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Dec. 22, 2010

New Laws Help Ring in the New Year

A wide range of new legislation goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2011. 

A host of new laws ranging from fresh drinking water for students in California to outlawing the use of K2 in Illinois become effective Jan. 1, 2011. 

Forty-five state legislatures, the District of Columbia, Guam, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico met in regular session in 2010 and enacted 31,005 new laws. In 2011, all 50 states and territories will meet.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) found a host of those state laws—in at least 26 states ranging from controversial to clever—that will become effective on New Year's Day.

In Montana, payday lenders will be limited in the amount of fees and interest rates they can charge to borrowers. In Minnesota, retailers will be banned from selling children’s cups and bottles that contain bisphenol A (BPA). And in Delaware, Kansas and Kentucky, drivers will be prohibited from texting while driving.

Not all laws passed by state legislatures become effective on Jan. 1. State constitutions or statutes usually establish when laws go into effect. Sometimes, an effective date is written into the specific piece of legislation.

This is not an exhaustive list, but a sampling of some new state laws (organized alphabetically by topic) effective on New Year’s Day.

Commerce

Georgia will now become the 24th member of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board. This act will allow volunteer out-of-state sellers to collect sales taxes for the state of Georgia on purchases that are made through online sellers, catalogs and shopping networks. Georgia  HB 1221

Consumer Protection

Minnesota will have a new process for homeowners who claim builders or contractors damaged their home. The Department of Labor and Industry now will have a neutral party evaluate claims before lawsuits can be filed. Minnesota HF3386

A new Connecticut law adds a penalty of up to $11,000 for each violation of the “do not call” list. Connecticut SB 187

Businesses will no longer be allowed to list in telephone books in Georgia if their number routinely forwards calls to a non-local business location outside the calling area covered by the telephone book. Georgia  SB 368

A new law in New York requires businesses advertising or offering consumer rebates to conspicuously disclose if the rebates will be issued in any form other than cash or check (ex: gift certificate or gift card) and whether any additional fees  may apply. New York AB 11007

Corrections

California has established a medical parole program for inmates permanently medically incapacitated who would not pose a risk to public safety if released. These inmates will be paroled to less costly medical facilities that are better suited to provide their care.  California SB 1399

A new California law establishes an alternative-to-incarceration program for female inmates, pregnant inmates, or inmates who were the primary caregivers of dependent children. The program will use electronic monitoring to supervise these inmates in the community while they participate in programs such as substance abuse treatment, educational or vocational training, and parenting classes. California SB 1266

California will now require that all parolees who are transferred from any other state or the federal government be assessed using the current risk assessment tool that is used for California sex offenders. This will ensure that parole agents are aware of the risk of re-offending by all of their parolees, not just those released from California prisons. California SB 1201

Crime

California enacted "Chelsea's Law," which increases penalties for forcible sex acts against minors, creates a penalty of life without the possibility of parole for specific sex acts against minors, creates safe zones around parks, and mandates lifetime parole for certain sex offenses. California AB 1844

In Utah, when a person is arrested for a “violent felony,” a DNA specimen now will be taken during the booking process. This specimen cannot be processed until the person is bound over for trial, waives a preliminary hearing, or a grand jury issues an indictment. The arrested person is also required to pay a fee of $150 for the costs of DNA collection if they are ultimately convicted. Utah SB 277

In Illinois, it will now be a criminal offense for a parent or guardian to leave custody or control of a child with a child sex offender.  Illinois HB 6464. In addition, the Illinois legislature passed several laws to strengthen sex offender registry requirements as part of a package of public safety legislation. Included in that package are HB 5043, HB 5791, SB 1702, SB 2589, SB 2824, SB 3176, SB 2462, HB 6124, SB 3293.

