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New Texas Laws in 2021: What You Need to Know

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

New Texas Laws in 2021: What You Need to Know

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Texas recently enacted more than 600 new laws, many of which have caught the attention of the national media and voters across the country. These new laws have the potential to transform the lives of everyday Texans of all ages.

As a citizens of Texas, you need to be aware of what these laws are and how they impact your daily life. These new laws are just a few that have gone into effect and may affect you and your family while you live in the state.

New Voting Laws

The Republican-lead state government has created and allowed a host of new voting laws to go into effect. These new laws have altered the way that some people in the state can register to vote and even how they can cast their ballots.

For example, Texas no longer allows people who live in the state to use post office boxes as their primary addresses when registering to vote. They must use actual physical addresses to become legitimately and legally registered voters in the state.

Further, Texas now allows voters to track their mail-in ballots and make sure they arrive to and are counted by the correct polling place. The new laws likewise make it more challenging for people in Texas to request mail-in ballots for medical reasons.

A new voting law in Texas additionally requires voter registrars to remove certain voters from the rolls. If the registrars fail to remove these voters, they can have their funds cut by the Texas Secretary of State. 

Finally, a new Texas voting law stipulates whom can be at polling places on Election Day. The only people allowed to be at a polling place now by law are: 

  • Voters
  • Election workers
  • Poll watchers
  • Election judges

The new polling place law also allows for law enforcement to be present at polling places on Election Day. 

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Critical Race Theory Ban

Texas lawmakers also allowed a ban on Critical Race Theory, or CRT, to go into effect in September 2021. Critics of this new law say that most lawmakers and parents have no idea what CRT is or why it needs to be taught in schools.

Advocates of CRT say that it teaches students about how race has been used to form American laws. It also helps children see and understand race and understand racism where it may not be readily apparent.

However, lawmakers say that teachers should not teach history and sensitive subjects like racism and slavery while making white students feel guilty. The lawmaker who spearheaded the bill that eventually became the CRT ban law argued that there is no reason to make the current generation scapegoats for what happened in the past.

Cardiac Activity Abortion Ban

Perhaps the most controversial law that recently came into effect in Texas is the state’s Cardiac Activity Abortion law. This law effectively bans abortions after fetal heartbeats can be detected, usually at around six weeks gestation.

The new law does not criminalize abortion or penalize women themselves for getting an abortion. However, it does allow private citizens in the state to sue anyone who assists in or performs abortion for up to $10,000 each time. In essence, Texans can sue people like:

  • Abortion doctors
  • Nurses and medical assistants
  • Abortion clinic managers
  • Anesthesiologists

It also allows for citizens to sue people like Uber and taxi drivers who take women to abortion appointments. In response to this new abortion ban law, many abortion clinics in Texas have stopped offering most of their services.

This new law has not gone unchallenged, however. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the decision, though the Biden administration and the U.S. Justice Department continue efforts to get it overturned.

Permitless Carry

The first of September also saw the state of Texas legalize permitless carry for most of its citizens. It effectively did away with prior legal requirements, such as gun safety training or shooting proficiency, for carrying a firearm in public.

However, while the new law does allow for many Texans to legally carry handguns in public, it does not overturn bans on certain individuals, such as:

  • Felons
  • People under the age of 21
  • People who have been committed to mental health hospitals
  • Illegal aliens
  • Fugitives
  • People who have renounced their U.S. citizenship

The law also clearly stipulates where people can legally carry firearms. They are not permitted to carry their weapons inside federal courthouses, for example. They also cannot carry handguns in polling places, mental health facilities and race tracks, among other designated places.

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Ban on Homeless Encampments

The state of Texas likewise enacted a law that bans homeless encampments. Many believe that this law comes in response to the city of Austin legalizing encampments for the homeless in city parks and other public areas. This legalization was eventually overturned by Austin voters.

Nonetheless, Texas lawmakers effectively banned such encampments with their new law. It outlaws cities from using public parks and other public places as temporary homeless camps. People who are arrested for violating this law can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $500.

Felony Roadway and Hospital Entrance Blocking

Finally, Texas recently made it a felony to block any roadway or entrance leading to a hospital. This new law comes in response to the riots and protests in California during the summer of 2020. Protesters blocked law enforcement and ambulances from accessing an emergency room entrance. 

The new law increases the penalty from up to six months in jail to now up to two years in jail for people who are found guilty of violating it. It is designed to ensure that law enforcement and ambulances can get critically ill or injured people to emergency rooms for lifesaving treatment.

Critics of the law say it is too harsh and penalizes protesters needlessly. They also say that it aims to limit freedom of assembly and free speech in Texas. 

These new laws are just a few that went into effect in September 2021. They join hundreds of new laws that have the potential to transform the way that everyday Texans carry out their lives. Some of the most controversial have caught the attention of the national media and garnered legal challenges from the justice department and Biden administration.

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