From staff and wire reports
Motorists will have new rules to follow after a new law eliminates the state’s nighttime speed limit restrictions and raises the daytime limit to 75 mph.
The law, one of 700 approved by Texas lawmakers in the 82nd Legislative Session, goes into effect today, but drivers in Bell County won’t be privy to the change just yet.
Ken Roberts, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman, said TxDOT crews will begin removing 500 signs throughout the eight-county district today and will continue through the month of September.
“TxDOT’s going to be removing the current nighttime differential signs now through the end of September,” he said.
Though the law will change, Roberts said his department is not going to arbitrarily change the speed limit on all roads.
“We will be conducting speed studies on various roadways throughout our eight-county district to determine what, if any, can accommodate proposed additional speed,” he said. The studies will be conducted over the next 18 months.
Other new state laws
As a result of other changes going into effect today, the first day of the state’s fiscal year, Texans will be able to “noodle” — catch catfish using only their bare hands — and hunters can shoot feral hogs and coyotes from helicopters.
Aimed at keeping public school athletes safe, a new law requires school districts to recondition football helmets every two years once they have been used a decade. Helmets in use for more than 16 years must be sidelined permanently.
Another law lets governments use eminent domain to seize private property only if it’s necessary for highways, schools or other public uses. The government then must make a “bona fide” offer to buy the property and pay landowners’ relocation expenses. A new law bans property seizure for private use, which was already prohibited by a 2009 constitutional amendment.
On election day, voters will be required to show photo identification before casting ballots.
Another new Texas law makes it a crime to impersonate someone online without obtaining his or her permission with the intent to harm, defraud, threaten or intimidate.
New legislation cracks down on drunken driving. If a suspected inebriated motorist refuses to give a blood sample, a police officer will be allowed to apply for a warrant to take a sample to determine if the blood-alcohol level is higher than the Texas legal limit of 0.08.
Also, a driver whose blood-alcohol level is 0.15 or higher will automatically face a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. The previous charge was a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a six-month jail penalty.
And now in Texas, the capital murder charge that carries a possible death sentence if someone is convicted of killing a child applies to victims age 10 or younger. Previously, a suspect was charged with capital murder in a child’s death if the victim was 6 or younger. Also, some repeat offenders convicted of certain sex offenses will be sentenced to life without parole.
One law, the $172 billion two-year budget, didn’t raise taxes but cut spending by $15 billion, including $4 billion from public education.
A Texas bill requiring pre-abortion sonograms was to become law today. The Center for Reproductive Rights had sued to block the law and a federal judge in Austin granted a temporary injunction Tuesday, ruling that the main portions violate the First Amendment. State Attorney General Greg Abbott said he plans to appeal the ruling.
The bill requires women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram and mandates that doctors describe the fetus’ features and let the women hear the fetal heartbeat. Then women must wait 24 hours before having the abortion — or two hours if they live more than 100 miles away from the nearest clinic. Women can opt out of the sonogram only in cases of rape, incest or fatal abnormalities of the fetus.