A new Michigan law establishes a three-year pilot program to reduce repeat drunk driving by addressing underlying causes. A restricted license will identify that the person is enrolled in a DWI/sobriety court program and that an interlock device has been placed in his or her vehicle. The law also prohibits the ignition interlock device from being removed until the DWI/sobriety court orders its removal. Michigan SB795

Cyber Crimes

Malicious, credible impersonation through a website, e-mail account or social media will become a crime in California punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in county jail. The law makes “harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding another person” online and without their consent a misdemeanor. It allows the victim to sue the imitator for damages and losses. Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts and Texas also have laws targeting harassing electronic impersonation. California SB 1411

In Illinois, minors who are involved in “sexting” or distributing indecent photos of other minors electronically may be taken into custody by law enforcement officers and are subject to adjudication or supervision, instead of being charged with child pornography, which is a harsher offense. A minor found to be in need of supervision may also be ordered to receive counseling or perform community service. Illinois HB 4583

Illinois lawmakers also made it a crime to sexually exploit a child using a computer or Internet-based software. The new law is aimed at catching sex offenders who use Internet chat rooms or online video cameras to engage in sex acts with a child. Illinois HB 5321

Drug Policy

Any adult in California over the age of 18 carrying no more than 28.5 grams of marijuana will now be guilty of an infraction, rather than a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of no more than $100. This law also makes the possession of unauthorized concentrated cannabis an offense with punishment of up to a year in jail or a fine of no more than $500. Possession of more than 28.5 grams without a medical permit is subject to criminal prosecution but at reduced sentences of fines up to $500 and/or six months of jail time. California SB1449

A new law in Illinois adds "K2" to the state list of controlled substances. "K2," also known as "Spice" or "Genie" is a synthetic cannabinoid that is a chemically engineered substance, similar to THC—the active ingredient in marijuana—that, when smoked or ingested, can produce a high similar to marijuana. These products are sold legally in local convenience stores or on the Internet. Illinois HB 6459

A California law prohibits any medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider who possesses, cultivates or distributes medical marijuana from being located within 600 feet of a public or private K-12 school.  California AB 2650

Education

Under California’s new truancy law, parents of K-8 children who miss more than 10 percent of the school year without a valid excuse can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The bill also authorizes local districts to require whatever family services are needed to get the children back to school. California SB 1317

A new Arizona law requires annual adjustments to the maximum credit that taxpayers may claim for donations to state tuition organizations to account for inflation. It also prohibits these organizations from awarding scholarships based solely on the basis of donor recommendations, and in addition, prohibits taxpayers from claiming tax credits and circumventing the prohibition against taking tax credits for donations for the benefit of one’s own dependent by agreeing with others to “swap” donations. Arizona HB 2664

Environment

A new Arizona law creates individual and corporate income tax credits based on the amount of electricity produced from renewable sources, including wind, biomass and solar. Each facility may claim up to $2 million of this new credit a year on a first-come, first-served basis, for 10 years with a cumulative cap of $20 million a year for all facilities. Arizona SB 1254

A new California law allows a home inspection, upon a client’s request, to include an audit of the energy efficiency of the home in order to develop reliable information on the energy efficiency level of homes to help produce cost-effective investments. California AB 1809

Legislation in New York will require companies making or selling electronic waste equipment to  begin free recycling programs for consumers.  Manufacturers will need to pay $5,000 to register with the state by the end of 2010 and pay a $3,000 annual fee to disclose how much they’ve recycled from customers. The law will also require retailers to make available information provided by manufacturers on their e-waste acceptance programs and prohibit retailers from selling any covered electronic equipment unless such brands are registered with the Department of Environmental Conservation. New York A11308

Ethics

Utah will establish a five-member legislative ethics commission with authority to conduct an independent review of each complaint, define whether an ethics violation has taken place, and determine whether the complaint merits further consideration. Utah HJR 15

Financial Services

Starting Jan. 1, Montana will limit the interest rates and fees that payday lenders can charge to an annual interest rate of 36 percent.  This initiative also prohibits businesses from structuring other transactions to avoid the rate limit, and reduces the license and examination fee revenue paid to the state since certain lenders may not renew their licenses.  Montana I-164

Health

Connecticut will soon be requiring health insurance policies that cover anticancer medications to cover the oral drugs at least as favorably as it does the IV ones. The law prohibits insurers from reclassifying anticancer medications or increasing the patient’s out-of-pocket costs as a way to comply. Connecticut SB 50

