Myriad new state laws take effect today

2013-09-13T00:00:00Z 2013-09-18T19:14:55Z Myriad new state laws take effect todayBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
September 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX — Starting today, ferrets will be forbidden in restaurants as service animals.

Cities will have new hurdles before putting up photo radar on state highways.

And there will be no more idiots or lunatics in Arizona — at least not officially speaking.

What makes today so important is it’ll be 90 days since state lawmakers adjourned this year’s session. And with few exceptions, that’s when most of the 256 laws they adopted take effect.

SERVICE ANIMALS

The issue of ferrets arises because lawmakers, following the federal lead, have decided to narrow exactly what can be considered a “service animal.” Until now, that has allowed individuals with disabilities to say that they need pretty much any critter to help them physically or psychologically. That has led to complaints from restaurant owners, who generally are prohibited from imposing restrictions on service animals.

This new law pretty much limits that to dogs and miniature horses. The latter were included because of not only their ability to be trained but their greater physical strength plus the fact that they live longer than dogs.

PHOTO RADAR

The change in law on photo radar is the latest in what has become a perennial fight between those who believe the automated cameras promote safer roads and those who contend they are designed largely to generate revenue for cities.

Arizona removed all the photo radar cameras from its highways several years ago. But the state Department of Transportation has allowed cities to put up their own photo enforcement cameras on state roads.

The new law prohibits ADOT from allowing those cameras without first studying that they actually would reduce speed as well as wrecks. State permission could be for a maximum of three years. And renewals would be allowed only with information showing the impact the cameras have had.

None of this affects the ability of cities to have photo enforcement on their own streets.

LUNATICS

The legislation on idiots actually is an update of existing laws that define a “mentally ill person” to include “an idiot, an insane person, a lunatic or a person non compos.” Another section of law exempts idiots and lunatics from jury service.

That brought concerns from some who questioned whether that language can be not only hurtful but might prevent some people from getting the mental health care they need. So the definition was repealed. And the section on jury service now reads “persons with serious mental illness.”

While many of the changes in state law that take effect Friday affect largely those in specific businesses or practices, several have broader implications.

PRIVACY

Library patrons will not have to fear that their reading habits of electronic books is anyone else’s business. Current law already makes lending records off-limits without a court order. This updates that law to encompass e-books.

Cellphone users should now be getting fewer unwanted texts. The new law makes it illegal to use automated equipment to send unsolicited text messages to people urging them to buy a product or service.

Government agencies will now have new restrictions on their ability to keep records of certain information about firearms and their owners.

HEALTH AND WELFARE

Minors no longer will be allowed to buy electronic cigarettes. The law expands existing laws against giving or selling tobacco products to minors to now cover these devices, which contain nicotine, that use a heating element to create a vapor.

Anyone with an electronic benefit transfer card that is used for things like welfare payments will no longer be able to use that card at automated-teller machines at liquor stores, gambling facilities and “adult” establishments.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Convicted drunken drivers are losing the ability to have daily alcohol testing as an alternative to installing an ignition interlock on any vehicles they drive. A change in federal laws makes the interlocks the only option. These devices prevent a car from starting without a “clean’’ breath sample.

A separate measure spells out that these interlocks are not subject to state sales taxes.

Taxi drivers are going to be required to have pre-employment drug testing in additional to the current mandate of a criminal background check. The law also mandates random drug tests on an annual basis.

Police have been given new laws designed to make it easier to arrest someone who has stolen scrap metal. The law is aimed at those who steal and traffic in things like copper wire and pipes, which, because of their high cash value, are often taken from homes and businesses.

EDUCATION

It will become easier to fire teachers who administrators say are not performing. A new law allows schools to place even experienced teachers on probation, the first step toward possible dismissal. The law also removes the 90-day requirement a school board has to give a teacher a written preliminary notice of inadequacy before not reemploying that person.

Students injured in playground accidents will no longer trigger a report to law enforcement. The new law eliminates such incidents from the requirements for teachers and others to file reports to the state of possible child abuse. But incidents still will need to be reported to parents.

High schoolers are going to be taught more about personal finance as part of social studies programs. The law says that has to include explanations on how education, career choices and family obligations affect future income as well as comparisons of the advantages and disadvantages of using various forms of credit.

LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT

Fired workers may have a harder time collecting jobless benefits. A new law puts new requirements on those seeking payments to provide documentation to prove that they were fired. And it allows the Department of Economic Security, which administers benefits, to consider verbal claims by employers that the worker abandoned his or her job.

Local governments in Arizona have lost their right to enact “living wage” laws as has been done in cities in some other states. These laws require workers to be paid more than the minimum wage or provided with certain benefits. While no Arizona city has done that to date, this measure now makes that off-limits.

Teachers at church-run schools will no longer qualify for unemployment benefits if they are fired. Prior law had exempted only those working directly for a church or religious institution. This extends that to anyone whose duties include any amount of religious instruction.

Individuals working for Arizona employers who are injured while working elsewhere are subject to workers’ compensation laws in this state. The measure is designed largely to benefit the owners of sports franchises who do not want to be financially responsible for the higher benefits available in places like California, even if the player’s injury occurs there.

Some discharged members of the military will find it easier to get commercial driver’s licenses. A new law permits ADOT to exempt those with certain military training from having to take a driver’s test.

TAXES

Dental patrons who buy those invisible braces will no longer be subject to state sales taxes. The change was pushed through by dentists who said it is wrong to tax those while not taxing metal braces, as the latter has little actual value, with most of the cost being the non-taxable services.

Those nonalcoholic energy drinks are now going to be considered food. That is important, as nutritional supplements are taxed but food is not.

ODDS AND ENDS

Arizona now has an official “State Day of the Cowboy” on its books. But would-be celebrators will have to wait a bit. It’s the fourth Saturday in June.

You could find your county offices closed this year on Nov. 29. That’s because lawmakers gave counties permission to make that a holiday, giving workers the day off, instead of Columbus Day.

There could be a rush of incumbent politicians announcing their future plans. The new law scraps the prohibition against someone in public office formally announcing a bid for another post more than a year before the end of his or her term.

Tenants living in rented property are now entitled to notice from a landlord if the property is being put up for a trustee’s sale after foreclosure.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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