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New laws on the books for September

Contributed by Rep. Andrew Murr

After a long, five-month legislative session in the spring, and an August, 30-day special session this summer, there are several new laws on the books that went into effect on Sept. 1. Here is a brief run-down of a few of the new state laws, which are currently in force:
Effective immediately, reading, writing or sending a text while driving a moving vehicle is against the law. There are exceptions for using a GPS device for directions, and hands-free devices are not impacted by this legislation, but those stopped for this violation for the first time can face fines up to $99. Repeat offenders will be on the hook for as much as $200. As we’ve seen right here in our district, distracted driving can be fatal, so play it safe and handle those text messages once you reach your destination.
Until recently, Texas had one of the highest fees in the nation to obtain a handgun license. To bring Texas more in line with other states, we decreased the fee for a first-time license from $140 to $40, and the renewal cost will also drop from $70 to $40. Additionally, licensed peace officers and members of the military will have their fees waived entirely.
The penalty for assaulting a police officer is now increased to a second-degree felony as it is considered a hate crime. In recent years, our law enforcement officials have become targets and have been ambushed across the state, including an attack in Dallas last year that left six Dallas officers dead, and one in San Antonio near San Antonio College.
In our ongoing effort to get a handle on the growing populations of feral hogs, coyotes and other nuisances to farmers and ranchers, we passed a new law to allow folks to hunt these animals from hot air balloons. You do need a permit from Texas Parks and Wildlife before taking to the sky, to eradicate a growing nuisance from our properties.
Flying a drone aircraft over a prison can now cost the drone operator up to $2,000 just for the first offense. This law was written in response to growing concerns within the law enforcement community that drones are being used to drop drugs, weapons and other contraband into correctional institutions. There are numerous examples in other states of this occurring, so it is a pre-emptive effort to keep contraband out of prisons and to keep our correctional officers safe.
It is now a misdemeanor to electronically harass or bully a minor with the intent of causing them to harm themselves or commit suicide. The new law, also known as “David’s Law” for the young man in Alamo Heights who killed himself last year after a string of cyberbullying attacks, requires schools to notify parents within twenty-four hours if there child has been bullied or is accused of bullying others. Once again, we have seen the unfortunate consequence of unchecked bullying right here in our district, so hopefully this law will keep teachers and administrators more on-alert for this kind of behavior.
As always, it is an honor to represent you in the Texas House of Representatives, and I welcome your comments and opinions. Please visit my website at www.AndrewMurr.org or contact our District Office at 715 Water St., in Kerrville at 830-257-0432 and let me hear from you.