On Thursday, a new set of state laws took effect, offering a snapshot of what matters to Americans now -- the services for which we are willing to pay, the punishments we mete out, the things we celebrate.
Minnesota hopes to help young, unmarried parents start successful marriages. A handful of states aim to crack down on video phone voyeurs and methamphetamine addicts. Others are trying to help children overcome obesity.
For many states, Thursday was the effective date for laws crafted during the legislative sessions. In others, laws take effect Jan. 1, or 90 days after enactment.
Worries over terrorism and war emerged in legislative sessions, with New Mexico requiring background checks for any trucker hauling hazardous materials. Tennessee is trying to strike a balance by giving illegal immigrants a "driving certificate" that will not necessarily let them get on planes.
Wyoming created a $5 million trust fund to help financially pinched families of National Guard members and reservists serving overseas.
Minnesota moved to encourage nuptials for heterosexual couples. Adding another $5 to the $80 cost of a marriage license, the state hopes to provide counseling and guidance aimed at unmarried couples with children.
"We're planning to work with area hospitals and recruit them after the child is born," said William Doherty, a University of Minnesota professor who will direct the program. "That's the magic moment when they are wanting to do right by the baby and each other."
Crime drew a great deal of attention.
Florida and South Dakota created new punishments for those who surreptitiously take intimate photos of others with cell phones.
Tougher penalties for drunken driving were approved in Colorado, Virginia and Indiana, where legislators became personally involved when a fellow lawmaker was killed while driving home after voting for a drunken-driving bill that failed to pass in 2003.
Another substance increasingly being abused -- methamphetamine, also called speed, crank, ice and meth -- came up for tougher penalties in Florida, Iowa, New Mexico and South Dakota.
Some measures target sales, some production and some those trying to purchase cold medicines that can be converted into the drug in home labs.
Drug stores might see sales drop, acknowledged Iowa state Rep. Clel Baudler (R). The new law in his state makes it illegal to buy more than two packages of pseudoephedrine, a common decongestant, at one time.
"But I know one thing: We can never turn our back on trying to stop this insidious drug," Baudler said.
Other safety concerns focused on children and teenagers -- California banned soda during the school day in middle and junior high schools, hoping to help curb obesity in children; Georgia required car safety seats for children up to age 6 (instead of 5); and Tennessee required booster seats for older children, up to age 9.
The tax debate ran the gamut. Alabama raised taxes temporarily on natural gas wells to cover a budget shortfall, while New Mexico offered one-time tax breaks for hybrid vehicles, in a bid to conserve energy.
South Carolina created tax incentives for people to redevelop abandoned textile mills, which are part of an industry that has been steadily shrinking; Wyoming lifted sales taxes on manufacturing machinery and tools, with an eye toward spurring business development.
Colorado opened the door to steeper tuition increases at the University of Colorado with a law that lets the university become a semiprivate institution, thereby allowing the school to raise tuition without forcing the state to issue tax refund checks under the state's taxpayers' bill of rights.
Traffic frustrations spurred a Georgia law requiring drivers in fender-bender accidents to pull off roads or streets so they do not block traffic (existing law already required such action on highways). And New Jersey and the District banned handheld cell-phone use while driving. (Only New York had banned it before.)
Other states looked more closely at technology: Florida created new penalties for lying in e-mail spam; South Dakota made it a felony to clone humans; and Colorado required microchips to be implanted in dogs that bite people, so they can be tracked.
And besides the laws that aim to punish or persuade, others just take pride.
In Kansas, a six-mile stretch of Highway 96 near and through Hutchinson will be named the "Bob Dole Bypass," for the state's longtime Republican senator and unsuccessful 1996 presidential candidate.
Mississippi took a step to honor its past with the Mississippi Blues Commission, hoping to spur economic development and tourism dollars from a music born amid poverty, racism and life on the Delta.
"Adverse conditions, the long rows of cotton and the sizzling heat created this music that the world wants to hear," said Democratic state Sen. David L. Jordan, who wrote the bill. "We can all benefit from the blues more so than anything else."