666: The Texas Legislature Leaves Their Mark

Graham Phlieger • Staff Writer

an orange graphic that says "5 key takeaways from this lege session"
Graphic courtesy of Zoe McGhee

For most students, the Texas Legislature isn’t on the list of priorities as we settle into the adjustments of the fall semester. Trying to balance class workloads, social commitments, and maintaining self-care can take a lot out of a person.

While our course load is just beginning, the Texas Legislature, which began meeting on January 12th, is beginning to see some of their work pay off. The body passed hundreds of new laws, with 666 of them going into effect Sept. 1.

As we settle into our routines and begin conquering this semester, these are the main laws out of the 666, that may affect you.

HB 9 - Felony for blocking emergency vehicles

Typically it’s common knowledge and courtesy to avoid blocking emergency vehicles and blocking hospital access. Prior to Sept. 1, either of these acts would have earned a class B misdemeanor. After the passage of HB 9, it is a felony with a minimum 10 days in jail to not move over for emergency vehicles operating sirens while driving or access to a licensed hospital.

HB 103 - Texas Shooter Alert System

From Amber Alerts, Blue Alerts, to The University of Texas at Tyler Campus Police alerts, students have most likely received alerts on their phones at varying times. After the passage of HB 103, Texans will receive what the Texas Department of Public Safety is calling “the Texas Active Shooter Alert”. If they are within close proximity to an active shooting. The alert will focus on notifying the public of areas to avoid, or to shelter in place if required. Although alerts can be easy to dismiss, this one might be worth opening.

HB 1535 Medical Marijuana Expansion

Prior to the passage of HB 1535, Texas had one of the most watered-down medical marijuana programs in the country. This reform effort does not saturate much, but is a start. The bill expands eligibility to Texans who have cancer or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In an attempt to increase the Texas Compassionate Use Program, the bill also encourages further research for other medical conditions, an opportunity the University of Texas at Tyler Pharmacology program could potentially become involved with. The bill also doubles the legally allowed percentage weight of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive substance that produces the “high” associated with smoking marijuana

HB 18- The establishment of a prescription drug savings program for certain uninsured individuals.

The University Health Clinic provides students access to care even when they are uninsured. The Texas Cares Act, otherwise known as HB 18, establishes a program to provide certain uninsured Texans access to prescription drug benefits, which would be less out of pocket from the consumer. Although the bill stresses certain Texans, the eligibility requirements to apply are fairly simple. You must (1) be a resident of the state, (2) be a US citizen or LPR, and (3) be uninsured. While the law does not guarantee “access to care”, it is worth checking eligibility to alleviate some if not most prescription costs.

HB 33 - Post-Secondary Course Credit

While the 87th Legislature passed a few bills focused on education reform, HB 33 will affect UT Tyler students the most. The Bill seeks to “increase the affordability of textbooks” at private and public texas post-secondary institutions.” Specifically, the bill forces universities to give Textbook Assistance Information to their students by highlighting “renting, guaranteed buyback programs, and other available textbook cost-saving strategies.” This legislation also forces textbook publishers that had exclusively sold supplies in bundles to offer to sell the items individually or to “unbundle” the package.

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