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New laws take effect Aug. 9; license plate covers illegal, who can teach in classrooms, and more

Gov. Doug Ducey speaks with reporters in May 2017 on criticism by teachers of his decision to sign legislation expanding the state’s voucher program.

Capitol Media Services/Courtesy

Gov. Doug Ducey speaks with reporters in May 2017 on criticism by teachers of his decision to sign legislation expanding the state’s voucher program.

2017 Arizona Legislature, by the numbers

House of Representatives - 35 Republicans and 25 Democrats

Senate - 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats

Deadline for adjourning this year (Saturday the week of the 100th day, counting Saturdays and Sundays) - April 22

Actual adjournment - May 10

Length of session - 122 days

Length of last year’s session - 117

Longest session - 173 days in 1988

Number of bills introduced this session (not including miscellaneous resolutions and memorials) - 1,079

Last session - 1,247

Number sent to governor - 355

Last session - 388

Bills signed this session - 344

Bills vetoed - 11

Veto record - 58, set in 2005 by Janet Napolitano

PHOENIX — Got one of those plastic covers on your license plate to thwart photo radar?

Get out your screwdriver. As of Wednesday, Aug. 9, they’re illegal.

It’s one of several hundred new laws that kick in that same day, the fruits of this year’s 122-day legislative session. Others range from expanding who can teach in Arizona classrooms and when police need warrants to track cell phones to exactly how much of someone’s foot a podiatrist can amputate.

For the record, it’s a toe — but not the whole foot.

There also are some odd new statutes including one that specifically allows counties to put up signs that say, “Enter or proceed with caution. Use at your own risk. This surface is not maintained by the county.”

Many of the changes, however, will not take effect yet.

For example, one exempts profits made by those who buy and sell U.S. gold and silver coins from the state’s capital gains tax. But the change does not kick in until the coming calendar year.

Ditto on new requirements for obtaining a hairstyling license.

Legislation to bar the state’s newest drivers from using cell phones does not take effect until July 1, 2018.

And a bill to set up procedures for people to argue about what they are charged by out-of-network hospitals does not become law until Jan. 1, 2019.

The measure on license plates culminates years of efforts by Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson.

But Farley did not present SB 1073 as a method of helping police catch more speeding motorists with photo radar, a technology that has proven unpopular. Instead, he sold it as a law-and-order measure, saying that bad guys will get away because police officers and witnesses to crimes won’t be able to read the license plate of a vehicle.

The new laws, in general, fall into several areas.

Law and order

Legislators voted to curb the ability of police and prosecutors to seize property, requiring they prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the items they want to confiscate were involved in criminal activity.

That’s not as stringent as required to gain a criminal conviction where a judge or jury must find someone is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But it is more than now where all a prosecutor needs prove by a “preponderance of evidence” there’s a link between the property and a crime. That is basically a balancing test, meaning all a judge need find is that the evidence show it’s more likely than not there is a link.

The change is important because police and prosecutors can seize property without ever charging the owner with a crime, much less getting a conviction.

Other new laws include:

• Requiring police to get warrants when tracking the location of cell phones.

• Expanding the definition of “terrorism” to include acts intended to coerce civilians and “further the goals, desires, aims, public pronouncements, manifestos or political objectives of any terrorist organization.”

• Allowing for enhanced sentence if the defendant acted because the victim was a peace officer, whether or not that officer was on duty.

• Requiring the Department of Corrections to provide notice to area residents when locating a correctional facility nearby.

• Allowing community notification of registered sex offenders to be done electronically.

Guns

It wouldn’t be a legislative session if lawmakers did not enact some measure under the banner of protecting Second Amendment rights.

The measure with the broadest implications doesn’t even mention firearms. Instead, it bars state and local governments from mandating that anyone who sells any property from requiring a background check on the buyer.

The effect, though, would be to preclude Arizona or local governments from closing what’s been called the “gun-show loophole” in federal law, which says background checks are not required for sales by individuals, including at gun shows, no matter how many weapons they sell.

Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, derided contention the measure is not about guns.

“No one is talking about background checks for refrigerator sales or microwave sales or dining room furniture sales,” he said during floor debate. “Let’s just be serious.”

Other bills:

• Prohibiting local governments from telling employees or independent contractors they cannot have a weapon that is on their own property or in their own vehicle.

• Saying the use of “smart” guns which can fire only if held by authorized person can’t be mandated.

