Thousands of new state laws take effect today, part one

Low-wage workers in California get a raise. Drivers who text in New Mexico face new fines. Gun owners in Georgia can now carry weapons into bars, among other places. And the children of immigrants in the U.S. illegally will face much lower tuition bills in Florida.

Those are just a handful of the thousands of new laws that took effect Tuesday in states across the country. Legislatures routinely make July 1 the effective date for measures passed in the first months of the year; July 1 marks both the halfway point through the calendar year and the start of most states’fiscal years.

Here’s a quick look at new measures that will took effect Tuesday in 10 states (We’ll post new laws from other states Tuesday and Wednesday.):

Alabama: Three of the state’s six abortion clinics will shut down under a new law that regulates building requirements for facilities that perform the procedure.  Courts can now require anyone convicted of a DUI to install an ignition interlock device that reads a driver’s blood-alcohol content.

California: Employees making the minimum wage will get a raise to $9 an hour, with another dollar increase coming two years from now. Small grocery stores in Los Angeles will be prohibited from using plastic bags. Paper bags will cost 10 cents apiece. Victims of domestic abuse will be eligible for greater protections, and transgendered people won’t have to announce it in the newspaper after legally changing their names.

Colorado: About 50 new measures take effect, including a law banning so-called “revenge porn,” a law prohibiting rapists from access to children conceived through the crime and a law strengthening sentences for sexual assaults against children. Colorado agencies will also face limits on fees they can charge anyone seeking documents under the state’s Open Records Act. And a new $9 million grant program will fund research into the medicinal impacts of marijuana.

Connecticut: About 100 new laws go on the state’s books, including a moratorium on storage and disposal of fracking waste and a program that gives parents up to $250 for investing in a tax-free college savings account for their kids. Colleges will be required to develop and adopt policies for handling sexual assaults on campus, while the state Board of Education will begin developing a concussion education plan for kids who play sports.

Delaware: Same-sex couples who entered into civil unions before gay marriage became legal are getting an upgrade: All civil unions that have not been dissolved will become marriages.

Florida: More than 150 new laws are on the books. One makes children of undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state tuition at public universities. Others send sex offenders to high-security treatment centers after they’ve served their sentences, create a new statewide pilot program to pay for driver’s education for foster children and fund 270 new investigators for the state’s child protective service. And local school boards will have the chance to select their own textbooks, whether or not those books are on a state-adopted list.

Georgia: The Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act, a high-profile gun law that allows licensed firearms carriers to bring guns into government buildings that don’t have security checkpoints, goes into effect. Restaurants, bars and churches can all decide whether to allow guns on their premises. And the speed limit on highways in urban areas jumps from 65 mph to 70.

Hawaii: Drivers on cellphones, watch out: If a police officer cites you for using your phone while you drive, you face a $297 fine for a first offense. The new law bans talking, texting or playing video games — wait, video games? — while driving. And smokers in Hawaii County, the Big Island, will have to be 21 to purchase tobacco products. Fines for retailers who don’t post signs advertising the new minimum age stand at $100.

Idaho: Gun owners will be allowed to take their concealed weapons on college campuses. Speed limits on state freeways increase from 75 mph to 80, although state transportation officials are still studying safety concerns. And Idaho is taking over wastewater quality permitting from the Environmental Protection Agency; proponents said burdensome EPA regulations were too inflexible.

Indiana: Cyclists who look both ways, several times, will be able to sneak through red lights under a new law. The law allows motorcycles and bicycles to go through a red light that lasts longer than two minutes. It’s not so unusual: Fifteen other states have similar laws on the books.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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