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Voting rights, critical race theory, abortion pills: 7 new laws go into effect today in Texas

The laws that go into effect come from the second special session, which adjourned in early September. (Pexels)

Several new laws from the Texas Legislature’s second special session will take effect Thursday, spanning controversial topics like voting rights, critical race theory and continued abortion restriction.

Though they take effect today, many of the bills have uncertain futures as they face opposition in the courts. Here are the seven bills to know about.

Voting restrictions: The highly-contested Senate Bill 1 will ban 24-hour voting, drive-thru voting, mail-in ballot ID requirements, protections for poll watchers and limits on polling places for the disabled or non-English speakers. The bill has been hit with six lawsuits—five from more than 20 civil rights organizations and one from the U.S. Department of Justice. Since law will stand trial in July, March 1 primaries will definitely be affected by SB 1.

Social site suits: House Bill 20 would allow social media users and the state attorney general to sue Twitter, Facebook or Youtube if their opinions are blocked or removed. The bill comes after complaints that conservative viewpoints were being censored surfaced around the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. Though it was set to go into effect today, the bill was blocked by federal Judge Robert Pitman on Wednesday because it "prohibits virtually all content moderation," according to the filing. Companies contesting the bill, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said they were not surprised about the outcome because the government "can't force a citizen or company to be associated with a viewpoint they disapprove of."

Critical race theory: Controversial SB 3 will bar teaching critical race theory, which teaches how racism shaped America through history, and mandate that racial topics be “free from political bias” in all grades. Though the theory is not part of official public school curricula, proponents argued that teaching the theory would foster a racial divide and alienate white students while opponents argued the law will whitewash history.

Abortion pills pulled: SB 4 limits the availability of abortion pills from under 10 weeks pregnant to seven weeks and prohibits that the medication be sent via mail or delivery. Once the law goes into effect, it will be a state felony for a doctor to prescribe the drug without an in-person exam prior.

Can’t do the time? Don’t do the crime: SB 6 prohibits judges from allowing violent offenders and felons to have no-cash bail. Certain sections of the bill, including limits on charity organizations that post bail and a newly-created system to report a defendant’s criminal history, won’t go into effect until January.

Violence safety training in schools: SB 9 requires that schools teach trainings on child abuse, family violence, dating violence and sex trafficking at least once in middle school and once in high school. The law requires that children receive parental permission to attend.

An unnecessary precaution: SB 13 would have delayed the Texas primaries in the event that more time was needed for redistricting for 2020 census changes. The maps were approved in the third special session, so primaries will remain on March 1.


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