State laws taking effect as 2012 begins require girls seeking abortions in New Hampshire to first tell their parents or a judge; voters in Tennessee to show photo ID; and California students to learn about the societal contributions of gays and lesbians. A sampling of some other new laws taking effect Jan. 1:
— New restrictions govern who can testify as an expert witness in civil and criminal trials in a measure aiming to limit what critics call "junk science" theories of how or why a crime occurred.
— Civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples are legalized, giving them the same state rights and obligations of those who are married but clarifying that marriage is between a man and a woman.
— Any agency administering public benefits must require each applicant to provide at least one "secure and verifiable document."
— Municipalities with 911 call centers can require retailers selling prepaid cellphones to charge a fee to support the emergency systems.
— New safety requirements for cities that allow drivers to steer their golf carts off the green and onto roads and multi-use paths, including brakes, reverse warning devices and a horn.
— People convicted of first-degree murder must be added to a new public database, similar to the sex offender registry, when they're released from prison or any other facility. The database would include names, addresses, workplaces, schools attended and photos for offenders for up to 10 years after release.
— Motorcyclists stopped at a red light may proceed through if it fails to change to green after a reasonable length of time.
— Animal-control centers scanning a lost pet for a microchip also must look for other common forms of identification, including tattoos and ID tags.
— The state attorney general gains new subpoena powers to investigate open meeting law complaints, and members of public bodies who knowingly participate in violations are subject to civil penalties up to $500.
— Music therapists and dietitians face new licensing requirements, while educators must now undergo a criminal background check when their licenses are renewed. Fire performers and apprentices must apply to the state fire marshal for certificate of registration.
— A statewide emergency alert system is established for vulnerable elderly people, similar to the Amber Alert system for abducted children.
— More criminals convicted of misdemeanors will be housed in county jails rather than in state prisons to save money and reduce repeat offenses.
— State tax collector will have fewer powers to force corporations to redo their tax returns if they're suspected of dodging taxes.
— Penalties increasing for raping a child, creating a minimum sentence of 25 years but allowing judges to increase the time when appropriate, up to 60 years for the worst cases.
— Penalties also increase for people who fire a weapon into an occupied home, a measure that seeks to curtail drive-by shootings.
— New laws make any daily drink specials illegal, essentially banning happy hour.
Source: AP research
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