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Almost 400 new laws take effect Friday

Come this Friday, women who want an abortion will be asked new questions, consumers can have their credit frozen for free, Grade A eggs can stay on the shelf longer, and 15-year-old children won’t be able to legally marry.

There also will be new limits on the ability of cities to require public disclosure of campaign donations.   And judges will be deciding who gets frozen embryos following a divorce based on who wants to actually use them.

The Sonorasaurus,Arizona's state dinosaur (Wikimedia Commons)

The Sonorasaurus,Arizona’s state dinosaur (Wikimedia Commons)

Oh, and Arizona will have an official state dinosaur: the Sonorasaurus.

State legislators approved more than 300 measures before adjourning in May. While some took effect immediately, most kick in on Aug. 3.

And what happens that day covers a grab-bag of issues.

Law and order:

Lawmakers voted to make it illegal to have “non-disclosure agreements” that bar someone who has settled a case of sexual assault or harassment from responding to questions from police or prosecutors or making statements in any criminal proceedings.

Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, called those agreements a “sexual predator loophole.” She said they leave future potential victims unaware that the person with whom they are dealing has a history of harassment or rape.

And the new law makes such NDAs totally off limits if the person involved is a public official and uses public dollars for the settlement.

Another bill is a reaction to existing law and court rulings on child molestation that say someone charged with touching a child could claim that the action was “not motivated by sexual interest.”

Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, said it’s not fair to put that burden on the accused.  And he questioned why someone who might be changing a diaper should have to go to court in the first place.

The measure he crafted says that child molestation laws do not apply to touching “that a reasonable person would recognize as normal caretaking interactions or responsibilities with a minor or vulnerable adult.”

Detail with damage automobile after a car crash accident

Stock Photo

Lawmakers, alarmed at the increasing presence of wrong-way drivers on urban freeways, also agreed to create a special category of offense for doing that, with a $500 fine and a requirement to attend traffic survival school. And those who are drunk while doing that will lose their licenses for at least a year.

In the traffic department, lawmakers also voted to prohibit photo radar citations from being sent out by the private companies that run these operations for cities and counties without first being reviewed by a law enforcement officer.

There also are new penalties for those who get into accidents that kill or injure others if they are driving without insurance.

And anticipate paying an extra $4 on traffic tickets to pay for police officer equipment and training.

Consumer rights:

One big change should make it easier for Arizonans to protect themselves from identity theft.

A decade ago the Legislature voted to allow credit reporting agencies to charge a $5 fee every time someone wants to lock their credit to prevent anyone else from opening a new account or borrowing money in their name.

The problem for consumers is that fee applies not on each time someone freezes a credit report but when a person “unfreezes” it to finance a purchase, such as for a new car. And putting the freeze back on logs another $5 fee.

Then there’s the fact the fee applies to each party. So for a husband and wife that same series of actions now totals $30.

Finally, there are three credit agencies, each getting to charge a fee. And since it takes contacting all three to get full protection, the cost triples to $90.

As of Friday, those fees will become illegal.

Also disappearing at the same time will be fees on gift cards. The only exception would be for bank-issued debit or reloadable prepaid cards.

But people who declare bankruptcy will get to keep more of their personal property.

In general, when people seek protection from creditors they are required to sell off assets to pay their debts. But federal bankruptcy law allows each state to decide how much individuals can keep.

Under the old law, for example, individuals could have one typewriter, one computer, one bicycle, one sewing machine, a family bible a burial plot and one shotgun, rifle or pistol if the total value does not exceed $1,000.

Now the total value is $2,000. And at the behest of gun-rights advocates, lawmakers decided that those who file bankruptcy can separately keep as many weapons as they want as long as their total value is $2,000.

(Photo by Preston Keres/U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

(Photo by Preston Keres/U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)

And those Grade A eggs on store shelves? The new law says they can be dated as far out as 45 days from being packaged after lawmakers said they were convinced there is no health hazard.

But consumers wanting something fresher can instead seek out Grade AA eggs which still cannot be sold after 24 days.

Education:

One of the first groups to be affected are children in kindergarten through third grade: They will get at least two recess periods a day.

The new law is the culmination of a decade-long battle by some lawmakers and education advocates who contend that letting kids get up and move around actually will help their academic performance.

Prior efforts were sidelined amid concerns that more time on the playground means less time on academics. But Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, crafted the measure to say that the lunch break can count as one of the breaks. And the law does not specify how long each recess period must be.

Students in grades 4 and 5 have to wait until 2019 for their two recess periods.

