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New Arizona laws go into effect
By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
September 18, 2006
Beginning this week, new penalties will take effect for those who hunt illegally, as well as expanded laws to keep those who don't like hunters from harassing them.

Speeders will have to spend less time in traffic school.

Women won't face criminal charges if they breast-feed their babies in restaurants.

Homeowners will be able to fly military flags even if their homeowners association doesn't allow them.

And, once again, it will be illegal to have sex with animals.

All those laws enacted during the recent legislative session take effect Thursday.

Lawmakers adjourned their session in June, but not before approving more than 400 new measures.

The governor pared that total with 43 vetoes. And some of the most significant actions - particularly the $10 billion budget and cuts in income and property taxes - took effect immediately.

But most of the rest of the measures take effect, by law, 90 days after the end of the session. This year, that is Thursday.

One of the new laws gives a break to those who get a traffic ticket and opt to take defensive driving courses rather than pay or fight it. It limits these courses to no more than 4 1 /2 hours, an hour less than the minimum now required by the state Supreme Court.

Another new law will make it a crime to feed wildlife - at least in Pima and Maricopa counties. The measure is designed to deal with the fact that sometimes people are bitten, especially by coyotes. And even leaving food out for rabbits disrupts the desert food chain. Larger predators such as mountain lions follow their prey, sometimes into residential areas.

Violators will be subject to a $300 fine. But homeowners still can feed wild birds and tree squirrels.

The same legislation also increases penalties on those who hunt out of season.

A companion measure expands existing laws that make it a crime to harass hunters. It spells out that certain actions can land offenders in jail for up to four months, including making noises to disrupt wildlife and placing oneself into the line of fire.

Another weapons-related bill removes the requirement that those who have a license to carry a concealed weapon must go through a two-hour refresher course every five years.

Legislators also decided to re-enact a law making bestiality a crime.

That statute was repealed two decades ago in a rewrite of the state's criminal code. Its absence went unnoticed until earlier this year, when a deputy Mesa fire chief was arrested after being accused of trying to have sex with a neighbor's sheep - and sheriff's deputies found they could charge him only with disorderly conduct and trespass.

Also taking effect Thursday is a law mandating that both prostitutes and their customers do time behind bars, eliminating the possibility of parole.

First offenders would have to serve at least 15 days in jail, double that for a second offense, double that again for a third, hitting 180 days for subsequent convictions. The law also prohibits early release.

The measure on military flags expands an existing law that says homeowners associations don't have the authority to ban residents from erecting a pole to fly the stars and stripes.

The new law adds military flags to the list of what can't be blocked by homeowners association rules. Also included are the state flag, a POW/MIA flag and the flag of any Arizona Indian tribe.

Also, life could get more complicated for teens wanting to visit Mexico.

A new state law allows cities and counties to adopt regulations that let their law enforcement officers block minors from going south of the border without a parent - or at least a signed consent form.

This measure is modeled after a California law designed to prevent teens from going to drink in Mexico, where the legal drinking age of 18 is not always enforced.

Another new law is designed to protect police from lawsuits when someone they are arresting is injured.

But it was crafted in a way to say that police "tools'' are presumed not to be defective if they met manufacturing guidelines at the time they were made. That provision could provide some liability shields for the Scottsdalebased Taser Corp., which has faced a series of lawsuits in Arizona and elsewhere from people killed or injured when they are stunned.
Contact Howard Fischer by telephone at () -.

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