This part of summer is a time for patriotism. It's also the time new state laws go into effect across the nation.
Fiscal years begin July 1 on most financial calendars, and a slew of state government spending regulations kick in each year on that date. Policy laws also hit the books in a wave, though states often mark their independence by enacting such legislation on their own time.
Among the laws set to take effect this year around the U.S. are new abortion limits, gun laws and technology rules. And one state, Wyoming, will start setting up a lottery Monday, leaving only a handful of states without a jackpot drawing.
So as you get ready for Fourth of July cookouts and family gatherings, consider this roundup of recently passed legislation from lawmakers in Phoenix:
— MEDICAID EXPANSION: Republican Gov. Jan Brewer brought together Democrats and a number of Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature to pass her Medicaid expansion plan. The expansion under provisions of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act will add more than 300,000 low-income Arizonans to the 1.3 million that already get coverage under the state's Medicaid plan. Brewer was an early and vocal opponent of the ACA and one of the Republican governors who sued to overturn the law. But after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law and Obama was re-elected last year, she surprised many by embracing one of its key provisions. Conservative Republicans in the Legislature opposed it and a citizens' referendum has been filed that would block the bill if enough signatures are gathered.
— ELECTION RULES OVERHAUL: Gov. Jan Brewer signed a sweeping election bill overhauling the early voting process in Arizona and making it more difficult for third-party candidates to get on the ballot. The legislation backed by state and local election officials seeks to trim Arizona's permanent early voting list and limit who may return mail ballots for voters. Democratic lawmakers, voting rights groups and third-party politicians called it a thinly veiled effort to keep Republicans in power by creating new hurdles for some candidates and for low-income voters
— SALES TAX OVERHAUL: The Legislature approved a major overhaul of the state's sales tax collection system after a bruising battle with cities and towns worried it would cut their revenue. The changes in the Transaction Privilege Tax system won't affect what ordinary consumers pay at retail stores but sets the stage for the eventual collection of sales taxes on internet sales. Its biggest impact is on businesses, which previously had to file tax returns in each municipality where they did business and could undergo multiple audits. There will now be one filing and one audit statewide. Cities and towns fought part of the plan that changed how new construction is taxed and won.
— GUN BUYBACKS: Arizona cities and counties that hold community gun buyback events will have to sell the surrendered weapons instead of destroying them under a bill Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law. The change was championed by Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature who argued that municipalities were skirting a 2010 law that was tightened last year and requires police to sell seized weapons to federally licensed dealers. They argued that destroying property turned over to the government is a waste of taxpayer resources. Democrats who argued against the bill said it usurps local control and goes against the wishes of people who turn over their unwanted weapons to keep them out of the hands of children or thieves.
— ELECTED OFFICIALS PENSIONS: The Legislature passed and the governor signed a bill replacing pensions for new judges and other elected officials with a 401(k)-style retirement plan. The closure of the Elected Officials Retirement Plan for new state lawmakers, county officials and judges passed both the Senate and House of Representatives on party-line votes. HB 2608 does allow new judges who are already in the state's regular retirement system to remain there. Closing the hugely underfunded plan was a top priority of Republicans this Legislative session.