New England states readying for range of new laws July 1

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Hands-free driving in the “Live Free or Die” state and a tax on even the smallest vacation rentals in Rhode Island are just two of the new laws taking effect in New England on July 1. Connecticut is cracking down on the use of restraints on students while Massachusetts workers will benefit from one of the most generous paid sick time laws in the country. Here’s a look at some of the new laws taking effect:
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NEW HAMPSHIRE
HANDS FREE: New Hampshire becomes the 15th state to bar drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving. The new “hands-free” law applies to all hand-held devices, including GPS units, tablets and laptops. Current law bans typing and sending text messages while driving but does not prohibit reading text messages, surfing the Internet, dialing cellphones or programming GPS devices. Violators face a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for subsequent offenses within a 24-month period.
CRIMINAL CHARGES/MINORS: The age at which minors can be charged as adults in criminal proceedings is increasing from 17 to 18, but the new law still allows 17-year-olds to be charged as adults for certain serious felonies.
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MASSACHUSETTS
SICK PAY: Massachusetts voters in November approved what backers called the nation’s strongest paid sick time law, covering an estimated one in three workers who are not currently entitled to sick days. The law allows workers to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick time in a given year, earning one hour for every 30 hours they put in. Companies with 10 or fewer employees would be exempt, but many small business owners remain concerned about how it will impact them, particularly those who rely heavily on part-time, temporary or seasonal employees. Workers can use accrued sick days to care for themselves or for a family member, but employers can demand a doctor’s note for absences longer than three days.
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RHODE ISLAND
VACATION RENTALS TAX: Vacationers in Rhode Island will feel the pinch of a law expanding the definition of hotel — for sales tax purposes — to even small bed-and-breakfasts and private home rentals. The measure is a controversial piece of the 2016 budget and is expected to generate nearly $7 million in additional revenue this fiscal year — mostly through taxing private vacation home rentals.
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CONNECTICUT
SEX ASSAULT TREATMENT: University of Connecticut students lobbied into law the ability of sexual assault forensic examiners to treat victims at health care facilities operated by a college or university. The students wanted such examinations to be made available at the school’s main campus in Storrs, because the closest hospital is eight miles away. The law also requires forensic examiners to receive 40 hours of classroom training on legal issues, such as chain of custody. Last summer, UConn settled a lawsuit filed by five women who said the school didn’t take their claims of campus sexual assaults seriously.
STUDENT RESTRAINTS: The use of restraints and seclusion rooms in schools will be restricted to only emergencies. State officials have said more than 30,000 incidents of restraint and seclusion are reported annually, affecting more than 2,500 students. The Connecticut Board of Education determined the children typically subjected to such disciplinary tactics are often on the autism spectrum or have an emotional disturbance. The new law prohibits the physical restraint of a student in grades K-12 as a disciplinary tool, for the convenience of staff or as a substitute for a less restrictive alternative.
CHILDHOOD IMMUNIZATIONS: Currently, children can be exempted from school immunization requirements if the parents or guardians present a statement saying the immunizations are contrary to the child’s religious beliefs. Under the new law, parents and guardians must have the annual statements acknowledged by a notary public, Connecticut-licensed attorney, judge, family support magistrate, court clerk or deputy clerk, town clerk or justice of the peace. The requirement also extends to children attending child day care centers and group or family day care homes.
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VERMONT
SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY: The courts, not the Department of Public Safety, will decide whether a convict has to be named on the state’s sex offender registry. The offender’s address cannot be posted until the system brings down its error rate.
REVENGE PORN: A new law creates criminal and civil penalties for knowingly disclosing a visual image of an identifiable person who is nude or who is engaged in sexual conduct without his or her consent with the intent to harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the person depicted.
PROPERTY FORFEITURE/ANIMAL FIGHTING: The state will be able to seize property if it’s used to violate animal fighting laws. The new law provides for an “innocent owner” defense.
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MAINE
BUDGET ANGST: The budget is center stage in Maine, where bills typically become law when signed or 90 days after the session ends. Lawmakers plan to return to session June 30 to try to overturn outstanding vetoes — including, presumably, the $6.7 billion state budget. The governor has until late on June 29 to veto the bill, and Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves warned lawmakers to prepare for a marathon session the following day to override the veto in time for the new budget cycle.
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Associated Press writers Dave Gram in Montpelier, Vermont, Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, David Sharp in Maine and Bob Salsberg in Boston contributed to this report.

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