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New laws on New Year's Day, from gay marriage to ‘Caylee’s Law’

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In 2009, 40,697 state laws were passed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But in 2012, under 30,000 went through.

“Many bills are passed to clean up past mistakes or to eliminate archaic laws passed decades ago,” Mr. Stern writes. Indeed, Kentucky just got around to deleting phrases from its constitution that spell out guidelines on pensions for Confederate soldiers.

In many other cases, state legislation can offer a window into what’s on the public’s mind. Here are some new laws that analysts say came out of recent, wide concerns:

• Prompted by the case of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, California coaches and administrators in K-12 schools and higher-education employees who have regular contact with children are now mandated to report suspected child abuse.

• “Caylee’s Laws” take effect in both California and Illinois. The legislation – named after the 2-year-old daughter of Florida’s Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of the girl’s murder despite waiting a month before reporting her disappearance – imposes strong penalties for a parent or guardian who fails to report the disappearance or death of a child within 24 hours.

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