Analysis: What El Pasoans need to know about the 666 new laws in effect in Texas

Local News

Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed funding for legislative staff salaries earlier this year as retribution after House Democrats walked out of the chamber in the final hours of the regular legislative session that ended in May to block a GOP elections bill. The veto did not affect lawmakers, whose salaries are constitutionally protected. Credit: Montinique Monroe for The Texas Tribune

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — This week, 666 news laws took effect in Texas, which will eliminate access to most abortions, eliminate social studies and current events from public school curricula and tighten already-limited voting laws across the state. 

The Texas Legislature remains in Gov. Greg Abbott’s second special session, where lawmakers are exploring legislation that includes changing the bail system and limiting transgender student athletes from participating in sports.

KTSM 9 News created a roundup of some of the lesser-known bills that will almost certainly affect people across the Borderland. 

2022-23 Budget

Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1) authorizes about $250 billion for Texas, much of that funding being directed to higher education. Earlier this summer, Abbott vetoed some line items related to funding the Texas Legislature and its staff, but the funding is expected to be restored at the conclusion of the second special session.

Removing SNAP barriers

Senate Bill 224 (S.B. 224) condenses access to the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP) for disabled and elderly Texans on fixed incomes. Eligible participants can bypass the enrollment interviews and complete a simpler application.

Slight medical cannabis expansion

House Bill 1535 expands The Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) to include two new conditions to its roster that includes PTSD and any form of cancer. Texans living with these conditions may now have access to low-level THC cannabis oil used for medical relief. 

Funding the “1836 Project”

House Bill 2497 (H.B. 2497) implemented a committee to produce patriotic Texas history materials, called the 1836 Project. The materials will be distributed throughout Texas, like when people receive their driver’s licenses. 

The initiative takes its lead from The New York Times’ “1619 Project” that details U.S history starting at the arrival of enslaved people to the New World. 

Eliminating social studies and current events curricula

House Bill 3979 (H.B. 3979) restricts teachers from discussing current events and systemic racism in the classroom. For example, public school teachers in El Paso will not be permitted to provide instruction on the Aug. 3rd, 2019 mass shooting, in which alleged shooter Patrick Crucius is being indicted on multiple counts of hate crimes for targeting Hispanics in the attack. 

The bill also eliminates class credit for participating in civic engagement.

Additionally, the bill bans teaching the “1619 Project.”

Reducing pre-K class size

Senate Bill 2081 (S.B. 2081) caps PreK classes across Texas at 22 students, which is the same as class sizes for elementary school classes.

“Star Spangled Banner Protection Act”

Senate Bill4 (S.B. 4) required the national anthem to be played before any professional sports games played using state funding. 

Car crash liability shield for companies

House Bill 19 (H.B. 19) requires commercial vehicle drivers to be found liable in court for causing car crashes that result in injury or death before the case can be brought against the company employing the driver. This includes Uber, Lyft and delivery trucks.

Active shooter alert system

House Bill 103 (H.B. 103) establishes the Texas Active Shooter Alert System that will notify people in the vicinity of an active shooting via text message.

The system can be activated by request of local law enforcement. 

Police body cameras

House Bill 929 (H.B. 929), or the Botham Jean law, mandates police officers to keep their body cameras on during the entirety of active investigations.

The law takes its namesake from a man fatally shot in his apartment while eating ice cream by a Dallas police officer in 2018.

Unnecessary police chokehold ban

Senate Bill 69 (S.B. 69) bans police officers from using chokeholds or excessive force during arrests unless to prevent officer or bystander injury.

Officers who witness violations are required to report it. 

Online ballot tracking system

House Bill 1382 (H.B. 1382) launches an online system to track mail-in ballots, as well as applications for mail-in ballots.

The online ballot tracking system will be operated by the Texas Secretary of State.

Penalizing cities that cut police budgets

House Bill 1900 (H.B. 1900) authorizes municipalities of more than 250,000 to face financial penalties for reducing police budgets. 

The penalties will come in the form of reducing sales tax revenue and blocking increases in property taxes.

Felony penalties for blocking emergency vehicles

House Bill 9 (H.B. 9) criminalizes blocking access to a hospital or an emergency response vehicle with its lights and sirens on as a state jail felony.

H.B. 9 was passed in response to the arrest of protestors who blocked ambulances over the summer of 2020 during Black Lives Matter protests. 

Criminalizing homeless camping

House Bill 1925 (H.B. 1925) makes camping in an unauthorized public place a misdemeanor crime with a penalty fine of up to $500.

Cities in Texas are not allowed to opt-out. 

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