Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New raft of laws from U.S. states come into effect

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Early July is about more than fireworks, cookouts and long weekends in the United States. It's also about hundreds of new state laws.

Around the nation, July 1 marks the start of new fiscal years and the date recently passed legislation goes into effect, although states often mark their independence by enacting new regulations on their own calendars.

The laws and effective dates vary somewhat from state to state, but an overview of legislation that hit the books Monday shows state lawmakers took positions on the following five topics of national debate:

-- GUNS: State legislatures across the U.S. discussed gun laws in the wake of mass shootings that shocked the nation in 2012. Most efforts to pass restrictions faded amid fierce opposition. Only a handful of states enacted new limits, some of which went into effect Monday. Among them, Colorado is notable for requiring background checks for private and online gun sales and outlawing high-capacity ammunition magazines. At least 18 states, however, have gone the other way and loosened gun laws. Kansas laws that took effect will allow schools to arm employees with concealed handguns and ensure weapons can be carried into more public buildings.

-- TECH: Dozens of states examined technology laws. Recently passed legislation in eight states will prevent businesses from demanding passwords to social media sites as a condition of employment. The law in Washington state also stops employers from compelling workers to add managers as "friends" so their profile can be viewed. Four states updated tech laws to allow drivers to show proof of car insurance on an electronic device, such as a smartphone.

-- CARS: A handful of states have restricted cellphone use while driving. As of Monday in Hawaii and West Virginia, motorists have to put down hand-held devices. Meanwhile, in South Dakota beginning drivers will face similar restrictions. Utah also enacted limits for newbies with a law that has already taken effect. A few states have banned texting while driving. Other state laws affecting drivers will make it illegal to smoke in a car with a child, raise highway speed limits, crackdown on drunk drivers and raise gas taxes.

-- ABORTION: Nationally, state lawmakers proposed more than 300 bills that would have restricted abortions, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. At least 13 state legislatures passed new limits, though two are waiting for governors to sign off. Notably, a bill that would have closed almost every abortion clinic in Texas was dramatically defeated by a Democratic filibuster and a restless crowd in late June. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, however, has ordered another special legislative session to push the bill through. North Dakota has passed the nation's strictest abortion law, which takes effect in August, banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

-- DRONES: An Idaho law that took effect Monday forbids anyone from using an unmanned aircraft for spying on another. Virginia has passed a ban preventing authorities from using drones for the next two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four other states approved anti-drone regulations, though legislation aimed at law enforcement in Texas isn't effective until fall.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2013 B7

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