A new Missouri law requires all group health benefit plans to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.  Coverage is limited to medically necessary treatment ordered by the insured’s treating physician.  The law also requires the Department of Insurance and other institutions to submit a report to the legislature regarding the implementation of this coverage, including specified costs.  Missouri HB 1311

Housing

If a tenant is renting a property in California that is foreclosed upon and sold, the new owner of the property must provide information on tenants’ rights after foreclosure and advise them to seek legal help. The new law also prohibits court clerks from releasing records regarding evictions from residential properties that have been sold in foreclosure unless the plaintiff prevails within 60 days of filing against all defendants. California SB 1149

California also has increased the criminal punishment for taking an abandoned residential property and renting it out to another person without the owner’s consent. California AB 1800

Pension and Benefits

A Missouri law creates new contributory retirement plans for members of the Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System, the State Employees’ Retirement System and the retirement plan for judges. Those hired after Jan. 1, 2011, will make a pre-tax employee contribution of 4 percent of salary. Plans were previously non-contributory. Missouri H.B. 1

Pennsylvania lawmakers made numerous changes to future employees’ contributions to the Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the State Employees’ Retirement System.  New members will belong to a Shared Risk Defined Benefit Plan, and employee contributions will change depending on funding.  Pennsylvania HB 2497

Legislation in Illinois affects statewide pension plans for most public employees by increasing the age for retirement to 67, reducing cost-of living adjustments after retirement, and requiring longer periods of serviceIllinois SB 1976

A Colorado law changes the retirement benefits of teachers and government employees in the Public Employees Retirement Association. The law imposes a higher age and service requirement for normal retirement as of Jan. 1, 2011, for employees with fewer than five years of service. Colorado SB001

Legislation in Michigan prohibits retirees from electing additional health insurance coverage other than what is provided by the Civil Service Commission with a state subsidy. It also requires employees' to pay the full cost of any alternative retiree health coverage. Michigan SB 1226

Public Health

Starting Jan. 1, children’s jewelry that contains cadmium is banned from being sold in California. The state already prohibits lead in children’s jewelry. California SB 929

California became the first, on Jan. 1, 2010, to prohibit oil, shortening or margarine containing artificial trans fats in restaurants and other food facilities. Beginning Jan 1, 2011, the original law will extend to other foods containing artificial trans fats, primarily baked goods. California AB 97

Retailers in Minnesota will now be banned from selling cups and bottles intended for children age 3 or younger that contain bisphenol A (BPA). These same restrictions went into effect for in-state manufacturers and wholesalers on Jan. 1, 2010. Minnesota SF 247

California lawmakers have also enacted a new law requiring free drinking water for students in school cafeterias or food service areas. Schools must comply by July 1, 2011. California SB 1413

Safety

California lawmakers heightened penalties for reckless driving while attempting to photograph or capture other types of images or impressions of individuals. This anti-paparazzi law provides for liability under the civil invasion of privacy statute along with other damages and remedies. It is aimed at those who commit “false imprisonment” by driving recklessly or blocking sidewalks in order to take photographs or make recordings of celebrities. California AB 2479

California will protect anyone under the age of 21 from prosecution for possession or consumption of alcohol when that person is the first to report an alcohol-related medical emergency and remains on the scene until medical personnel arrive. California AB 1999

Iowa will soon become a “shall issue” state when issuing firearm-carry permits, requiring that sheriffs approve any applicant who is not subject to specific disqualifiers.  Sheriffs will also have to use the same standards when issuing firearm-carry permits, and the time period of a permit will increase from one year to five. Iowa SF 2379

Landlords in California will no longer be allowed to terminate a lease based on domestic violence against the tenant or tenant’s household members. The law also requires landlords to change the exterior locks of a tenant’s dwelling no later than 24 hours after the tenant provides a written request with supporting court or police documentation.  California SB 782

California will soon require all children under the age of 18, including patrollers and resort employees, to wear helmets while skiing or snowboarding. Resorts will be required to post notice about the law, including on trail maps and resort websites. California SB 880

