ST. GEORGE — Among the more than 500 new bills that went into effect in Utah Tuesday include changes to rules about alcohol at restaurants, a bill to let parents allow their kids to roam freely and the prospect of medical marijuana to be used for a narrow range of purposes.
Most of the laws passed by the state’s Legislature this year go into effect 60 days after the end of the short legislative session, which was Tuesday. Here are some of the new laws that may affect you:
Utah is the first in the country to pass a law explicitly saying parents aren’t breaking the law if their kids travel alone to school, the playground or do other activities by themselves, as long as they’re mature enough to handle it. The law doesn’t specify how old children should be to be alone.
The measure has inspired supporters in New York and Texas to follow suit.
Terminally ill people within six months of dying may soon be able to buy a very narrow range of marijuana products from a yet-to-be-created state-run dispensary. Farmers will also be able to grow marijuana for research purposes.
An initiative with much broader rules for consuming marijuana is expected to be on the ballot before voters in November.
Good Samaritan Law
Utahns who break car windows or use force to remove a confined child from a car will now be given with civil immunity.
The bill, which amended the Good Samaritan Law, is aimed at protecting people who break into cars to save children if the environment is too hot or too cold. Animals, however, don’t get the same treatment under this new bill; citizens who break into cars to rescue pets may not have civil immunity.
Alcohol at restaurants
Utah restaurant owners will be able to take down state-mandated signs near their doors reading: “This premise is licensed as a restaurant, not a bar.” The signs were part of a massive liquor-reform bill last year but didn’t seem to be making a difference, lawmakers said.
Bars will still have to post signs identifying their status and saying people under 21 are not allowed in.
People in dating relationships will be able to obtain protective orders against dangerous partners, fixing what lawmakers have described as a gap in current law. Previously, people in a relationship could not get a protective order if they were not married or didn’t live together.
The bill was introduced after the murder of a woman and her 6-year-old son by a former boyfriend last year.
Fireworks-enthusiasts now have six fewer days to fire off their fireworks in July. Instead of allowing fireworks use three days before and after Independence Day and Pioneer Day, the new law allows fireworks two days before the holidays and one day afterward.
Fireworks surrounding New Year’s Eve and the Chinese New Year were not affected by the new bill.
Intentionally killing a police K-9 officer is now a second-degree felony, which can carry the weight of one to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
The new law was sparked after Washington County Sheriff K-9 officer Tess was shot in the face by a carjacking suspect in Washington County in August 2017. Tess survived the attack and is now retired.
Locks on classrooms
School districts now have the option to install barricade locks on classroom doors. While the bill doesn’t give schools funding for the locks, it allows certain locks to be placed on classroom doors that would be breaking fire codes elsewhere.
The timing of the unanimous vote on this bill in the Utah Legislature was coincidental, but came a day after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz gunned down students and staff at his former school in Parkland, Florida.
Free speech at college
There’s a new resolution encouraging state institutions of higher learning to protect students’ civil liberties, especially those covered by the First Amendment.
The idea for this resolution came about after incidents where free speech on Utah campuses may have been encroached, including a free speech lawsuit against Dixie State University in 2015, which was filed after the university tried to prevent students from posting flyers around campus that made fun of political figures.
Teenagers who leave polygamous communities will have more legal protection from parents who could expose them to sexual abuse or forced marriage. The new law changes the system of notifying families about runaways to state that authorities — and not the home where the child is staying — are required to notify the child’s parents.
Utah residents who will be 18 by the general election can vote in the party primary elections, even if they are only 17 at the time. Lawmakers hoped that the measure would increase teenagers’ participation in politics.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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