New ‘open carry’ legislation takes effect on Jan. 1

AUSTIN — The coming of the 2016 brings heightened interest statewide in two new laws in particular that were passed by the 84th Texas Legislature in June 2015.

The first is HB 910, a law conditionally allowing the “open carry” of handguns in public places. It will take effect on Jan. 1.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the law “authorizes individuals to obtain a license to openly carry a handgun in the same places that allow the licensed carrying of a concealed handgun with some exceptions.”  

Furthermore: “Unconcealed handguns, loaded or unloaded, must be carried in a shoulder or belt holster” and “Individuals who hold a valid concealed handgun license may continue to carry with valid existing license.” A separate license will not be required to open carry and no additional fee will be required, the DPS stated.

Training curriculum for new applicants will be updated to reflect the new training requirements related to the use of restraint holsters and methods to ensure the secure carrying of openly carried handguns, the DPS further stated, and the new curriculum will be required for all classes beginning Jan. 1, 2016. 

The second new law of special interest currently is SB 11, known as “campus carry.” While this law won’t take effect until Aug. 1, 2016, it is also gaining public awareness.

SB 11, according to the DPS, “authorizes a license holder to carry a concealed handgun on or about the license holder’s person while the license holder is on the campus of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education in this state.”

But SB 11 also “authorizes an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education in this state to establish rules, regulation, or other provisions concerning the storage of handguns in dormitories or other residential facilities that are owned or leased and operated by the institution and located on the campus of the institution."

And, the DPS noted, SB 11 “requires the president or other chief executive officer of an institution of higher education in this state to establish reasonable rules, regulations, or other provisions regarding the carrying of concealed handguns by license holders on the campus or on specific premises located on the campus.” 

Private or independent institutions of higher education may, after consulting with students, faculty and staff, establish rules or regulations prohibiting concealed handgun licensees from carrying firearms on their campuses.

Patrick announces appointments

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, appointed Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, as chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development, and Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, as chair of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. Estes succeeds retiring chairman Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and Hancock succeeds retiring chairman Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

“The Texas Senate is losing a significant amount of institutional knowledge with the loss of Senators Fraser and Eltife,” said Patrick. “Replacing them is difficult but necessary in order to allow the Texas Senate to prepare for the coming session.”

Patrick also named Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, to replace Eltife as a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

In other news, Patrick named the following senators to the Texas Sunset Commission, the agency charged with determining whether state agencies should continue to exist or alter their operations:

Van Taylor, R-Dallas, vice chairman; Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville (fulfilling the unexpired term of Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound); Kirk Watson, D-Austin; Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown. 

Patrick also named former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Florida, as a public member of the Sunset Commission. West is a retired U.S. Army officer, a Fox News contributor, and president and chief operating officer of the Dallas-based conservative think tank, The National Center for Policy Analysis.

Teacher equity plan OK’d

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams on Dec. 22 announced the Texas Education Agency has been notified that a federally required state plan to ensure equitable access to excellent educators has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education. 

“Regardless of where you attend school, educators who guide student learning remain the key ingredients to assuring a high-quality education and to closing the achievement gap,” Williams said. “With that in mind, our state’s equity plan stresses ongoing support throughout an educator’s career and encourages opportunities for mentoring, campus support, and career advancement.”

Williams resigned from office effective Dec. 31. Gov. Greg Abbott named Mike Morath of Dallas to succeed Williams as education commissioner, effective Jan. 1.

TCEQ shares fuel-saving tips

In mid-December, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reminded Texans that cooler weather has an impact on motor vehicle fuel economy and posted fuel conservation tips, such as:

• Park in a garage, if possible;

• Limit warm-up idling to about 30 seconds;

• Combine errands to reduce mileage;

• Keep tires properly inflated;

• Use the type of oil recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer for cold weather driving; and

 

• Remove rooftop luggage and accessories as soon as possible, as those can reduce fuel economy.