Laws on guns, abortion take effect across nation
Starting Saturday, concealed guns are allowed at college campuses in Georgia and Kansas, more public buildings and bus stations in Tennessee, and at the Iowa Capitol as new laws took effect continuing the steady expansion of gun rights in Republican-controlled states.
The firearms policies are among scores of laws that took effect Saturday, along with the start of the new fiscal year in many states. Some of those laws continue a recent trend of states taking the initiative to fix aging roads and address the drug overdose epidemic.
A voter-approved gun-control initiative prohibiting people from possessing ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets was to go into effect Saturday in California, but it was blocked by a federal judge, who said it would have made criminals out of thousands of otherwise law-abiding residents who own the magazines. A similar law passed by the Democratic-dominated Legislature also is subject to the preliminary injunction.
For decades, the National Rifle Association pushed for state laws allowing people to carry concealed guns with permits. Having succeeded nationwide, gun-rights advocates now are gradually expanding where those weapons can be taken. Yet even some of the new laws contain exceptions.
Georgia’s law allows people with concealed handgun permits to take their weapons into classrooms but not dormitories, and college sports fans can pack weapons while tailgating but not in stadiums.
A Tennessee law allowing guns in many local public buildings, bus stations and parks can be voided if authorities instead opt to install metal detectors staffed by security guards.
Concealed guns are now allowed at college campuses in Kansas as a result of a 2013 law that applies to public buildings lacking heightened security such as metal detectors and guards. A fouryear exemption for universities expired Saturday. But a law that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is allowing to take effect without his signature will make permanent a similar exemption for public hospitals and mental health centers.
In Iowa, where permit holders are now able to carry concealed guns in the Capitol, the state Supreme Court has responded by banning weapons in all courthouses statewide.
As with guns, some Republican and Democratic states continue to move in opposite directions on abortion-related policies.
A Tennessee law will require doctors to determine the viability of fetuses of at least 20 weeks of gestation, making it a felony to abort a viable fetus unless the pregnancy puts a woman at risk of death or serious injury. In South Dakota, new felony charges will double the potential fines and prison time for physicians who abort a fetus capable of feeling pain, except in cases of medical emergencies.
Other new laws deal with notifications required before abortions.
A Wyoming law will require abortion providers to give women the opportunity to view an ultrasound and listen to the fetal heartbeat.
A Kansas law will require abortion providers to give women more information about their doctors, including their credentials, malpractice insurance, disciplinary records and hospital privileges. The law also eliminates fine print, requiring the information to be presented in 12-point Times New Roman type on white paper.
States are increasingly aligning behind new laws raising taxes and fees for transportation projects.
Starting Saturday, the gas tax went up by 10 cents a gallon in Indiana, 4.5 cents in Montana, 4 cents in Tennessee, 3.5 cents in West Virginia and 2 cents in South Carolina. In some cases, it’s the initial step in a multiyear tax increase.
The latest round of tax increases means nearly three-fourths of states have taken some sort of action to increase transportation funding over the past five years.
Numerous laws addressing health care also are taking effect.
Most Arizona employers will be required to offer paid sick leave to their workers because of a 2016 ballot initiative that took effect Saturday. Arizona is the seventh state with such a requirement, all enacted since 2011.
Other new laws will expand patients’ rights in an attempt to avoid unexpected medical costs. A Missouri law will require health care providers to give patients costs estimates upon request, and a California law will require patients’ written consent before receiving services from providers outside their insurance network.
Several laws seek to combat opioid addiction.
Kentucky will ban doctors from prescribing a more than three-day supply of prescription painkillers, although the law has various exceptions.
New laws in Virginia will legalize syringe exchange programs and require physicians to check a prescription drug monitoring database before prescribing opioids for more than seven days. Wyoming will join most other states in providing immunity to those who administer overdose medications.