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700 New Texas Laws Go Into Effect This Week

By: Toni Harrison
By: Toni Harrison

From teens and cell phones to prisoners’ DNA, Texas legislators passed more than 700 new laws this past session. One of them changes the current retirement age of 50 for teachers.

"The new law requires that teachers and really all school employees who don't meet certain grandfathering criteria will now have to work until age 60," said Mike Ball, Deputy Superintendent for Business and Operations, College Station ISD.

In the criminal justice arena, Texas joined other states in now allowing life in prison without parole to be an option for judges and juries deciding the punishment of a convicted capital murderer.

"The effort was finally successful this legislative session to make the two choices when you are convicted of capital murder of either life without parole, meaning you will spend the rest of your life in prison, or the death sentence," said Shane Phelps, Assistant District Attorney, Brazos County.

But on the flip side, lawmakers conceded that science could help free innocent inmates. That's one reason they voted to broaden the DNA database.

"Earlier it was reserved only for sex offenders, but they are expanding that database," said Bill Turner, District Attorney, Brazos County.

Many of the new laws affect criminals, and one of those laws was authored in Brazos County.

"I had the opportunity and was contacted about a bill that had been filed that would criminalize online solicitation by a minor, of a minor," said Phelps.

From Internet to cell phones, kids attracted much of the legislative limelight. Another teen-targeted law prohibits youth from talking on their cell phone while driving during the first six months of having a license.

"I think what the Legislature is trying to do is to get people to understand that they need to be focused on driving while driving," said Walt Melnyk, Public Information Officer, Bryan Police Department.

A couple other notable laws include increasing the child safety seat age from four to fivr and adding the line "proud to be the home of President George W. Bush" to the welcome to Texas signs near state borders.

These are just a few of the 700 new laws that go into effect September 1.


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