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New year's new laws target texting, trans fats, and more

At least 30 states will see new laws going into effect on New Year's Day. Many of the new laws reflect zeitgeist concerns on health, technology, and the economy.

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Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, Texas college freshmen and transfer students will need to be vaccinated against bacterial meningitis before they can live on campus. Restaurants in California can no longer use oils, margarine, or shortenings with more than half a gram of trans fat per serving. And stores in Louisiana can no longer sell lighters that appeal to children.

As always, a host of new laws take effect in the new year, ranging from the significant (same-sex couples will be able to marry in New Hampshire) to the bizarre (also in New Hampshire, physical therapists will be able to get certified to practice on animals).

More than 40,000 laws have been enacted by state legislatures in the past year, and at least 30 states have statutes that go into effect on New Year’s Day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which provides an annual round-up of such laws.

Among the more noteworthy:

• Payday borrowers in Kentucky will be restricted to two loans of no more than $500 at a time, and payday lenders facer tougher penalties if they lend to someone who has reached the maximum.

Oregon will require children under age 16 to wear a seat belt on any ATV or vehicle on public property, and will increase the fine for people riding a motorcycle without a helmet to $720.

• In Texas, smoke detectors will need to be able to alert a hearing-impaired person if requested by a tenant.

• In Montana, insurance companies will be required to provide coverage for autism-spectrum disorders.

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