By Kathleen Murphy
The arrival of the new year means no more smoking in Maine
bars, higher ticket prices for glitzy Las Vegas shows, and
a crackdown on rowdy baseball fans in Illinois all
that and much more courtesy of new state laws born at the
stroke of midnight on Jan. 1.
For openers, the flip of the calendar means:
These changes are among the hundreds of new state laws taking
effect immediately, although they will doubtless be followed
throughout the year by reams of other legislation throughout
the 50 states.
Among the New Years Day crop, a California law gives
spam recipients in the Golden State the right to sue for $1,000
for each unsolicited e-mail they receive. In Nebraska, a trip
to the park gets more expensive, with annual permits increasing
from $14 to $17 and daily permits from $2.50 to $3.
New laws in several states take aim at transportation.
Dont even think about driving a car while watching
television in California, thanks to a new law aimed at distracted
drivers. And if youre driving home on a highway from
a New Years party in Illinois, dont go slow in
the left lane. As of midnight, the left lane is only for passing.
With more congestion, more traffic, and with this new
advent of road rage, it really is something we decided we
needed to address, said state Sen. Dan Rutherford, (R),
who sponsored the left-lane law.
Other new state laws cover health care issues affecting everything
from tongue-splitting to who pays for birth control pills.
Illinois will now permit only doctors and dentists to slice
the end of a tongue down the middle so that it resembles a
snakes forked version. And Illinois also requires insurers
who provide drug coverage to include contraceptive drugs and
devices approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Finally,
Illinois insurers also must cover the cost of colorectal cancer
exams and lab tests.
Californias health care laws change significantly by,
among other things, requiring hospitals to have one nurse
for every six patients in general medical wards. And that
state joins Illinois and New York with a ban on over-the-counter
sales of the herbal weight-control supplement ephedra. The
federal government announced Dec. 30 it was issuing a nationwide
ban on the same drug, scheduled to take effect in March at