SALT LAKE CITY – More than 50 new laws took effect Wednesday in Utah, including measures requiring high school students to pass a U.S. citizenship test, restrictions on electronic-cigarette sellers and expanded death benefits for families of fallen police officers and firefighters.
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Most of the 500 laws state legislators passed this year took effect May 12, a default date under Utah law that marks 60 days from the end of the legislative session.
Many of the bills that took effect Wednesday are budget-related and coincide with the July 1 start of the new state budget year. Here's a look at some of them:
One measure is set to restructure Utah's gas tax and is expected to deliver an additional $100 million to the state over the next two years.
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The measure converts the current cents-per-gallon flat rate into a percentage that will adjust with the changing price of gas. The tax will jump by an equivalent of about 5 cents per gallon to start, the first hike in that tax since 1997.
Lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert said the change was needed to help close an $11 billion shortfall for road and bridge repairs over the next few decades.
The law also allows counties to propose raising local sales taxes by 0.25 percent to pay for their transportation needs.
Many cities and counties are considering putting those proposed increases before local voters this fall.
Under a new law, Utah high school students will have to pass a U.S. citizenship test to graduate from high school next year.
The initiative was pushed by the Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute, which is working to see all 50 states approve similar laws. Utah lawmakers who supported the idea said it will make new graduates better informed and more active citizens.
The law will require high school and adult education program students to correctly answer 35 of 50 questions on the test.
BENEFITS FOR FALLEN OFFICERS, FIREFIGHTERS
Families of fallen firefighters, police and corrections officers will receive health insurance and six months' of the public safety officer's salary under another new law.
The law applies to the families of firefighters and officers killed in the line of duty. Before the new law, families would lose health insurance within 30 days of the officer's death.
The new law allows the surviving spouse to be eligible for health coverage until remarrying or qualifying for Medicare. Any children would remain eligible for that health coverage until they turn 26.
The new law also requires a state advocate to help families with paperwork as they navigate benefits available to them after a loved one's death.
A new law restricts sales of electronic cigarettes by barring sellers from advertising them as a tool to help quit smoking. The measure also requires sellers to get a special license to sell the products if their shop is not already licensed to sell tobacco.
The law requires the State Tax Commission to set rules for e-cigarette labeling and quality.
Sellers who don't get a tobacco license or special e-cigarette license could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
A new police-transparency law requires law enforcement agencies to report any money or property they seize that they believe may be linked to a crime.
The asset forfeiture law requires police to note what offense was believed to have been committed, what was seized and how, and any property that was returned to the person, among other details.
The state Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice will collect that data every year and issue a report by late April summarizing it.