States' New Laws Increase Taxes, Label Drunk Drivers

From Associated Press

People in at least 12 states do not have to wait for President Bush and Congress to get together on raising taxes. They will begin paying higher state taxes or fees today.

Other new laws taking effect today include a "scarlet letter" measure in Iowa requiring repeat drunk-driving offenders to get special license plates and laws in three states allowing the suspension of driver's licenses for drug-use offenses unrelated to driving.

Connecticut is phasing in a family leave law that will require many businesses to give unpaid leaves of at least 12 weeks for employees to care for newborns or ill family members.

Indiana and Maryland are implementing flag desecration laws despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling throwing out a federal statute.

New Jersey is boosting its sales tax from 6% to 7%, making it the second highest of any state after Connecticut's 8%.

The Texas sales tax goes up a quarter of a point to 6.25%, while Kentucky's jumps a full point to 6%.

Florida is implementing several new or increased taxes to raise $780 million. They include a 10-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax and a new tax on alcohol sold by the drink--10 cents for a glass of wine or liquor and 4 cents for beer.

Lesser increases in taxes or fees take effect in Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, New Mexico, New York and Virginia.

Iowa's license plate law will require repeat drunk-driving offenders to get new auto tags that carry special prefixes to alert police of the owner's status. The law permits officers to stop those cars at random to check the driver.

New laws in Indiana and South Dakota permit the suspension of the driver's license of anyone convicted of a drug offense, whether or not driving is involved. A similar new law in Wyoming affects only minors.

Here are other laws taking effect today:

--Pennsylvania rolls back auto insurance rates for all drivers by 10% and by 22% for people who give up their right to sue in most cases.

--Idaho becomes the 48th state with a formal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Because of a legislative oversight, however, the holiday does not apply to the state's public schools.

--Kansas and Maryland make it a crime to break into animal research facilities.

--Virginia bans smoking in some public areas and requires nonsmoking areas in others, and Iowa extends its requirement for nonsmoking areas in public places to restaurants. On July 13, Kentucky will implement a law banning employment discrimination against smokers.

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