By Lee Davidson
At the stroke of midnight Tuesday morning, 352 new laws take effect in Utah.
Panhandling along state highways will be outlawed. So will “revenge porn,” spying by drones without a warrant, and dialing or texting with a cellphone while driving. The new laws also will allow many things that had been banned.
More 80-mph speed limits will soon sprout up on state freeways. Some counties will allow election-day voter registration and online voting. People will be able to try out hunting without first completing hunter-education classes.
And plenty of new regulations are coming, too.
A bundle of laws designed to improve air pollution takes effect. Payday lenders will face tighter rules that will give borrowers more protection. And parents will have a new education bill of rights that schools must follow.
They are among 457 bills the Legislature passed this year and that Gov. Gary Herbert either signed or allowed to become laws without his signature.
Most Utah bills become effective 60 days after the Legislature adjourns, which is Tuesday unless otherwise specified.
Here is a look at some of the more interesting new laws coming Tuesday:
• Panhandling. HB101 bans panhandling along state highways, freeways, and their shoulders — but not on public sidewalks.
It upset some lawmakers because it also bans off-the-sidewalk “honk and waves” by candidates and firefighters “fill the boot” drives in traffic. It is designed to replace an anti-panhandling bill that was struck down as discriminatory.
• Revenge porn. Jilted lovers, beware of reprisals: HB71 bans “revenge porn.” The legislation outlaws distributing “intimate images,” such as partial nudity or sexual conduct, of adults without consent and intent to cause emotional distress or harm.
Sponsor Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, said revenge porn has led to suicides, job losses, school transfers, and destroyed families.
• Speed limits. The appropriately numbered HB80 could vastly expand 80 mph-speed zones on Utah freeways. They will now be allowed anywhere that highway officials deem safe and could add more 70-mph and 75-mph zones in areas previously restricted to 65 mph.
Last year, Utah added 289 extra miles of 80-mph speed limits on select rural freeways. Utah and Texas are the only states with such high-speed limits.
• Drones. SB167 stops law enforcement from using drones for spying unless they obtain a search warrant or use it in situations where warrants are not needed, such as where police helicopters are used now in search-and-rescue speed-enforcement operations.
The law had run into turbulence when some lawmakers wanted to know such things as whether it would be legal to shoot down a drone hovering in their backyard.
• Education. HB286 allows elementary schools to instruct parents and kids on preventing child sexual abuse. It was pushed by kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart and abuse victim Deondra Brown of the Five Browns piano group.
SB122 creates an education bill of rights saying that parents are the people primarily in charge of their children’s education, and schools “shall reasonably accommodate” their requests for special or advanced education, absences, advancing early, remaining in a grade, or skipping year-end assessment tests.
HB96 would provide $3 million to set up a grant program for schools and families to implement a high-quality preschool curriculum for at-risk kids. The funding would be used to attract private investors, and if the program successfully keeps kids out of special education, the state would pay them back later on.
SB58 requires schools to be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. Last year, dozens of children were sickened by a carbon-monoxide leak at Montezuma Creek Elementary School.
• Air pollution. HB154 creates a grant program to help those who heat their homes by burning wood to convert to cleaner sources. SB99 requires that at least half of passenger cars purchased by the state government be high-efficiency or alternative-fuel vehicles.
• Payday loans. HB127 includes numerous reforms for the payday loan industry, including giving borrowers time to pay off loans without interest or sanction after 10 weeks of high-interest payments. It comes after the industry was involved in scandals that led to former Attorney General John Swallow’s resignation.
• Elections. SB245 creates a pilot program to allow online voting for disabled people or Utahns in the military. HB156 allows counties to participate in a pilot program allowing election-day voter registration.
• Homeless. HB140 creates tax credits for employers who hire homeless people. HB176 exempts volunteers serving meals to the homeless from a requirement to have a food handler’s permit, which had thrown a wrench into volunteer-provided meals at The Road Home shelter.
• Suicide. HB134 creates a suicide-prevention program that includes free cable-style gun locks and offers a redeemable coupon program for discounts on gun safes.
HB23 will let teachers, resource officers, and others ask a student questions about suicidal thoughts, self-destructive behavior, or thoughts of harming others — and refer them for help, and contact their parents.
• Hunting. SB165 will allow people to try out hunting without first completing a hunter education course. Officials hope it may lead to more hunting licenses and more money for wildlife management.
• Autism. SB57 will require insurance companies to pay for autism treatment for children.
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