• Carving out an exception from laws that require $600,000 in reserves for insurers who offer prepaid legal services: It is now $50,000 — but only for those who specialize in lawful use of firearms.

Education

Lawmakers adopted several measures that could have sweeping impacts. One of the biggest would expand eligibility for who can get a voucher of public funds to attend private or parochial schools.

Started in 2011, what are formally known as “education scholarship accounts” were designed for students with special needs. But proponents have incrementally expanded it to where it now also includes foster children, reservation residents and children attending schools rated D and F.

The new law removes all those conditions. But backers had to agree on a cap of enrollment of 30,000 by 2023. Whether it becomes law, however, is another question.

Foes have until close of business Tuesday to submit at least 75,321 valid signatures on referendum petitions. If successful, the law remains on “hold” until November 2018 when voters get the last word.

Other education bills include:

• Easing requirements for people from other states to be able to teach in Arizona and allowing local school districts to decide who to certify as teachers through a “classroom-based preparation program.”

• Imposing new requirements on school districts to make new high school textbooks available for public review for at least 60 days.

• Allowing children at public schools and children’s camp to use sunscreen with a note or prescription from a doctor.

• Requiring schools to report on suspensions and expulsions involving illegal substances.

Health and welfare

Arizona now will have what may be the most comprehensive requirements in the country on what doctors have to do if a baby is born alive during an abortion.

Until now the law has said if there is a live birth it is the duty of doctors in attendance to see that “all available means and medical skills are used to preserve and maintain the life of such fetus or embryo.” But doctors who testified during hearings on SB 1367 told lawmakers they read that law to require no special efforts if there is no reasonable chance the child will survive. They said it is preferable to provide comfort for the baby and, if the mother wants, give it to the mother to hold.

The new law provides the first-ever definition in Arizona of “delivered alive.” That covers any fetus or embryo, no matter how premature, who shows breathing, a heartbeat, umbilical cord pulsation or “definite movement of voluntary muscles.”

At that point, medical professionals must do everything possible to keep the baby alive.

A separate provision says any clinic that does abortions on women beyond the 20th week of pregnancy must have someone available with neonatal skills to care for the child if born alive.

Lawmakers also approved:

• Expanding existing laws designed to protect health care providers and institutions against discrimination for refusing to facilitate in someone ending his or her own life.

• Repealing a requirement for fingerprints for welfare and food stamp recipients after it was determined the cost to administer it exceeded any fraud that was prevented.

• Requiring the Department of Economic Security to post information online about those who have not made child support payments in at least 12 months.

• Permitting judges to create exemptions from laws that suspend the driver’s license of those who are in arrears on child support, a move designed to ensure they keep their jobs and can start making payments.

Elections

Lawmakers moved on two fronts to impose new hurdles on the ability of individuals to propose and enact their own laws through initiatives.

Until now judges have said that initiatives can be on the ballot if they are in “substantial compliance” with election laws. HB 2244 says there has to be “strict compliance,” disqualifying petition drives for what could be minor violations.

A judge is set to decide Aug. 7 whether the change is unconstitutional.

But that is unlikely to be the last word, with the question of the legality of the measure ultimately decided by the state Supreme Court.

Another new restriction eliminates the ability of groups hoping to put measures on the ballot to pay circulators based on the number of signatures they gather.

But this measure is subject to a referendum campaign, with opponents hoping to get enough signatures by the end of the day Tuesday to give voters the last word.

Other ways election laws are being changed:

• Stipulating that envelopes used for early ballots have to be designed so no one can see through them.

• Making it illegal to vote in more than one state in elections featuring federal offices that are held on the same day.

• Allowing voters to opt to get the legally required publicity pamphlet about issues on the election ballot by email rather than snail mail.

• Imposing new requirement for meetings and voting by homeowners’ associations.

Odds and ends

• Exempting those who break into a locked vehicle to rescue a child or pet in imminent danger from civil liability.

• Putting new limits on who can file lawsuits over issues of disability access.

• Baring people from calling themselves “art therapists” unless they are registered with the Art Therapy Credentials Board.

• Repealing limits on how much landlords can pay in “finder fees” to those who locate prospective tenants.

• Enacting new regulations on intrastate movers, including prohibition against refusing to deliver goods if the customers pays the price agreed upon before the move.

• Imposing new limits on the ability of counties to regulate home-based businesses regarding things like traffic, parking and delivery.

• Increasing the number of licenses to sell beer and wine.