New Laws Target Abortion, Immigration, Alcohol And Animals
By Josh Levs, CNN
New laws going into effect Sunday cover some of the nation's most contentious issues, from immigration to abortion, while others deal with tanning beds, tuition and where you can sell a pet.
In all, nearly 40,000 laws were enacted in 2011, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some take effect New Year's Day.
The E-Verify program, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in March, is the focus of several new laws. Photo: Getty Images, courtesy CNN.
Among them is a controversial California provision requiring that schools add "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans" to the list of those whose contributions "to the development of California and the United States" must be taught in schools.
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Another California law adds "gender identity and gender expression" to the list of characteristics that require equal rights.
New laws in Delaware and Hawaii make same-sex couples eligible for civil unions and grant them the same rights and benefits as married couples under the law, the legislature group said.
In New Hampshire, starting January 1, minors will have to inform a parent before getting an abortion or seek a court order to avoid parental notification.
Gov. John Lynch had vetoed the bill, saying there must be an exception for rape, incest and abuse. The legislature overrode his veto.
New laws in Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia require businesses to enroll in the federal E-Verify program to ensure that employees are eligible to work in the United States, the National Conference of State Legislatures says.
California, meanwhile, is prohibiting any state or local government office from requiring that employers use E-Verify, unless it is required by federal law as a condition of receiving federal funds.
E-Verify is a controversial program designed to check a prospective employee's citizenship or immigration status. Supporters say it helps businesses avoid unintentionally hiring illegal immigrants. Critics complain that it is expensive to operate, pushes undocumented workers further underground, and is not always accurate.
Some laws ahead for the new year focus on health issues.
One in California prohibits the production or sale of beer to which caffeine has been added. Another in the state would prohibit the sale of dextromethorphan, or DXM, to minors without a prescription. DXM is in many over-the-counter cough suppressants, but it has been used as a recreational drug, the National Conference of State Legislatures says.
California also will ban stores from selling expired infant food and formula.
Another law in California focuses on school athletes suspected of having a concussion or head injury. A school must remove the athlete from that activity and not allow him or her to resume until clearance is given by a health care provider.
Many of the new laws cited by the legislature group are in California, including one prohibiting the use of ultraviolet tanning devices by minors and another making it a crime to sell "a live animal on any street, highway, public right-of-way, parking lot, carnival, or boardwalk."
Both Oregon and California will prohibit the sale of shark fins in the new year.
Oregon is requiring state colleges and universities to waive tuition and fees for foster children under age 25.
Some new state laws amend crime provisions. Kentucky will require that certain inmates convicted of drug crimes serve the final six months of their sentences in the community, under supervision.
Oregon will require ignition interlock devices — computerized breath analyzers — for people convicted of driving under the influence and people who are under intoxicant diversion agreements, which allow prosecution on a DUI charge to be delayed.
And more states are joining a nationwide movement for tougher laws against distracted driving. Nevada will prohibit all drivers from texting and using handheld devices, the National Conference of State Legislatures says. North Dakota is banning drivers under age 18 from using cell phones in their cars and barring all drivers from texting.