The Common Law

Mark of the beast or just another Texas legislative session? New 2021 Texas laws

666 new Texas laws were passed during the 87th Legislative session. Yes – 666, leaving some folks to wonder, couldn't they have just let one go? Apparently not. Most of the new laws went into effect on September 1. Check out some of these new (and sometimes obscure) laws and see if any will impact your life.

Dogs in Court: House Bill 1071 permits the presence of qualified facility dogs and/or qualified therapy dogs in court proceedings. This bill echoes the Courthouse Dogs Act passed by the U.S. Senate in 2019. These laws are intended to ease stressed witnesses into feeling able to share their stories.

Buy Your Alcohol on Sunday Mornings: Have you been rejected from buying beer or alcohol on a Sunday morning? For those that find this inconvenience annoying, you've been bailed out. HB 1518 updates Texas' Blue Law by allowing grocery stores, convenience stores, and hotels to expand their hours for alcohol sales. People can now purchase beer and wine starting at 10:00am instead of noon on Sundays.

National Anthem & Texas Pro Sports: Senate Bill 4 requires that the National Anthem must be played by professional sports teams that contract with the state.

Don't Block an Emergency Vehicle: Anyone who blocks the path of an emergency vehicle can be subject to criminal punishment, which could be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the specific circumstances (HB 9).

No More Police Chokeholds: Police officers are now outlawed from using a chokehold (or similar neck restraint) unless it's necessary to prevent injury to the officer. Police officers also have a duty to intervene to prevent another police officer from using excessive force (SB 69).

Homeless Camping Gets Criminal Penalties: City policies toward the homeless population have been the topic of massive debate in Austin in recent years. Under HB 1925, the State law now prohibits homeless camping in public places. Those that violate the law could be subject to a Class C misdemeanor with a fine up to $500.

Don't Cut Down Your Pecan Trees: In the same way Texas loves its bluebonnets (enough to criminalize picking them), so too does it love its pecan trees. House Bill 3289 establishes a civil penalty for the violation of the plant quarantine on pecan trees. This law further amended the 2001 pecan amendment to Section 71.012 of the Texas Agriculture Code that outlawed the cutting down of pecan trees.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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