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Politics

Here Are Some of the New Laws Taking Effect Today in Texas

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Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune
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Sept. 1, 2015, many of the laws passed by the 84th Legislature take effect.

Today, Sept. 1, marks the legal start for more than 600 new state laws for Texans to follow. From healthcare to transportation to education and public safety, there’s something that affects everyone in the Lone Star State.

Let's start with a high-profile bill that only affects a handful of people. Beginning today, Texans with intractable epilepsy will be able to use cannabis oil to help reduce seizures. When he signed the bill into law, Governor Greg Abbott made sure everyone understood that this is not medical marijuana.

"SB 339 does not open the door to marijuana in Texas. The very low level of THC in CBD oil does not, even if taken in large doses, give the user a high and has no street value,” the governor said.

Some of the laws that affect many more Texans include one that requires all people applying for work with the state to go through the E-Verify system. It checks social security numbers to make sure applicants are legal U.S. residents.

In education, high school students who are blocked from graduation because they can't pass all their STAAR tests will now get a second chance. The Legislature created a process to review a student's overall work and decide if it supports graduation anyway despite low STAAR results.

Another second-chance law will allow people convicted of a drug felony to get food stamps after they've served their time. Lauren Johnson, an activist with the Ex-Offender's Council in Austin, says the previous ban was unfair to people who had paid their debt to society. She and her husband were denied food stamps when he recently lost his job.

"We've bought a house, we've gotten clean, we're doing all of the right things, we've got these kids, and now he's unemployed, and we're this close to losing everything. So I found myself in that office asking for help for a month or two until we could get things moving,” Johnson says.

But then, only her kids received benefits. Under the new law the whole family will be able to get help putting food on the table.

What doesn't go into effect today? Two laws that will expand gun rights. Texans with a concealed handgun license will have to wait until Jan. 1 before openly carrying their handguns in public. A law that allows concealed weapons on college campuses doesn't go into effect until August 2016.

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