Hitting the Books

A Primer on a Few of the New Laws Now in Effect

A roundup of the more unorthodox laws governing our lives as of this month.

By Morgan Kinney August 26, 2019 Published in the September 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

One of the many quirks of Texas government is something known informally as New Law Day: September 1, when, following the May conclusion of the biennial legislative session in Austin, many of our newest legal dictates go into effect en masse alongside the new fiscal year. And while much of the 86th Legislature’s energies were devoted to passing laws on issues such as tax reform, teacher pensions, and school safety, considerable time was also devoted to other interesting matters. Here’s a roundup of the more unorthodox laws governing our lives as of this month.

When life gives you lemons...

The children of Texas officially have free rein to hawk lemonade “or other nonalcoholic beverages” from roadside stands—a law deemed necessary only after police put the squeeze on a pair of East Texas siblings operating a lemonade operation without a permit in 2015. Governor Greg Abbott signed the “common sense” bill in a video before toasting the camera with an icy glass of the stuff.

Shots fired

A recent poll found that a full 41 percent of women aged 18 to 35 received unsolicited pictures from men on the internet. Thanks to a new law backed by Austin-based dating app Bumble, it’s now a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 to transmit images of anyone’s “intimate parts” or “covered genitals of a male person that are in a discernibly turgid state” without the recipient’s consent. The change might not stick, though—experts predict legal challenges on grounds that the law is overbroad.

Patio pooches

A wonderful law known as the Fido-Friendly Outdoor Dining Act finally grants you permission to dine al fresco with your pooch. The law will overrule several ordinances, including one in Houston that required that restaurant owners apply for a special variance with a handful of fees and requirements. Any Texas restaurant can now choose to welcome dogs, provided they post signage, require leashes, and keep the good boys and girls off the table.

A new age

With new kinds of fruit-flavored Juuls, eCigs, and smokeless tobacco products ensnaring another generation of teenagers, lawmakers have joined eight other states in halting the sale of tobacco products to those under 21 (active military excluded). Anti-smoking advocates hope the move will further disincentivize the leading cause of preventable death.

Quite the tool

In 2013 the Lege legalized the open carry of switchblades. In 2017 it was swords. And now Texans can publicly brandish brass knuckles—formerly a Class A misdemeanor. The bill’s sponsor, El Paso’s Rep. Joe Moody, praised the statute for lifting restrictions on a “legitimate self-defense tool.”

Do you like beer?

There are two major changes to the state’s booze regulations. First, thanks to a series of laws that passed, you can finally get beer (or wine) with that taco delivery, provided you’re of age; the same change applies to grocery deliveries. Second, a new beer-to-go law means breweries can sell six-packs, growlers, and crowlers for customers to enjoy at home. Texans remain unable to purchase liquor on Sundays—maybe lawmakers will tackle that in 2021, when they’ll convene for the next session.

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