Hundreds of New State Laws Take Effect

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DENVER, Dec. 30 (UPI) — Hundreds of new state laws become effective Wednesday, cracking down on everything from terrorism to drunk driving. In New Hampshire, those convicted of threatening or using biological or chemical weapons will face stiffer penalties. In New Mexico, drunk drivers will be required to use an ignition interlock system for 12 months after a drunk driving conviction. Those two laws are among scores that take effect Jan. 1, according to survey conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many other states make their laws effective with the governor’s signature or 30 to 90 days after they are signed. New Hampshire is the only state putting new homeland security measures into effect but about 1,500 bills similar bills were considered by states this year, according to Gene Rose, a spokesman for the NCSL in Denver. “A number of other states are kind of holding back because of budget concerns and also trying to see what the federal government is going to do in terms of assistance to states,” he said. State governments are facing budget deficits totaling more than $60 billion in the next fiscal year because of declining tax revenues. They also have to close the books are more than $17 billion in shortfalls incurred during the current fiscal year. Other new laws address problems in education, traffic safety, criminal justice, labor, business and economic development. Here are some of the new laws: *North Carolina will allow teachers who do not wish to work full-time the option of job-sharing in order to address a statewide shortage of teachers. *California will require a minor to wear a safety helmet with scooters, skateboards and inline skates. *Maine children between the ages of 4 and 8 will be required to sit in an approved child restraint system while riding in a vehicle. *Nebraska’s minor traffic offenders will have the option of successfully completing a pre-trial diversion program in exchange for charges being dropped. *Alaska’s physician assistants will officially be recognized as health care providers subject to similar malpractice and discrimination laws as doctors. *Californians will be able to donate to the State Children’s Trust Fund, a fund to support innovative child abuse and neglect prevention programs, through a check-off on state tax returns. *Illinois state employees will get paid time off when they donate organs, blood or blood platelets. *Utah health insurers and employers will no longer be able to use genetic information for certain business decisions including determination of coverage, hiring or promotions. *New Hampshire hackers may face charges for introducing contaminants that impair computer operations or lead to the loss of property. *California workers will know 60 days in advance if they are going to be subject to mass layoffs under a new state warning law. *Kentucky motorists will be able to obtain special license plates that advocate spaying and neutering pets. *Washington state chiropractors will be added to the list of those allowed to serve as officials at a boxing, kickboxing or martial arts event. Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.