New year, new laws in the states

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New online privacy laws go into effect in Illinois and California.

As 2013 begins, many states are enacting new laws dealing with gay rights, child safety, abortion, immigration and other perennial concerns.

Some other topics states are dealing with in new laws:

ANIMAL WELFARE

Pennsylvania will prohibit use of carbon monoxide chambers to destroy animals at shelters and will make it easier for shelters to get drugs for a more humane method. Activists say animals are often old, young, sick or hurt and not good candidates for gas chamber euthanasia. Some provisions are about to take effect, while others will be in place later in 2013.

AUTISM

Alaska becomes the 31st state to require insurance coverage for autism, with a law mandating coverage for the diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children and young adults. Illinois, which previously approved autism insurance coverage, now also will require insurance companies to cover medical services related to autism.

BRAKE PADS

Washington state is requiring manufacturers of brake pads to phase out the use of copper and other heavy metals as a way to prevent the metal from polluting waters and harming salmon. When brakes wear down, they release copper shavings onto roads that eventually wash into rivers. The first phase of the law takes effect Jan. 1, when manufacturers of friction brakes will be required to report the concentrations of heavy metals in their products.

EYEDROPS

New Mexico will allow more frequent refills of prescription eye drops, such as those used by glaucoma patients. Under the law, insurance companies could not deny coverage for a refill requested by a patient within a certain amount of time – for instance, within 23 days for someone with a prescription for a 30 day supply of the eye drops. Supporters of the measure say some patients find it difficult to control how many drops they put onto their eye, causing individuals to prematurely run out of medication before an insurer will pay for a refill.

PARTY BUSES

California will start to hold party bus operators to the same standards as limousine drivers, making them legally responsible for drinking by underage passengers. The law is named for Brett Studebaker, a 19-year-old from San Mateo who died in 2010 after drinking on a party bus and crashing his own vehicle while driving home later.

ONLINE PRIVACY

California and Illinois are both making it illegal for employers to demand access to employees’ social media accounts. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law in August at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where several students lamented that online snooping by bosses has caused some to lose out on jobs and forced others to temporarily deactivate their profiles. In September, California Gov. Jerry Brown said the legislation will protect residents from “unwarranted invasions.”

UNEMPLOYMENT

To raise money for its unemployment insurance fund, Georgia will start charging employers for the unemployment insurance tax on the first $9,500 in taxable wages earned by workers, an increase over the previous $8,500. The new law stretches forward the suspension of another unemployment insurance tax, though it allows the labor commissioner to impose it to help repay money borrowed from the federal government or if fund balances dip below $1 billion.