Come Thursday, there will be some new laws in town.
No longer will most Texans have to worry about leaving guns in their cars while at work. Drivers won't have to worry about slowing down on some highways at sundown. Teens caught "sexting" face misdemeanor charges -- and attending state-sponsored classes with their parents about the dangers of sending sexually explicit messages and texts.
Those new laws -- along with the state budget, which includes billions of dollars in cuts -- are among the hundreds that go into effect Thursday. More than 1,400 new laws were passed this year, nearly half of which go into effect Sept. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.
"These laws are a lot of small things that might add up to be something big," said Brandon Rottinghaus, assistant political science professor at the University of Houston. "You have a fairly conservative agenda that manifested in the grouping of these laws.
"Collectively, people may feel a trend toward more conservative governing," he said. "Among the bigger things, the general scope of the budget and the major issue -- the need to cut billions of dollars and the way in which it was cut -- shows a distinctly conservative stamp on the Legislature."
Three measures illustrate the range of concerns that the lawmakers addressed:
This bill was passed in the memory of Nathan King, who died after day-care workers gave him medication that his parents had not approved. Under this bill, day-care workers need written parental permission to give medicine to a child or face prosecution. HB1615
Protective orders will now cover not only the human victims but also their pets. Victims have said this is important because they often have to leave pets behind when fleeing violence and their abusers may threaten to kill or injure the pet. SB279
Texans will be able to use their bare hands to catch catfish, using their fingers as bait, officially legalizing "noodling." State-issued fishing licenses and freshwater fishing stamps are required. HB2189
One thing is sure: the opposition research staffs of rival presidential candidates will scrutinize the bills that Governor Perry signed, looking for material to use against him. The "noodling" bill, however, will probably not come up in debates.