A blue alert system in California, similar to the Amber Alert System, will notify the public when a law enforcement officer has been attacked. California SB 839

South Dakota and Missouri passed fire-safe cigarette laws in 2009, which require cigarettes sold in the state to be fire-safe meaning they have a reduced propensity to burn when left unattended.  This is intended to help reduce the number of cigarette-ignited fires.  As of Jan. 1, South Dakota and Missouri will join 47 other states who currently have fire-safe cigarette laws. Wyoming passed legislation that will go into effect in July 2011.  Missouri HB 205 and South Dakota HB 1280

Transportation

In Delaware hand-held phones and text messaging will be banned by all drivers. Delaware HB 229

All drivers in Kansas will be banned from texting while driving.  Penalty is a $60 fine. Kansas SB 300

All drivers in Kentucky will be banned from texting while driving. Penalty is a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for each additional offense. Drivers under 18 will also be prohibited from using cell phones while driving.  Primary offense. Kentucky SB 23

Georgia will offer a "In God We Trust" decal for license plates and a new plate that will support the Atlanta Zoo. Georgia  HB 1005

Louisiana is increasing the amount of time a minor with a learner’s permit will spend in supervised “behind the wheel” training to 50 hours with at least 15 of those hours to include nighttime driving.  Drivers holding an intermediate license will be restricted from driving from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Louisiana HB 1339

Motorcycle drivers in Oregon will need to complete a motorcycle safety course before they qualify for an endorsement.  The law will phase in this requirement for different age groups each year, beginning with drivers under 31 on Jan. 1, 2011.  The law will apply to all age groups by 2015. Oregon SB 546

A new Georgia law authorizes each of 12 special transportation districts to impose (with voter approval) a new one percent sales tax for transportation projects. Proceeds of the tax stay in the region, but eligible projects must be approved through an extensive transportation planning and approval process. Georgia HB277

Maryland has increased the minimum amounts of required motor vehicle liability coverage to $30,000 for one person and $60,000 for two or more people (up from $20,000 and $40,000, respectively). Maryland HB 825

Veterans

In Oregon, veterans will be able to include on their driver’s licenses a notation that they are veterans. Oregon SB 1000

In Alabama, members and previous members of the U. S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines will have their own license plate, for an additional fee. Alabama HB335 

Voting and Elections

Anyone who pays for a political ad in Utah valued at $10,000 or more, clearly identifies a candidate or judge, and is disseminated within 45 days of an election, must now file a report disclosing how much was spent on the advertisement and the names and address’ of anyone who donated $100 or more.  It also requires all campaign reports to be filed electronically and specifies that corporations must also disclose any existing government contracts in excess of $100,000. The bill also creates new financial disclosure requirements for labor organizations that engage in political activity. Utah HB 329

Wyoming lawmakers shortened the deadline for voter registration from 30 days to 14 days before the election.  Wyoming SF0026

A new law in Hawaii changes the date of the primary election from the third Saturday of September to the second Saturday of August.  It also requires that nomination papers be filed with the chief election officer by the first Tuesday in June. Hawaii HB2397

Youth

Alaska, and a handful of other states, passed legislation in response to landmark federal child welfare legislation enacted in 2008, to extend foster care benefits and supports to children past the age of 18. This extension allows for continued state custody past 18 years of age when the youth is in need of out-of-home care to avoid personal harm or homelessness and to continue their education or otherwise improve their successful transition to living independently. Alaska HB 126

Florida enacted the Child Abduction Prevention Act, which allows the court to require written permission from both parents to take a child out of the country if there is substantial evidence that one parent intends to conceal the whereabouts of the child once abroad. Florida HB 787

A new Alabama law, the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, clarifies procedures for parents and the court to follow to prevent child abduction.  Risk factors that can be considered by the court include a lack of strong familial, financial, or cultural ties to the state or strong ties to another state or country, and if the parent is likely to take the child to a country that does not provide for the extradition of an abducting parent or for the return of an abducting child. Alabama HB213


NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.