Texas citizens will soon have to abide by 820 new laws, including some which will impact sexual misconduct, alcohol delivery and driver’s licenses.
The bills, which were passed during the 2019 legislative session, will go into effect on Sept. 1.
House Bill 2789 was authored by state Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, and will classify the unconsented electronic transmission of sexually explicit content as a Class C misdemeanor. Caroline Roche, chief of staff at dating app Bumble, said Bumble conducted a national study which found that 1 in 3 women have received unsolicited sexual photos and that 96% of those women were unhappy to have been sent them.
“You didn’t consent to receiving them and you feel just as violated and embarrassed as if it’d happened right in front of you in person,” Roche said in an email. “If indecent exposure is a crime on the streets, then why isn’t unsolicited digital indecent exposure a crime on your phone or computer?”
House Bill 446, authored by state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, will remove brass knuckles from the Texas Penal Code’s definition of prohibited weapons and make it legal to carry in public. According to a bill analysis by the Texas House Research Organization, supporters of the bill said brass knuckles are primarily a means of self-defense.
Permitted wine and beer retailers will also now be allowed to make deliveries to consumers under Senate Bill 1232, authored by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe.
Senate Bill 2048 is authored by state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, and will abolish the Driver Responsibility Program. The program previously required people who committed certain traffic offenses to pay an annual surcharge on top of their fines and court fees or have their licenses suspended.
UT law lecturer Andrea Marsh said roughly 1.4 million Texans have had their licenses suspended because they couldn’t pay the surcharge. She said they need licenses for driving, maintaining employment and fulfilling responsibilities to their children.
“Families were really encountering barriers to their well-being and to their economic stability because they lost driver’s licenses under this program,” Marsh said.
State Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Mesquite, authored House Bill 8, which will establish deadlines for the analysis of untested kits, improve preservation guidelines and extend the statute of limitations for certain sexual assault offenses.
Katherine Strandberg, the criminal justice analyst at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault’s policy team, said the bill will improve support for survivors of sexual assault, who she said often never report to the police.
“One of the real reasons they don’t (report to police) is because they believe they will be minimized by … the process of the criminal justice system and that it won’t result in the person who hurt them being brought to justice,” Strandberg said. “When we start talking about this huge backlog of kits getting rain or mold on them or nothing ever being done with them … what we’re signaling to survivors is even when you report or undergo an exam, you’re not going to get the kind of justice you deserve.”