A separate law that also kicks in on Friday also requires that play be incorporated as an instructional strategy for kindergarten and that activities be academically meaningful.

state-seal_620x330Another education bill permits substitute teachers to use classroom time to meet requirements for a standard teaching certificate. And teachers and school officials will be permitted to post the state motto “Ditat deus” in classrooms, along with the English translation of “God enriches.”

One bill falls into the category of parental rights.

It requires schools to notify parents if their child is subject to harassing, threatening or intimidating conduct. That same measure also mandates notification in the event of a suspected concussion and requires school boards to develop information on the dangers of heat-related illness, sudden cardiac death and prescription opioid use.

Local governments will now be prohibited from requiring private schools to be located on parcels of at least an acre.

And in the higher-education category, one new law requires the Board of Regents and community colleges to adopt “free expression” policies designed to allow public areas of schools to be open to any speaker invited by a student, student group or faculty member.

Business regulation:

Fears of things that might happen — but have not — took center stage on this front.

One new law spells out that local governments cannot tax groceries or restaurant food that is not already subject to state sales taxes.

That is aimed at heading off the possibility that some Arizona communities could choose to impose a tax on sodas or sugary drinks as a public health incentive to get people to give them up or drink less. That comes in the wake of such levies in places like San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Lawmakers also voted to bar local governments from requiring private employers to provide health insurance to their workers. Here, too, no Arizona community has enacted such a rule.

Another prohibits cities and counties from imposing new occupational licensing requirements unless it is “necessary to protect the healthy, safety or welfare of the public.”

Food vendors will no longer have to seek out licenses in each community they operate, with that being replaced by statewide licensing.

Companies will be able to offer new financial products to Arizonans without state licensing under a “regulatory sandbox” measure reducing oversight.

And legislators gave Arizona utilities the equivalent of a “get out of jail free” card in case voters approve a constitution amendment in November to require them to generate half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Unable to void a constitutional measure, lawmakers approved a proposal crafted by Arizona Public Service which would make violations subject to penalties of no more than $5,000 — and as little as $100 — effectively allowing the utilities to ignore the mandate and pay the fine instead.

Landlords are getting some relief they sought, with one new law giving a tenant 60 days to dispute itemized deductions from security deposits and another shortening from 21 to 14 days the amount of time they have to hold a tenant’s personal property.

But legislators did agree to allow rape victims to break their leases without penalty or require the landlord to install a new lock.

Health and safety:

It would not be a legislative session if lawmakers did not approve at least one measure dealing with abortion.

abortion-doctor-620Existing law contains open-ended questions that health care providers are supposed to ask about the reason for the abortion. That includes whether the procedure is elective or due to some issue of maternal or fetal health.

The new statute gets more specific, with women asked about specific medical conditions and whether the procedure is being sought because the pregnancy is due to rape or incest. And women also will be questioned whether they are being coerced into the abortion, whether they are the victim of sex trafficking and whether they are the victim of domestic violence.

A somewhat related measure spells out for the first time in Arizona law what a judge hearing a divorce case must consider when there are fertilized embryos.

Current law gives judges no particular guidance if there is a dispute, with courts often deciding their fate based on a contract the couple signed while still married. This law says a court must give the embryos to the parent who promises to bring them to term, even if it is the father’s girlfriend or new wife and even if the former wife and biological parent objects.

Another new law requires the state health director to adopt rules for operation of “sober living” homes,  facilities which are designed to provide a place for people to live while they are dealing with alcohol and drug abuse problems.

Individuals who wrongfully claim their pets are service animals will be subject to $250 fines.

And look out for 200-pound robots which are now authorized to make deliveries along city sidewalks.

General government:

State lawmakers gave some cover — literally — to individuals wanting to influence local races without identifying themselves.

Last year legislators voted to allow groups organized as “social welfare” organizations to spend money on statewide and legislative races without disclosing donors. As of Friday that law is being extended to local elections.

DarkMOney620The law most immediately will overrule a vote by Tempe residents on a 91-9 percent margin earlier this year to ban “dark money” in local elections. But all that could be undone if voters statewide approve a “right to know” constitutional amendment that would trump both the state and local bans on disclosure laws.

Local governments also are now in danger of losing the ability to set their own election dates if there is evidence that turnout of at least 25 percent less than the number of people who show up during statewide elections in the same jurisdiction.

And state lawmakers have, for the first time ever, decided that 16 is the minimum age for marriage. Until now there has been no floor, with younger children able to wed with permission of a judge. And those younger than 18 could marry only with parental permission.

Under the new law, that provision remains — but only if the prospective spouse is not more than three years older than the minor.

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