Friday, July 18, 2008

A SEASON OF NEW STATE LAWS

From Stateline

Besides New York's new Internet sales tax, which is being challenged by bookseller Amazon, states ventured into new territory on a variety of issues:

Health insurance will be required for all kids in New Jersey. The first-of-its-kind statute imposes the same type of mandatory coverage that Massachusetts' landmark health-care law requires of adults. A key difference is that New Jersey won't punish families who don't comply.

Cigarette taxes, increasingly used to raise state revenues, jumped by $1.25 a pack to $2.75 in New York, the highest in the nation. Massachusetts also upped its tax - by $1 a pack for a total of $2.51.

Movie makers now qualify for 40 percent rebates on what they spend making films in Michigan, the most generous incentives in an ever-escalating competition among states to attract film projects.

"I Believe” license plates displaying a Christian cross were approved for purchase in South Carolina, sparking a church-state court challenge.

Solar water heaters for the first time will be required in homes built after 2010 in Hawaii, where sun is plentiful but fossil fuels are not.

Record numbers of home foreclosures prompted 29 states to rewrite their mortgage laws. New York and Virginia ordered lenders to give delinquent homeowners extra time before foreclosing; four states made mortgage fraud a specific crime; and seven states passed laws to curb mortgage-rescue scams.

Health worries over childhood obesity led at least five states - Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia - to boost the time school kids must spend either at recess or in gym class.

Smoking bans passed in Iowa, Nebraska and Pennsylvania, making 28 states that prohibit smoking in public places. The strictest dozen states now prohibit smoking in bars, restaurants, casinos and workplaces.

Increased energy-efficiency standards for government buildings passed in 11 states, according to the Edison Electric Institute, an industry group.

Illegal immigrants no longer can get driver’s licenses in Oregon, Michigan and Maine, leaving only four states that still allow licenses for illegal immigrants.

The federal Real ID law. . . remained unpopular among states because of its cost. This spring, Arizona became the 10th state to refuse to comply with the law.

Drivers can keep guns in their cars in eight states, even on private property where guns are banned. Florida and Georgia added the protections this year.

"Castle laws" that protect homeowners from prosecution if they shoot an intruder are on the law books in 22 states, with Wyoming becoming the latest.

A sudden surge in metal theft prompted increased penalties in 28 states over the last two years for stealing metal, especially kegs, according to the Beer Institute, an industry group.

Private school vouchers and tuition tax credits gained ground in Louisiana and Georgia, two of 14 states to help families defray private education costs. But Arizona lawmakers nixed all funding for its voucher program, which is under review by the state supreme court.

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