SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Starting Tuesday, people convicted of hate crimes can be subject to harsher punishment, 15-year-olds can no longer be married and the state’s “stand your ground” law will get stronger.
Lawmakers passed 574 bills this year, setting a record, and most of those new laws will go into effect on Tuesday, 60 days after the end of the short legislative session.
Some closely watched changes aren’t in effect yet. A measure allowing grocery stores to sell higher-alcohol beer will start in November. Lawmakers also passed a ban on most abortions after 18 weeks of gestation, but it’s on hold as a court challenge plays out.
Here are some of the notable new laws that go into effect Tuesday:
A new hate-crimes law means people can be sentenced to more serious punishments if they’re convicted of targeting others based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or other factors.
Utah’s previous hate-crimes law didn’t protect specific groups and prosecutors said it was unenforceable. The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher had been stalled in the Legislature for years before it gained momentum following the November 2018 beating of a Latino man in Salt Lake City.
Utah’s presidential primary election will move several months earlier next year, to March 3. The date is known as Super Tuesday because a number states hold their contests that day, and it could mean that candidates looking for an earlier boost spend more time campaigning in the state.
Lawmakers also approved spending $2.9 million for the state to run the primary after many people experienced long lines during the 2016 vote, which was run by the individual political parties.
CAMPAIGN FUNDS FOR CHILD CARE
Candidates for government offices will be able to use campaign funds to pay for child care, both during the campaign and while participating in public duties, if elected. The bill passed easily and Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, signed off on it in March. Proponents say it will help more people run for office without worrying about child care.
Another new law prohibits marriage before age 16, and requires others under 18 to get consent of their parents and a judge. It also outlaws marriages with age gaps larger than seven years. Previous state law had allowed 15-year-olds to marry with judicial approval and 16 and 17-year-olds only needed consent from a parent.
Another new measure will strengthen Utah’s “stand your ground” law. Failure to retreat will not be relevant in determining if an individual acted rationally. A voluntary suicide-prevention measure focused on education and gun-lock distribution that was supported by the firearm lobby will also take effect.
Utah will now have an official state reptile, the Gila monster, after a lobbying effort by students at Lava Ridge Intermediate School in Santa Clara. The venomous lizard is named after the Gila River, a Colorado River tributary that flows through Arizona and into New Mexico. In Utah, the black and yellow creature can be found in Snow Canyon State Park and in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve during warmer months.
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