(The Center Square) – Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday followed through on a legislative priority of his addressing the fentanyl crisis by signing four bills into law. He did so surrounded by Texans who tearfully held pictures of family members and loved ones who died from fentanyl poisoning.
The new laws amend existing law to classify fentanyl poisoning as murder, to require death certificates to state cause of death related to fentanyl poisonings, to expand distribution of NARCAN to Texas colleges and universities, and to expand educational initiatives to young people about the dangers of fentanyl.
“The fentanyl epidemic has taken far too many innocent lives, but thanks to the work by brave parents and loved ones, like those here today, we have made Texans aware of this crisis,” Gov. Abbott said at the bill signing. The new laws would “forever change Texas through new protections that will help save lives,” he said.
In 2022, over 2,000 people died from fentanyl in Texas, roughly over five people a day. Fentanyl poisoning remains the primary cause of death in Americans between 18 and 45.
Unprecedented amounts of fentanyl are pouring into the U.S. through the southern border in powder and pill form. Fake prescription drug pills are also being laced with fentanyl by Mexican cartels and their operatives, law enforcement officers and the DEA have explained. Through Gov. Abbott's Operation Lone Star, Texas law enforcement officers have seized enough fentanyl since April 2021 to kill more than every person in the U.S.
At the bill signing ceremony, the governor was joined by Sens. Brandon Creighton, Donna Campbell, Joan Huffman, and Royce West and Reps. Craig Goldman, John Lujan, and Terry Wilson. Texas Against Fentanyl founder Stefanie Turner, Leander High School alumna and student fentanyl advocate Jenna Mitchell and dozens of advocates and family members who lost loved ones to fentanyl also attended.
Gov. Abbott signed HB 6 into law, which creates a criminal offense of murder for supplying fentanyl that results in death. It also enhances the criminal penalty for the manufacturing or delivery of fentanyl and requires deaths caused by fentanyl to be designated as fentanyl toxicity or fentanyl poisoning on a death certificate. Prior to this law, no such requirement for a death certificate existed, as fentanyl-related deaths are classified as overdoses.
He also signed into law HB 3908, “Tucker's Law,” named after Turner's son who died from fentanyl poisoning. The new law requires public schools to provide research-based instruction on fentanyl abuse prevention and drug poisoning awareness to 6th-12th-grade students. It also establishes the mechanism for the governor to create a Fentanyl Poisoning Awareness Week.
At the bill signing, Turner said she was “honored that Tucker's Law is officially a law starting today that will provide education and resources to our students and parents across the state. While Tucker's Law is named in honor of my son, it isn't for my son. It's for every living son and daughter across Texas.”
She also hugged the governor and thanked him “for recognizing this massive problem and for trailblazing across the state.”
Abbott also signed into law SB 867 to allow for the distribution of opioid antagonists, including NARCAN, to Texas colleges and universities to prevent opioid poisonings and HB 3144 to establish October as Fentanyl Poisoning Awareness Month to help increase awareness of the dangers of fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and younger Texans, like me, are especially vulnerable,” student advocate Jenna Mitchell said. “Many students have never even heard about fentanyl or its deadly effects. There is a critical need to increase awareness and expand education on the dangers of fentanyl in our schools. Over 5.4 million Texas public school students depend on it. Thanks to Governor Abbott and members of the legislature, Texas is fixing that today.”