New state laws that kicked in on Sunday followed Texans right out onto the lake this past Labor Day weekend.
“If your boat is 26 feet in length, it applies,” Game Warden Todd Long said, describing a new requirement that boats have a working ignition kill switch — if the craft is new enough to have come with the feature.
Kali’s Law, named for Kali Gorzell, a 16-year-old who was fatally injured by a boat propeller in 2012, is one of more than 100 new laws that went into effect Sunday. It does not require owners of older-model boats to add the kill switch, which usually is a physical link from the ignition to the driver’s waist.
“Only if it came from the factory with this thing, it needs to be attached,” said Long, the Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden assigned to Gregg County. “It includes personal water craft. The first year, we are trying to educate the public. This thing is going to save your life.”
Texans are allowed to carry or possess handguns in more situations under several laws that fired off Sunday.
They no longer are subject to a criminal charge when carrying handguns while evacuating disaster areas, for one. Apartment dwellers no longer can be forbidden by landlords from keeping firearms of any type, and foster parents will be allowed to own guns — but must store them separately from ammunition.
An attorney general’s opinion previously said the state’s concealed carry law includes churches, but the Legislature put that opinion into a law that also takes effect Sunday.
“The language was kind of confusing, and a lot of people were misinterpreting it,” the aid to the bill’s author, New Braunfels Republican Sen. Donna Campbell said Thursday.
Both the Revs. Dennis Bragdon of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and Donnie Barron of Calvary Baptist Church in Longview, said no one had been confused or asked them about carrying handguns to worship. Both churches continue to let congregants come to services armed.
“No question like that has been addressed to me,” Bragdon said.
On the personal protection front, items such as brass knuckles become legal on Sunday. Personal defense coaches up till now have advised unarmed people to walk to their vehicle with their keys protruding from between their fingers in case of attack.
“This will hurt your hand,” Longview resident Angel Fields said, demonstrating the keys-through-fist defense technique. “At least, the brass knuckles will keep your hand steady. I’m not strong, but if I had some metal in my hand ...”
Victims of sexual assault should see swifter justice and get a better sense of control under laws aimed at speeding up Texas Department of Public Safety analysis of rape kits, which yield DNA and other evidence prosecutors need. There are 2,138 untested rape kits dating to August 2017, according to the Dallas Morning News.
New laws put $50 million toward hiring personnel and processing rape kits. One that starts Sunday allows survivors to track their rape kit as it is processed.
“It’s kind of a restorative remedy, hopefully, where the survivor has some sort of information/input/control,” Women’s Center of East Texas Executive Director Shannon Trest said. “Whereas, they had no input over the assault.”
Another new law expands the type of documentation people living with an abuser must present to legally break a lease as they seek to escape an abuser’s dwelling.
Those survivors of domestic violence now have to produce a protective order to get out of the lease, but on Sunday they can produce police reports, hospital bills and even a confirming statement from someone like Trest to escape the lease.
“It was just real strict before,” Trest said. “In some counties across the state, it takes an act of God to get a protective order.”
Just in time for dove season, which opened Sunday, hunters can show game wardens a digital photo, an emailed receipt or an online purchase record of their hunting permit. They still must have the hard-copy permit for deer and other game that requires tagging the animal, Hanson said.
“If you are required to have a tag for that animal, you have to have that permit in your possession,” he said. “(Tags) are attached to it.”
Landowners and others plagued by feral hogs now no longer need a permit to kill the destructive invasive animals.
“It started out that you had to have a license,” Rusk County feral hog hunter Ken Hale said. “Then, they changed it to, if it’s your property or your lease (no permit was required). For the past few years, about the only thing that was illegal is you couldn’t hunt from the road. That’s still illegal.”
Drug store clerks and pharmacists are also making sure anyone buying cough medicine with dextromethorphan — the capital, DM, seen on many bottles of cough syrup — is at least 18 years old.
“We are ready,” Louis Morgan Drugs No. 4 pharmacy co-owner Shawn Sams said. “We have taken steps with our software, so when people come in and purchase dextromethorphan or dextromethorphan-containing products, our register will require our clerks to ask them for an ID. ... People will be upset and wondering what’s going on.”
Sams said employees underwent training on the software. The program tracks purchases and prevent people from going store to store buying dextromethorphan, which can cause hallucinations and has become a dangerous recreational drug that young people call “tussing,” after a leading brand, Robitussin.
Some retailers, including Walmart, already have been restricting the purchase of dextromethorphan.
Also on Sunday, most Texans will have to be 21 years or older to buy cigarettes, snuff, e-cigarettes or any tobacco product.
Krupal Patel, owner of two Scotties convenience stores in Longview and others across the state, said tobacco company representatives trained his clerks in the coming law a few weeks ago.
“It’s going to be confusing for the employees, because individuals that are already 19, 20-years-old, they get grandfathered in,” he said, but added, “We card, anyway.”
Austin Arceneaux, an aid to Senate Bill 21 author Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, outlined the grandfather aspect of the tobacco bill.
“If they are 18 by (Saturday), they’ll be able to buy tobacco products,” he said.
Zippies store manager Hope Olivares and clerk Lisa Valero said they are prepared to ID anyone asking for smokes or other tobacco products on Sunday.
“If they were born before September 1st and they are 18, then we can still sell to them,” Olivares said. “If they’re not, then we don’t sell them any tobacco products. That’s all tobacco products — cigarettes, Juul (e-cigarette) pods, everything.”
Joe Jarvis, 17, and classmate Haley Beasley were gassing up a car at the Zippies pumps Thursday. Neither teen was disappointed by news they won’t be able to buy cigarettes on their 18th birthdays.
“No, I wasn’t planning on it,” Jarvis said of taking up the habit. “It’s really bad for your health.”
About 1.4 million Texans trapped by the financial burden of surcharges on tickets based on their driving record got a reprieve come Sunday — on the surcharges, not the tickets. Lawmakers earlier this year repealed the Driver Responsibility Program, which proved burdensome for the poorest Texans and subjected them to jail — and the additional expenses that brought.
Sunday also brought celebration to a growing Texas microbrewery community. Smaller brew pubs, such as Oil Horse Brewing Co. in Longview and Gilmer Brewing Co. — where patrons already can walk out the door with a 64-ounce “growler” of homemade brew — won’t be affected by the new law.
But larger producers, known as production breweries, have been foaming at the mouth for Texas to allow them to sell six packs and cases of their homemade product.
“This does a lot of things for us,” said Jared Chacon, marketing director for True Vine Brewing Co. on Earl Campbell Parkway in Tyler. “It puts Texas breweries on even footing with the rest of the breweries in the country. We’re ready to show the country what we’re doing down here.”
Thirsty Texans who’d rather stay home than venture out for beer and wine will be able to have it delivered. A new law allows any licensed beer and wine retailer that has obtained a separate permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to deliver the beverages or contract with a digital delivery service to do so.
And under the better-late-than-never category, as of Sunday the state’s youngest industrialists can put up a lemonade in their yard without getting a commercial license or permit. In 2015, two sisters in Overton had the lemonade stand they put up to raise money for their dad’s Father’s Day present shut down.
Jolynn Crane, owner of Brian & Scott’s Sno-Balls stand in the Chaparral Plaza on Judson Road in Longview, didn’t think life was handing her a lemon when told of the potential competition for her pink lemonade.
“All of my employees are high school or college kids,” she said. “Some of them, this is their first job. Kids that want to have (a lemonade stand) get to have it. That could be a future assistant manager, if they had some lemonade stand experience.”