Take your gun to the airport, but don't sell any revenge porn. Texas has some new laws taking effect today. Amid what was a pretty horrid Legislative session — for women, anyone not on the farthest of the far right and those who don't want Texas to experience the Wild West — some decent stuff did get done. Let's take a look at that, and some of the not so good laws we'll be subjected to now as well.
SB 1135 — Revenge porn is no longer legal in Texas. Thanks to the stalwart efforts of a group of eight female state senators, Texas became the 17th state to outlaw the sharing of intimate photos without the subject's permission. Texas' revenge porn law also allows for civil penalties for both the person sharing the photos and any website that hosts them.
Posting revenge porn is now a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a $4,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
SB 239 — Texas will now reimburse a portion of the student loans for mental health professionals who practice in underserved portions of the state. Of Texas' 254 counties, about 200 are designated by health officials as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas — meaning they have fewer than 30,000 residents per psychiatrist. At a cost of just $3 million per year, the loan forgiveness program will be a bargain, if it gets residents of rural Texas and other mental health care deserts the care they need.
SB 158 — Shepherded through the state Senate by Dallas' Royce West, Senate Bill 158 makes it easier for law enforcement agencies around the state to equip themselves with body cameras. Under the new law, agencies can ask the state for grants to cover a portion of the cost for cameras, as long as they develop a comprehensive policy for their use.
"We want to provide protection for our police officers. But we also want to make sure we protect our citizens from the abuse that a few officers inflict on them," West said in April. "We must restore credibility and trust in our law enforcement agencies."
HB 1151 — Employers are civilly liable for the sexual harassment of unpaid interns now, but it's kind of appalling that they weren't before.
HB 2398 — Truancy is no longer a crime in Texas. The old system for punishing kids who couldn't make it to school led to more missed classes, heavy financial costs and potential jail time for students and parents. Dallas County, especially, should breathe a sigh of relief. Its truancy court remains under federal investigation for the potential violation of truants' due process rights.
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HB 554 — It's no longer a felony to bring your concealed handgun to the airport. In fact, if the TSA finds it and you've got time, you can just return your trusty sidearm to your car. Need to get a gun on a plane? Just keep trying to get it through security. Maybe you'll slip through — thanks to the TSA's high failure rate. If not, you can just take another shot on another day. Barry Switzer would be proud.
HB 700 — Texas B-On-Time Loan program was a good thing that inspired more good things. Texas high school graduates who took the loans to help pay for college could expect to have them forgiven if they graduated with a B average and finished their program in an appropriate number of semesters. Kids who made it through the program got on with the rest of their lives quickly, and with less debt. As of this morning, the program no longer exists.
HB 1 — In the name of, well, in the name of something, the Legislature decided this year to strip previously available joint federal and state funding from any health facility that performs abortions. The only thing that money could've been used for was cancer screenings. The state got rid of money for women's cancer screenings to make a political point.
SB 273 — State Senator Donna Campbell's Senate Bill 273 allows anyone who thinks they've spotted an improperly worded or improperly placed sign banning handguns from a location to file an appeal with the state. Places like the Fort Worth Zoo could be affected. While privately operated, the zoo is on public land. Gun-rights advocates say that means they ought to be able to carry guns near all the wildlife — well, should've been able to carry. The zoo recently got itself classified as a daycare facility, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which gives it the unequivocal right to keep guns off its premises.