This part of summer is a time for patriotism. It’s also the time new state laws go into effect across the nation.
Fiscal years begin July 1 on most financial calendars, and a slew of state government spending regulations kick in each year on that date. Policy laws also hit the books in a wave, though states often mark their independence by enacting such legislation on their own time.
Among the laws set to take effect this year around the U.S. are new abortion limits, gun laws and technology rules. And one state, Wyoming, will start setting up a lottery Monday, leaving only a handful of states without a jackpot drawing.
Oregon lawmakers are still in session, but as you get ready for Fourth of July cookouts and family gatherings, consider this roundup of legislation from Salem so far this session:
• TUITION: Students who graduate from Oregon high schools will be eligible for resident tuition at the state’s seven public universities, even if they can’t prove they’re legally in the United States. Proponents said it would give access to higher education to young people whose parents immigrated illegally, but critics said the state shouldn’t subsidize a college education for people who can’t legally work. The changes will begin next school year.
• DRIVING: In another victory for immigrants living in Oregon without permission, lawmakers voted to create a new type of driver’s license for people who can’t prove their legal presence in the U.S. The licenses will be good for four years — half as long as standard licenses — and can’t be used to board a plane or register to vote. Proponents said the licenses would make roads safer by reducing the number of unlicensed drivers, but critics said it would reward illegal immigration. The measure takes effect Jan. 1, but that could be delayed if activists currently collecting signatures are able to force a statewide vote.
• PENSIONS: Retired government workers earning more than $20,000 a year will see their pension checks grow more slowly. Lawmakers approved a plan backed by Democrats that would curtail annual inflation adjustments, which are currently set at 2 percent. Republicans are pushing for even steeper cuts, and they could get their wish as part of a compromise with Democrats seeking tax increases. Lawmakers said cuts were needed to control rising costs in the pension system, but public employees contend the changes are an unconstitutional breach of their contract with the state. The cuts will take effect only if the Oregon Supreme Court signs off on them, which could take years.
• TANNING: Tanning beds will be off limits to teenagers after Jan. 1. Responding to concerns about skin cancer and comparing tanning beds to cigarettes, lawmakers voted to restrict their use to adults. Minors could still use tanning beds if they get a doctor’s permission. Critics said parents, not the state, are responsible for protecting children from the dangers of ultraviolet lights.
• SMOKING: It will also become illegal to smoke in a car with a minor present. Driver’s caught violating the new law would be liable for a fine of up to $250 on a first offense, though police officers could only enforce it if they pull over the driver for another traffic violation. Proponents of the measure pointed to the dangers of second-hand smoke and said children shouldn’t be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals because their parents chose to smoke. But as with tanning beds, critics said the state shouldn’t be regulating what people choose to do in their own cars.