From hate crimes to e-scooters: New laws in Utah take effect this week

People look on as the Utah Legislature went into session Dec. 3, 2018, in Salt Lake City to consider changes to a voter-approved ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana. | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The majority of laws by the Utah Legislature earlier this year take effect Tuesday. Among them are laws that were sponsored by legislators from Southern Utah.

Read more: Utah lawmakers pass record number of bills, including those addressing guns, beer, smoking and slavery

New laws of note include:

The state’s new hate crimes law adds stiffer penalties onto crimes where bias against the victim based on a particular trait protected under the law – such as race, religion, sexual orientation, among others – are proved in court. If the judge concludes there was a targeted bias, a criminal penalty can be enhanced one level. For example, a class A misdemeanor can be bumped up to a third-degree felony.

New laws related to ballot initiatives will take effect. That includes postponing the date when a successful ballot initiative becomes law to 60 days after the regular legislative session, as well as posting the names of ballot signers online for review. Another law changes the number of signatures needed to qualify an initiative to get on the ballot.

Self-driving cars will be allowed on Utah roads for testing purposes.

Motorcycles will be able to ride between lanes in stopped traffic in a process called “lane filtering.” This law was sponsored by St. George Republican Rep. Walt Brooks.

While electronic scooters will new be able to legally go where bicycles can, drinking while riding one is out.

Police agencies in Utah will have to get a warrant to access personal electronic data.

Vandalizing public lands with graffiti becomes a class B misdemeanor.

An individual will not be able to hold county and municipal office at the same time. This law was drafted by Iron County Republican Sen. Evan Vickers in response to Cedar City Council member Paul Cozzens who chose not to resign from that body after being elected to the Iron County Commission last year.

So-called “fringe gambling” devices, like those that were subject to a statewide crackdown in 2017 that included Southern Utah, will be outlawed in the state.

The legal marriage age in Utah becomes 18 years old, with ages 16-17 needing approval from a judge.

The Gila monster becomes the official state reptile thanks to a bill sponsored by St. George Republican Rep. V. Lowry Snow and the efforts of students from Lava Ridge Elementary.

In all, Utah passed 574 laws during the 2019 legislative session.

A full list of the laws that passed and those taking effect Tuesday can be found on the Utah Legislature’s website here.

Read more: See all St. George News reports and opinions on Utah Legislature 2019 issues

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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