes, registration fees and voting access, among other issues. Several have drawn court challenges from opponents.
A few examples of the new laws include:
• Book vendors must create a rating system for books deemed “sexually relevant” or “sexually explicit.” House Bill 900 is currently being challenged in an Austin federal courtroom by several Texas booksellers.
• Other major legislation concerning schools provides nearly $ 330 million over the next biennium to increase school safety infrastructure and resources.
• The cost of a new electric car goes up $400 after Senate Bill 505 passed both chambers unanimously, adding a new registration fee. In addition, owners of existing electric cars now must pay a new $200 annual registration fee, with the money from both fees going to the state highway fund, which is primarily financed by gasoline taxes.
• Governmental entities in Texas are now banned from implementing COVID- 19 restrictions, such as vaccine mandates or requiring the wearing of masks under Senate Bill 29.
LAW ERODING LOCAL P OW ER RU L E D UNCONSTITUTIONAL A Travis County judge last week declared unconstitutional a new state law stopping cities and counties from passing ordinances that go beyond what is allowed under state law. The ruling came just before the so- called “ Death Star” bill went into effect, the Texas Tribune reported.
The state has appealed the ruling by state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble. Local officials across the state’s urban areas blasted the law as an overreach that prevents them from meeting local needs, such as providing water breaks to construction workers. That municipal requirement is now banned under state law.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner hailed the ruling.
“ The governor’s and Legislature’s ongoing war on such home- rule cities hurts the state and its economy, discourages new transplants from other states, and thwarts the will of Texas voters who endowed these cities in the Texas Constitution with full rights to self-government and local innovation,” Turner said in a statement. “This self-defeating war on cities needs to end.”
Gov. Gregg Abbott defended the bill, saying, “ Texas small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Burdensome regulations are an obstacle to their success.”
PAXTON’S IMPEACHMENT TRIAL SLATED TO BEGIN The impeachment trial of suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton began Tuesday in the Texas Senate. The embattled state official faces 20 articles of impeachment, including misuse and abuse of office; disregard of duty; bribery; securities fraud; false and misleading statements; and dereliction and unfitness for office, The Dallas Morning News reported.
It would take a two- thirds vote of the Senate to convict Paxton.
Meanwhile, The News reported some of Paxton’s former employees claim he pursued perks beyond what is alleged in the impeachment articles, including trips to the Caribbean and Europe that cost taxpayers more than $ 90,000 for his security detail.
David Maxwell, who once headed the law enforcement division of the Attorney General’s Office for Paxton, said Paxton once bought a $ 600 sports coat from a hotel store while attending a conference and billed it to the event’s organizer.
“ He was all about money,” said Maxwell, who is also a former Texas Ranger, the state’s elite law- enforcement division. “ He always had his hand out.”
Paxton has consistently denied all the allegations against him.
DOVE SEASON SPARKS WILDFIRE CONCERNS With dove season now open in much of Texas, officials with the Texas A& M Forest Service are urging hunters to take special care during activities that could spark a wildfire. Vehicles, trailers, all- terrain vehicles and other equipment used for hunting and camping often cause wildfires, and bonedry conditions are especially dangerous this hunting season.
“ As Texans venture outdoors, it’s important to remember just how dry the vegetation is. It doesn’t take much for an inadvertent spark or carelessness to cause a wildfire,” said Chis Schenk, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department statewide fire program leader. “ The high temperatures cause fires to spread rapidly and make it hard for firefighters to work. Please enjoy the outdoors but be careful with fire.”
Since mid- June, wildfires have burned more than 75,000 acres in Texas, according to the forest service. As of Sept. 1, there were six active fires, most of which have been largely contained. The largest to date was the Shearwood Creek Fire in Jasper County, which consumed 3,562 acres.
There are 211 counties across the state with burn bans.
DROUGHT UNVEILS NEW (OLD) DINOSAUR TRACKS Severe drought conditions have at least one upside, as 70 new dinosaur tracks were discovered in the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, according to the Houston Chronicle. The tracks are believed to belong to an Acrocanthosaurus and a Sauropodseiden.
The former was a 15-foot-tall dinosaur that weighed close to seven tons, while the latter stood 60 feet tall and weighed 44 tons.
The tracks are normally hidden under the water and mud of the Paluxy River and date back around 100 million years. Two consecutive years of drought and high temperatures uncovered the new tracks, which likely will be covered again once the area receives a decent rain.
Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: email@example.com.