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11:03 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Sweeping number of new Arizona laws kick in Friday, Aug. 3

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part story on new laws in Arizona.

A number of new Arizona laws, which will kick in Friday, Aug. 3, take aim at a wide range of issues in the state.

The laws, which address issues ranging from business regulation to health and safety are among the more than 300 measures state legislators approved before adjourning in May, some of which took effect immediately.

Business regulation

Fears of things that might happen — but have not — took center stage on this front.

One new law spells out that local governments cannot tax groceries or restaurant food that is not already subject to state sales taxes.

That is aimed at heading off the possibility that some Arizona communities could choose to impose a tax on sodas or sugary drinks as a public health incentive to get people to give them up or drink less. That comes in the wake of such levies in places like San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Lawmakers also voted to bar local governments from requiring private employers to provide health insurance to their workers. Here, too, no Arizona community has enacted such a rule.

Another prohibits cities and counties from imposing new occupational licensing requirements unless it is “necessary to protect the healthy, safety or welfare of the public.’’

Food vendors will no longer have to seek out licenses in each community they operate, with that being replaced by statewide licensing.

Companies will be able to offer new financial products to Arizonans without state licensing under a “regulatory sandbox’’ measure reducing oversight.

And legislators gave Arizona utilities the equivalent of a “get out of jail free’’ card in case voters approve a constitution amendment in November to require them to generate half their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Unable to void a constitutional measure, lawmakers approved a proposal crafted by Arizona Public Service which would make violations subject to penalties of no more than $5,000 — and as little as $100 — effectively allowing the utilities to ignore the mandate and pay the fine instead.

Landlords are getting some relief they sought, with one new law giving a tenant 60 days to dispute itemized deductions from security deposits and another shortening from 21 to 14 days the amount of time they have to hold a tenant’s personal property.

But legislators did agree to allow rape victims to break their leases without penalty or require the landlord to install a new lock.

Health and safety

It would not be a legislative session if lawmakers did not approve at least one measure dealing with abortion.

Existing law contains open-ended questions that health care providers are supposed to ask about the reason for the abortion. That includes whether the procedure is elective or due to some issue of maternal or fetal health.

The new statute gets more specific, with women asked about specific medical conditions and whether the procedure is being sought because the pregnancy is due to rape or incest. And women also will be questioned whether they are being coerced into the abortion, whether they are the victim of sex trafficking and whether they are the victim of domestic violence.

A somewhat related measure spells out for the first time in Arizona law what a judge hearing a divorce case must consider when there are fertilized embryos.

Current law gives judges no particular guidance if there is a dispute, with courts often deciding their fate based on a contract the couple signed while still married. This law says a court must give the embryos to the parent who promises to bring them to term, even if it is the father’s girlfriend or new wife and even if the former wife and biological parent objects.

Another new law requires the state health director to adopt rules for operation of “sober living’’ homes, facilities which are designed to provide a place for people to live while they are dealing with alcohol and drug abuse problems.

Individuals who wrongfully claim their pets are service animals will be subject to $250 fines.

And look out for 200-pound robots, which are now authorized to make deliveries along city sidewalks.

General government

State lawmakers gave some cover — literally — to individuals wanting to influence local races without identifying themselves.

Last year, legislators voted to allow groups organized as “social welfare’’ organizations to spend money on statewide and legislative races without disclosing donors. As of Friday that law is being extended to local elections.

The law most immediately will overrule a vote by Tempe residents on a 91-9 percent margin earlier this year to ban “dark money’’ in local elections. But all that could be undone if voters statewide approve a “right to know’’ constitutional amendment that would trump both the state and local bans on disclosure laws.

Local governments also are now in danger of losing the ability to set their own election dates if there is evidence that turnout if at least 25 percent less than the number of people who show up during statewide elections in the same jurisdiction.

And state lawmakers have, for the first time ever, decided that 16 is the minimum age for marriage. Until now there has been no floor, with younger children able to wed with permission of a judge. And those younger than 18 could marry only with parental permission.

Under the new law, that provision remains — but only if the prospective spouse is not more than three years older than the minor.