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389 new Utah laws take effect Tuesday

389 new Utah laws take effect Tuesday

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SALT LAKE CITY — Buckle up.

Starting Tuesday, police can pull over drivers who aren't wearing seat belts. A new Utah law makes failure to wear the safety strap a primary offense.

The bill allows officers to issue warnings on a first offense. On the second offense, an offender can be fined $45, but that can be waived if the driver completes a 30-minute safety course online.

Previously, police could cite adult drivers who didn't wear seat belts only if they had been pulled over for another violation. Failing to use a seat belt was already a primary offense for drivers and passengers 18 and younger.

The bill is among 389 that become law Tuesday. The Utah Legislature passed 528 bills during the 2015 general session. To date, 74 have already taken effect and 65 more become effective after the state budget year begins July 1.

Motorists also will feel the effects of another driving-related law, whether they wear their seat belts or not.

Lawmakers raised the state's 24.5 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline for the first time since 1997. The tax, which will be tied to the average wholesale price of gasoline, would go up about 5 cents a gallon starting January 2016.

The bill also allows local governments to ask voters to raise sales tax to pay for transportation and transit projects in their communities.

Perhaps the most widely publicized legislation adds sexual orientation and gender identity to Utah's anti-discrimination laws for housing and employment, clarifies exemptions for religious institutions and their affiliates and provides protections for religious expression inside and outside the workplace.

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Less known is a bill that includes breastfeeding and medical conditions related to breastfeeding in the state's anti-discrimination law.

Business owners and landlords are working through how the bill impacts them.

Legislators also passed a bill that allows elected county clerks to opt out of marrying same-sex couples provided they make someone inside or outside the office available during business hours to perform wedding ceremonies.

The Legislature dealt with other hot-button issues and is still working on Medicaid expansion legislation after failing to reach an agreement during the 45-day general session earlier this year.

One bill that generated controversy restores the firing squad as an acceptable method of execution if a nationwide shortage for lethal injection drugs persists. Critics argue the measure could tarnish the state's image with tourists.

Despite calls for changes to the state's liquor laws, specifically removing the barrier in restaurants to shield customers from alcoholic drink pouring and mixing, those proposals didn't go anywhere.

Legislators did, however, prohibit powdered alcohol, a product that can be mixed with water or soda or sprinkled on food. Proponents of the law say it will keep alcohol mixes out of the hands of children and keep the state's law against open containers enforceable.

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Dennis Romboy

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