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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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9/12/2013 9:30:00 AM
New state laws taking effect Friday

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Come Friday, those ferrets will be forbidden in restaurants.

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 Friday 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.

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 anything, whether 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.

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 others who contend they are designed largely to generate revenues 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, meaning anything with a number designation.

The new law prohibits ADOT from allowing those cameras without first studying that they actually would reduce speed as well as accidents. 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.

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.


- 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.

- Cell phone 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.

- A change in the state's religious freedom laws will provide protections to those who claim someone's demand for services violates their religious beliefs. It would, for example, permit a wedding photographer who does not believe in same-sex weddings to refuse to take pictures of the event.

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

Public health and welfare:

- Researchers at state universities will now be able to study the effects of marijuana on certain medical conditions and whether there is evidence of the drug's usefulness for things like post-traumatic stress syndrome. The measure comes at the behest of a University of Arizona physician who said an existing ban on marijuana on campuses had precluded her work.

- Minors will no longer be allowed to purchase 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 which is used for things like welfare payments will no longer be able to use that card at automated teller machines at liquor stores, gaming facilities and "adult' establishments.

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 government 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.

Public safety:

- Convicted drunk 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.

- Cities will no longer be able to destroy firearms that are voluntarily surrendered. The new law tightens up existing statutes which require weapons that are seized to be sold off.

- 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.


- 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.

- School bus drivers will be turning on those red lights and extending the "stop' sign when at all places where they are picking up or discharging students. The current law, which also requires motorists to stop, now applies only to public roads. This extends that to private roads and driveways.


- 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 celebrants 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.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013
Article comment by: John Kotulski

So you can discriminate against homosexuals because of your religious freedom? They would not be allowed to not do business with a person of a different faith, why is it ok to discriminate against a person of different sexual orientation?

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Lawyers will now need a Brinks truck outside
the court house to get to the bank.
Ambulance chasers will be driving Mercedes.

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013
Article comment by: @ GOP at its best

Well, that's what you get with a bunch of legislators who are trying to catch up with the Dems. After all, Arizona still doesn't have anywhere near as many laws as California.

Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Article comment by: GOP AT ITS BEST

245 more laws? How many stupid, lunatic, idiot laws did we remove? The AZ GOP at its best........way to go tea bags.

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by: Only dogs and horses in restaurants!

Where's the beef?

Now we need little signs to advise the rats...

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Article comment by: All those in favor of 'small government' need to take notice of the GOP majority-

That worked so hard to slim down the govt' for you.

If you feel hoodwinked- that's because you were.

Enjoy your 'freedom' while it lasts, those you elected are working hard to eliminate it.

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Article comment by: Carl Nye

Ah, 245 more laws on Arizona's books. How did we citizens manage to get by without all this additional "guidance"? Law enforcement and private prisons must be jumping with joy at the increased job security as more of us become subject to arrest. But thank goodness we now have a state day of the cowboy. This will complement the cowboy carrying the state gun.

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