AP News

New laws kick in around US; here are Utah changes


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — This part of summer is a time for patriotism. It's also the time new state laws go into effect across the nation.

Fiscal years begin July 1 on most financial calendars, and a slew of state government spending regulations kick in each year on that date. Policy laws also hit the books in a wave, though states often mark their independence by enacting such legislation on their own time.

Among the laws set to take effect this year around the U.S. are new abortion limits, gun laws and technology rules. And one state, Wyoming, will start setting up a lottery Monday, leaving only a handful of states without a jackpot drawing.

So as you get ready for Fourth of July cookouts and family gatherings, consider this roundup of Utah laws that went into effect recently:

— CELLPHONE-MINORS DRIVING: This law imposes a $25 fine and ticket on teens who talk on the phone while driving. The law makes it a misdemeanor for 16- and 17-year-olds to talk and drive. It does not apply to teens using a phone to reach out to parents or authorities in an emergency situation. If teens violate the rule and receive a ticket, that ticket would not count against them in points on their driver's license.

— CAR SMOKING-KIDS: This law bars drivers from smoking in the car if they have a passenger younger than 16. The restriction does not apply to drivers in open-body cars such as convertibles as long as they have the top down. The law makes the violation a secondary offense, which means police can't pull someone over for smoking with a child passenger but can enforce the law while stopping a driver for another violation. The legislation took effect in May, but police will only hand out warnings for the first year. Once officers begin issuing citations in July of 2014, violators will be fined $45. A court can waive the fine for first-time offenses if the violator enrolls in a program help them quit smoking.

— 80 MPH FREEWAYS: Utah lawmakers passed a law expanding 80 mph zones on Utah freeways. Utah started testing higher speed limits in southern Utah in 2008. Lawmakers expanded that this year to portions of Interstates 15, 80 and 84 on outlying areas of the state. UDOT spokesman John Gleason told The Salt Lake Tribune that those zones won't start to appear until August.

— DATING VIOLENCE: Lawmakers passed and Gov. Gary Herbert signed legislation that allows victims of dating violence to obtain a protective order. Democratic Rep. Jennifer Seelig of Salt Lake City authored the legislation, which she says fills a gap in state laws by allowing victims of relationship violence who aren't married to obtain a 180-day restraining order. If a court later finds that someone was wrongly accused of dating violence, the person can have the act expunged from his or her record.

— WILDFIRES: This law allows the state forester to temporarily restrict target shooting, smoking and other activities on lands when there's a high threat of wildfire, as long as the sheriff of any affected county agrees to the restriction. Target shooters started a small percentage of the Utah's fires last year, but one of those fires was a 5,507-acre blaze near Saratoga Springs in June that caused thousands to flee homes and cost $2.1 million to battle.


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