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New laws, get yer new laws

It’s almost September, and that means it’s time for all those newly enacted laws to take effect.

Most of the 700-plus new state laws going into effect Thursday, products of last spring’s legislative session, will create hardly a ripple in most Texans’ lives, but others will be noticed.

Teenagers proud of their new driver’s licenses and new cell phones better not use both at the same time, because it will now be against the law for teens to talk on the phone while they are driving, at least during the first six months after they get their licenses.

People, meanwhile, who like to drive around with pistols in their cars but never got around to getting a concealed handgun license may appreciate new clarifications to an old law that allows law-abiding Texans to carry pistols while “traveling.”

On a larger scale, some of the major laws that got extensive media attention during legislative debate early in the year also will go into effect Thursday.

They include an overhaul of the system for compensating workers injured on the job, a law designed to strengthen the state’s system for protecting abused children, a law addressing shoddy work in crime labs and a law that will give Texas juries the option of sentencing capital murderers to life without parole.

Previously, capital murderers who were sentenced to life in prison instead of the death penalty were eligible for parole after serving 40 years.

Also beginning Thursday, minors will have to get parental permission before they can get an abortion — unless a young woman can convince a judge that she is sufficiently mature to make the decision or that her parents’ involvement would put her at risk of physical or emotional abuse.

Let that be a reminder not to let the school finance reform failures obscure the fact that this was a crappy legislative session even wihout Special SessionPalooza.

Oh, and one more thing:

Although its citizens espouse a variety of political viewpoints, after Thursday, Texas officially will be “proud to be the home of President George W. Bush.”

That is what still another new law directs the Department of Transportation to say on those “Welcome to Texas” signs on highways near the state’s borders.

Isn’t it reassuring to know that the money can always be found for the truly important priorities, no matter how tight the budget may otherwise get? And to think I once considered the Sexy Cheerleader Bill to be the biggest waste of legislative time this session. Silly me.

On a side note, another new law taking effect this Thursday is Austin’s controversial anti-smoking statute.

Across Austin this week — and just outside it — restaurants and bars, bowling alleys and pool halls are bracing for the impact of the smoking ban that voters narrowly approved in May. Ashtrays will go the way of spittoons. Nonprofits are bolstering their quit-smoking resources. And a handful of area joints that are exempt from the ban are opening their doors a little wider to draw in smokers.

The cigarette machine at the Continental Club will still function, but if you’re catching Toni Price, you’d better stand at least 15 feet outside the door or on public right of way. Don’t bother trying to stub out your cigarette in an ashtray.

And if you’re allergic to smoke, you might want to avoid City Hall. Some opponents of the ban — especially some bar owners who fret that the onus is on them, not smokers, to keep up a smoke-free atmosphere — are planning to light up on the steps and leave Mayor Will Wynn or City Manager Toby Futrell — “the proprietors” — facing a smoking complaint.

I pity the judge who’ll have to sort that one out.

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One Comment

  1. B. K. Oxley (binkley) says:

    Waste, waste, waste. There goes more of my investment money. “Welcome to Texas, proud to be home of a State government and bureacracy working to throw off its Progressive and Libertarian traditions.”