July 1 Brings Avalanche of State Laws
By Joseph Giordono, Staff Writer
Beginning today, three-time violent offenders in Florida will be going away for a long time, Louisiana schoolkids must address their teachers as "sir" or "ma'am," Utah teens face additional requirements to get a full driver's license and New Mexico's official state question becomes "Red or green (chili sauce)?"
These and scores of other bills passed by legislatures and endorsed by governors around the nation become law on July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year for every state except Alabama (October), Michigan (October), New York (April) and Texas (September).
While only six state constitutions set July 1 as the effective date for all enacted legislation, it has become an increasingly common practice in the states to tie a bill's effective date to the beginning of the fiscal year, said Stephanie Wilson, a legislative policy expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Among the dozens of Florida laws that are scheduled to take effect July 1 are two tough-on-crime measures that were centerpieces of Gov. Jeb Bush's campaign.
The three-strikes law requires judges to give maximum sentences to people who commit their third violent crime. Drug dealers must also be given the maximum sentence allowed. The second law, dubbed the "10-20-Life" law, requires set prison terms for people who use guns while committing specific crimes.
Other new Florida laws prevent stores from putting surveillance cameras in dressing rooms and allow people with concealed weapons permits from other states to carry their guns in Florida.
Kansas commuters with tight purse strings will wake up to another rush hour headache, as the state's 2 cents a gallon gas tax increase became effective at the stroke of midnight. Kansans who live near the Missouri border might make a detour to fill up, as Missouri's 3 cent a gallon gas tax decrease took effect at the same instant.
Kansas law also now allows for the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the Capitol grounds from December 31, 1999 until January 1, 2000. And another new law makes fireworks legal for the last three days of December.
The gas tax increase is part of a $13 billion comprehensive highway, rail, airport and mass transit program projected to last 10 years.
The most far-reaching of Kansas' new laws is the restructuring of the state's higher education regents system, a work in progress for nearly three decades. The revamped board now has authority over all post-secondary education in Kansas, including the state's 17 private colleges.
Virginians may have a hard time keeping up with the nearly 1,000 new laws that take effect on July 1. Among the most publicized: Virginia landfills have been capped at 1998 waste levels; business owners may now legally carry concealed weapons without a permit in their businesses; school boards across the state must develop character education programs; and second-offense drunk drivers get a mandatory ignition interlock system which allows a vehicle's use only after its operator passes a breath-a-lizer test.
Among the less-publicized new laws in the Old Dominion: maximum fines for owners of exotic reptiles who let their pets escape rise from $250 to $1,000; the fine for hunting while intoxicated doubles to $1,000; and motorists will not be allowed to operate vehicles with anything in the windows that creates a prism effect.
In Tennessee, 61 new bills became law today. Aiming a laser pointer at a police officer becomes a crime, as does stealing someone's identity through a Social Security number or other identifying document.
Victims of crimes in Tennessee will now be notified of the county in which the person convicted of the crime plans to live once released from jail. Another victim's rights measure gives targets of domestic violence 12 hours of protection from their attackers. The new law prohibits the release of any offender within 12 hours of his or her arrest.
In addition, Tennessee teens must now get parental consents before having any parts of their bodies pierced.
Effective today, sex offenders in Wisconsin will be charged $242 a day for treatments they are forced to receive under the state's sexual predator laws. Critics argue that the policy is illegal and will likely provide sex offenders with another excuse to avoid treatment.
Utah teens must now wait another two years to plunge into marriage; the legal age for marriage in the state goes from 14 to 16 starting today. Utah youths may feel a bit picked on, as another new law makes it harder to get a driver's license. The law now requires 30 hours of driving practice and bans anyone under age 18 from driving between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.
Oklahoma citizens have 130 new laws to read today, including an increase in college tuition fees and a hike in drivers license fees. Oklahoma law also now allows the state to confiscate the vehicle of a motorist who has been convicted of drunken driving twice within 10 years.
Another new law establishes a three-year pilot program to test the viability and performance of charter schools in 13 districts around the state. The same law also lays the groundwork for having the state pay for the first two years of college for high-performing high school graduates.
Oklahoma also joins a rising tide of states prohibiting local governments from suing gun manufacturers over costs associated with firearms deaths and injuries.
Iowa's new laws are also aimed at cracking down on crime. Beginning today, tougher penalties are in line for methamphetamine-makers, for people who try to take a police officer's gun and for drivers and passengers with open alcohol containers.
Iowa lawmakers didn't focus solely on crime, however, as they provided money for school districts to achieve a new state mandate to improve basic reading skills. Another new law provides for the selection of a state poet laureate.