Updated: Sep 1, 2021
By Samuel Postell, Director of the Center for Liberty and Learning
One of the most unique things about the state of Texas is that its legislature doesn't convene every year. Texas is only one of four states in which the legislature holds biennial sessions as opposed to annual sessions; the other three states which hold biennial sessions are Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota. One of the effects of biennial sessions is that after the legislature has convened in odd-numbered years, new laws begin to take effect all at once. At the beginning of September, more than 650 new state laws will take effect.
Last night, the student members of the Center for Liberty and Learning’s Young Citizens Club convened for the first time of the 2021-2022 school year. Though it is in an odd numbered year, and there are fewer elections, it quickly became apparent to the students and to myself that politics never stops; that our civic duty extends beyond showing up at the polls and casting votes.
To be a Young Citizen, or a citizen of any age, in a regime predicated on the consent of the governed, we have to recognize that government of the people, by the people, and for the people occurs in times other than the months leading up to presidential elections.
Fun Fact: Did you know that although most people associate the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Lincoln actually borrowed the phrase from a famous debate over tariffs between Daniel Webster and Robert Hayne in 1830? Though Lincoln might have been punished for cheating in a modern classroom, this was a rhetorical trope that he often used, most commonly with reference to scripture. In some blog posts to come, I will write about Lincoln, Webster, Tariffs, and Rhetorical Tropes, so stay tuned!
Thus, we spent almost a full hour talking about one news piece, despite the fact that we had about twenty pieces on our docket. The one news piece we discussed listed the state laws that go into effect on September 1st 2021. We soon realized that so many news sources don’t provide the letter of the law, but instead choose to frame stories about the laws in order to sway voters, or construe a story to comport with the writer’s political preferences. Therefore, I suggested that we look up the laws as written in statute so that I, my students, and those interested in the work at the Center for Liberty and Learning can become better informed of the laws that will go into effect. Here is a list of five prominent laws going into effect September first, with links to the statutory language and a brief summary:
The law recognizes Texas laws regarding abortions are not invalidated due to Roe v. Wade. Therefore, a physician performing an abortion in the state after the heartbeat of an unborn child has been detected may be penalized for performing the abortion. The bill relies on civil enforcement, meaning that it gives any citizen the right to file suit against an abortion provider.
House Bill 1927 eliminates the requirement for Texas residents to obtain a license to carry handguns if they’re not prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a gun. Before the permitless carry law was signed, Texans generally needed to be licensed to carry handguns openly or concealed. Applicants had to submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test.
House Bill 1518 allows the purchase of beer and wine at stores starting at 10 a.m. Under current law, stores can’t sell alcohol until noon.
Senate Bill 4 requires any professional sports teams with contracts with the state government to play the national anthem before the start of a game. Ten of the 13 Democrats in the Senate joined all 18 Republicans in signing the bill into law.
House Bill 3979 has three main parts:
1.) It includes a list of civics documents recommended for social studies curricula at public schools. This list includes many primary source documents we teach at Founders’ Classical Academy such as the Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, letters and speeches from Dr. Martin Luther King, and many others.
2.) The bill prohibits schools or teachers from requiring students to participate in political activism for credit in social studies classes.
3.) The bill prohibits public schools from requiring teachers “to engage in training, orientation, or therapy that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of race or sex” and requiring teachers to make part of a social studies course the concept that “an individual, by virtue of the individual ’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
Although there are many other bills going into effect in September, these were some about which we couldn’t find much clarity in the news. We hope that this piece may help bring clarity to some of the laws that folks are talking and writing about. If you like what we do at the Center for Liberty and Learning and want to support us, consider donating today by clicking here.
If you have any ideas for events, want to come talk to our students, or want to know more about the program, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org; I’d love to hear from you!
Image Credit: Texas State Preservation Board