By Katie Grovatt, reporter
A rush of legislation went into effect in Texas last week which may affect students. During the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature, 1,200 new Senate bills were authored for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to sign. On Sept. 1, 704 of these bills became laws.
Among the legislation state lawmakers was “The Relationship Privacy Act,” officially making “Revenge Porn” illegal in the state of Texas. The Senate Bill 1135 criminalizes any publication of sexually explicit images of individuals online without one’s consent.
The bill states, “A person commits an offense of unlawful disclosure of intimate images if without the effective consent of the depicted person, the person intentionally discloses visual material depicting another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct.”
If one publicly posts an intimate photo of a previous partner, without ones consent, they could receive a fine up to $4,000 or up to a one year sentence in jail.
The primary author, Texas state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, said the bill was specifically designed to protect women. According to Garcia, there have been many cases where images are posted by an ex-partner seeking revenge and such action causes immediate and irreversible harm. In most of these cases the victim is the woman, she said.
All eight women state senators of the state agreed with Garcia and coauthored the bill. They believe it to be an important piece of legislation for Texas women.
Many critics agree that the language of the law needs some clarification. Policy
strategist for ACLU of Texas, Matt Simpson, said that the bill’s language needed to be written so as not to create unintended victims.
“Art displays could technically be considered a criminalization,” he said.
Waco lawyers also agree with Simpson in that the law needs some clarification in order to be successful.
“With the way it is now, it won’t last a day,” said Michel Simmer, an attorney of Simer & Tetens said.
Simmer agrees that the law has the right objection, but needs a more thorough clarification.
College aid was another focus point for the wave of legislation. Two state programs that contributed about $90 million annually are being defunded. These two programs, the B-On-Time loan system and the Top Ten Percent Scholarships, represented more than 26,000 student scholarships in 2013.
The phasing out of these two programs will shift a significant financial burden to the middle class seeking higher education.
The state legislature also downgraded the standards placed on Advance Placement Tests. State colleges are now required to accept any test score of 3 or above. Many colleges in the past, including University of Texas and Texas A&M, have only accepted a 4 on the AP tests.
The lowered standard could potentially allow college freshmen to gain thousands of credit hours coming into college that they previously did not qualify for. Texas State Rep. John Zerwas, the main author of House Bill 1992, predicts that the looser standards could ultimately save up to $160 million in college tuition.
Texas law has also passed several new weapon laws, some of which will go into effect over the next year. Law-abiding citizens will also no longer need a permit to carry a concealed handgun in their vehicles. The specifics of the law include the weapon being concealed, the gun holder unassociated with a criminal assembly and completely unengaged in crime.
An attorney of the Grayson County District tells reporters that the law will not mean more guns on the street, but more good and lawful citizens protected.
This law coincided with the new Campus Carry law that will go into effect in August 2016. This law permits college students to carry a concealed handgun on any state college in Texas. Jurisdiction will still lie within private universities, giving them the option to create their own policy regarding student handguns.
For a complete list of the 704 laws that went into effect on Sept. 1, go to www.legiscan.com/TX.