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New Year Brings New Laws

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 31) -- Many new federal and state laws go into effect on Jan. 1. Here is a sampling of laws for the New Year:

Federal Laws

  • The 2.3 percent federal pay raise passed by Congress takes effect. Members of the House and Senate, along with Cabinet members and federal judges, will be entitled to at least an additional $3,000 a year. Base pay is $133,000 a year for a legislator. It's Congress' first pay raise since 1993.

  • Car leases will get a bit more honest under Federal Reserve Board regulations. Car dealers are required to provide customers with a disclosure form that spells out the costs and terms of the lease, including what the car will be worth after your lease expires. The lease also must detail additional charges for exceeding mileage limits.

  • Two new IRAs, or Individual Retirement Accounts, become available, though the "retirement" name is becoming outdated. Education IRAs can be opened for children, with a maximum of $500 a year invested. Roth IRAs allow a maximum of $2,000 invested per contributor.

  • A $1,500 federal tax credit for college students takes effect. Some schools postponed tuition deadlines so students would qualify under the law's effective date.

  • A revised estate tax law allows the transfer of a family-owned business to heirs tax free to a limit of $1.3 million. The previous limit for a tax-free inheritance was $600,000.

  • New regulations included in the 1998 federal budget provide that any doctor who accepts a private fee from a Medicare beneficiary must stop treating all Medicare patients for two years.

  • States that failed to meet the Oct. 1, 1997, deadline for employing two-parent families on welfare will begin to be penalized by the federal government.

  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations on what foreign phone companies can charge for overseas calls are changing. The changes reportedly will reduce the average cost of an overseas call to 20 cents a minute from 88 cents a minute over six years.

  • The FCC also begins providing subsidies to schools, libraries and rural health clinics for Internet hookups. Funded under the Telecommunications Act, $675 million is provided for the first half of 1998.

State Laws

California:

  • The minimum penalty for running a red light is boosted from $104 to $270.

  • The penalty for furnishing liquor to minors jumps to a mandatory $1,000 and 24 hours of community service.

  • Skateboarding and in-line skating are defined as "hazardous recreational activities," making cities and counties immune to lawsuits from people injured on public property while engaged in them.

  • The amount of time a car alarm can continue blaring before the car is towed away is cut from 45 to 20 minutes.

  • Insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against victims of domestic violence.

  • Crimes in which a gun is displayed will have sentences boosted 10 years, 20 years if the criminal fired a gun, and 25 years if anyone was shot.

  • Landowners can kill wild pigs without obtaining an advance if the pig is threatening to damage or destroy property. The killing must be reported the next day, and the pig's carcass must be put to use.

  • Women have the right to breast-feed in public.

  • Workers in certain industries will not be entitled to daily overtime after eight hours of work in a day, but will be entitled only after 40 hours in a week.

  • It become illegal for a minor to have his or her body pierced without parental permission. Ear piercing is excluded.

  • Smoking in bars, bingo parlors and gambling card clubs is prohibited.

  • The cloning of human beings is banned.

Colorado:

  • A two-trout limit on streams west of the Continental Divide and a four-trout limit on lakes goes into effect.

Florida:

  • Jury pools are expanded to include all licensed drivers, rather than only registered voters, in an effort to increase diversity on juries.

Georgia:

  • Persons under 18 who are not attending school cannot obtain a driver's license and a student who drops out of school has his or her license suspended.
  • The state clemency board will not parole any criminals who have served less than 90 percent of their sentences

Illinois:

  • A law bans adult entertainment facilities from operating within 1,000 feet of a church, school, day care center, cemetery, public park or public housing.

  • A graduated driver's license system takes effect. A parent must verify that a teenager has completed 25 hours of practice behind the wheel before the teenager receives a license. And any drivers under 21 will have their licenses suspended for two or more moving violations within a two year period.

  • The state's Permanency Initiative goes into effect. The birth parents of children in foster homes will have their parental rights terminated in 12 months so that the adoption process can be speeded up. A pilot project in Cook County has been reported to be very successful.

Louisiana:

  • It becomes a crime for a minor to possess any tobacco products. Punishments include a maximum $250 fine or tobacco counseling.

  • Insurance companies that pay for mastectomies must also pay for reconstructive breast surgery

  • Shrimpers are required to use smaller nets in state waters. The new limits are 130 feet for cork line and 165 feet for lead line.

New Hampshire:

  • Three unenforced 150-year-old abortion laws are repealed, making New Hampshire the only state without any abortion laws on its books. The repealed laws had prohibited abortion of a fetus whose movement could be felt, mandated second degree murder charges against a doctor if a woman died after an abortion, and established a one-year jail sentence for inducing an abortion.

New York:

  • A motorist who leaves the scene of an accident which involves a cat without reporting it to police can be fined. Similar laws already exist for dogs, horses and cows

  • The fine for failing to report a fatal animal accident increases from $25 to $100 for a first offense and $50 to $150 for a second offense.

Texas:

  • It becomes a crime for a minor to possess any tobacco products. Punishments include a maximum $250 fine or tobacco counseling.

In Other News:

Wednesday Dec. 31, 1997

The Year's Top Political Stories
New Year Brings New Laws
GOP To Consider Abortion Litmus Test
Clinton Retreats With Golf, Seminars And Dog Walking
Thurmond Decides To Rest Longer In Hospital





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