Despite budget woes and partisan bickering, state lawmakers found the time to enact more than 31,000 new laws last year. Many take effect New Year's day. Among the new statutes are ones designed to promote highway safety, protect consumers, and take further steps toward cleaning up the environment.
A few highlights:
--Marylanders who violate traffic laws will no longer be guaranteed their day in court. To cut costs and keep officers on the roads instead of in courtrooms, hearings may or may not be granted upon request.
--Delaware, Kansas and Kentucky will join at least 27 other states in prohibiting texting while driving.
--Pet shop owners in California and Illinois will be required to provide full-health histories on the animals they sell.
--In the wake of a horrific attack on a human by a pet chimp, Illinois will ban ownership of chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, monkeys and lemurs.
--Owners of low-emission vehicles will get a free ride in California's high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
--Illinois will add synthetic marijuana, or K2, to its list of controlled substances.
--New York will require companies that make or sell electronics to start free recycling programs.
--Montana will join at least a dozen other states in limiting the interest rate that so-called pay day lenders can charge.