New Year, New Laws

With the ringing in of the new year comes the effective date of new laws passed by state legislatures across the country. Laws from election reform to driving restrictions to smoking to gambling went into effect in the early hours of January 1.

A quick glance at some of the new laws taking effect this week:

  • In Washington state, a voter-approved initiative will take effect, capping local governments' property tax growth to 1 percent, unless voters allow a larger increase.

  • In Alaska, criminals will have to pay cash to their victims.

  • Fourth convictions of drunk driving in New Hampshire will now lead to seven years in prison and at least seven years without a license.

  • Commuters in Santa Fe, New Mexico will be banned from speaking on hand-held cell phones while driving. Cell phones and driving will be studied in California effective January 1, while Oregon has prohibited local governments from regulating cell phone use while driving.

  • Watch out if you are driving in in North Bend, Washington, where "inattentive" drivers - fiddling with the radio, eating a burger - can be fined an extra $300 if they get a ticket.

  • Colorado now lets doctors and hospitals form their own networks to provide health coverage, bypassing insurance companies

  • Florida requires nursing homes to meet minimum staffing care and buy liability insurance for lawsuits.

  • California will expand domestic partner rights for gay and lesbian couples, including the ability to make medical decisions for incapacitated partners, adopt a partner's child and will property to partners.

  • Most workplaces in Oregon will ban smoking completely.

  • Washington state will impose a 60 cent increase on tobacco tax for smokers, up to $1.42 per pack, the highest in the country.

  • And South Carolina will launch it's new state lottery, with prizes up to $100,000.

Happy new year everyone, and be sure to catch up on all of your local laws!

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