(This release from the National Conference of State Legislatures)
States crack down on drunken drivers, text messaging while driving
DENVER - State legislatures across the country enacted 31,000 laws in 2008, some of which become effective Jan. 1, 2009. The issues range from health care reform to criminal justice to labor practices. Forty-six states met in regular session and three came back for special sessions in 2008.
In Illinois, Alaska and South Carolina, new laws mandate ignition-locking devices for those convicted of drunken driving. Californians who text message while driving face a fine and prospective pet owners in Colorado who want to adopt a pet from a shelter must have it sterilized.
Also, convicted sex offenders in Alaska must register their e-mail addresses in the state sex offender registry database. And 12 states will have a new minimum wage in 2009.
Some legislation may have been enacted in 2007, but becomes effective Jan. 1, 2009, even if the state was not in session in 2008. This is not an exhaustive list, but just a sampling of some new state laws effective Jan. 1, 2009.
In Illinois, first-time offenders convicted of drunken driving can petition the court for a monitoring-device driving permit. This driving permit would mean that the offender would have a breath alcohol interlock ignition device installed in his or her car. (Illinois 95th General Assembly; SB 2295)
In Alaska, misdemeanor DUI offenders are eligible to get a limited license that allows them to drive an ignition interlock-equipped car during the period of license revocation following a 30-day suspension. (Alaska 25th Legislature; HB 19)
South Carolina passed a similar measure mandating ignition interlock devices for convicted DUI offenders. The law also sets requirements for vehicles with TV screens or other image display devices that are visible to a driver while a vehicle is in motion. (South Carolina 117th General Assembly; S 472)
In Alaska, a new law requires convicted sex offenders and child kidnappers to add their e-mail addresses and online names to the list of required information they now must register with law enforcement agencies and the state sex offenders database. At least 10 other states in 2007 and 2008 added the online identities to information that sex offenders must provide as part of required registration. (Alaska 25th Legislature; SB 185)
South Carolina changed the procedures for victims' compensation awards allowing the director of the state Office of Victims' Assistance to approve mental health counseling for victims and allow electronic compensation claims. Expands responsibilities of the crime victim ombudsman to include standards and training for victim service providers. (South Carolina 117th General Assembly; HB 4601)
PRIVACY AND SECURITY
New York now prohibits employers from posting or displaying an employee’s Social Security number, printing the number on any identification badge, card or time card, and discussing an employee’s personal identifying information in public. (New York Legislature; S.B. 8376)
Illinois now restricts advertising alcohol to young people and requires alcopops or flavored malt beverages to have labels indicating the beverage contains alcohol. It limits where alcohol can be advertised including prohibiting billboards within 500 feet of schools, public parks, amusement parks and places of worship as well as the display of any alcopop beverage in any videogame, theater or live performance where the audience is primarily children. (Illinois 95th General Assembly; SB 2472)
DOCUMENTS AND RECORDS
Adult adoptees who were born in Maine can now obtain their original birth certificates. (Maine Legislature; LD 1084)
Oregon now bans food containing trans fats from restaurants, with a few exceptions. The new law requires restaurants to label or document foods that contain fats, oils or shortening. (74th Oregon Legislative Assembly; AB 987)
A new law requires health insurance policies in Connecticut to cover physical, speech and occupational therapy services to treat autism disorders if the policies cover these services for other diseases and conditions. (Connecticut General Assembly; PA 08-132)
Minnesota established a statewide health improvement program that, among other things, creates health care homes, streamlines payments and sets up an electronic prescription drug program. (Minnesota 58th Regular Session; SB 3780)
In Connecticut, a new law requires that group comprehensive and health insurance policies extend coverage to children until the age of 26. (Connecticut General Assembly; PA 08-147)
California expanded the eligibility of its state health programs, Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, to allow children with family incomes at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify and removes the citizenship and immigration status requirements. (California Legislature; AB 1)
Connecticut increased its minimum wage tip credit for hotel and restaurant employers from 8.2 percent to 11 percent for bartenders and from 29.3 percent to 31 percent for waiters, waitresses, and other service workers. (Connecticut General Assembly; PA 08-113)
Maine made it a felony to force someone to work in a commercial sex trade, which includes exotic dancing, pornography and prostitution. The law also would prohibit an employer from taking advantage of an employee by forcing him or her to work for unfair wages or under unfair conditions. (Maine 123rd Legislature; HP 360)
Washington has expanded the rights of same-sex couples and registered domestic partners concerning dissolutions, community property, estate planning, taxes, reciprocity, services to veterans and other public assistance, conflicts of interest for public official and guardianships. Also, Washington now recognizes legal unions (other than marriage) between same-sex people made in other states. (Washington 60th Regular Session; HB 3104)
Delaware passed law to study “reduced ignition-propensity cigarettes,” which are less likely than conventional cigarettes to ignite furnishings such as a couch or mattress. This bill establishes definitions and standards for the reduced ignition-propensity cigarettes and cigarette fire safety. All cigarettes will have to be tested and meet those standards. There shall be a $250 fee for cigarette certification paid by the manufacturer. (Delaware 144th General Assembly; HS1)
Oregon will expand the number of indoor workplaces that are required to be smoke free and also prohibits smoking within 10 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes of workplaces or public places (74th Oregon Legislative Assembly; SB 571)
Californians who send or read text messages while driving will face a traffic ticket and fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oregon, New Jersey, Alaska and Washington also ban texting while driving. (California Legislature; SB 28)
Minnesota passed a $6.6 billion transportation bill that increases the gas tax by 8.5 cents over the next five years to fund road and bridge repairs. It also boosted the sales tax in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area a quarter percent for transit projects. The law creates a bridge improvement program and provides funding for highway maintenance and local road repairs. (Minnesota 58th Regular Session; HB 2800)
In Colorado, animal shelters can't release a dog or cat to a prospective owner unless the animal has been sterilized or the prospective owner signs an agreement to have the animal sterilized within 90 days after the date of release. (Colorado Legislature; HB 1185)
New Hampshire refined its standards as to what constitutes adequate shelter for outside dogs. Dog shelters must be structurally sound, provide sufficient air circulation and be large enough to keep the dog clean and dry in inclement weather. (New Hampshire 160th Year of the General Court, HB 1143)
NCSL is the bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staff 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.