Among 401 new laws taking effect Tuesday is one revamping Utah's liquor statutes — allowing restaurants to avoid the infamous "Zion Curtain," forcing signs showing whether establishments are bars or restaurants, and hiking alcohol taxes.
Other new laws range from toughening anti-polygamy statutes to a controversial new abortion-consent bill, permitting lawsuits against pornographers on grounds of emotional damage to minors and banning panhandling to cars on busy streets.
Some changes to state liquor laws take effect Tuesday, while others have delayed start times, which means restaurant and bars are scratching their heads about what to tackle first, said Melva Sine with the Utah Restaurant Association. "They are confused because the bill is so large with different implementation dates for different things."
The first measure to kick in involves signs. All bars and restaurants that serve alcohol will need to have a sign that clearly states that the establishment is a restaurant or bar.
Liquor service hours also change Tuesday. Diners now will be able to order a bloody mary, mimosa or other alcoholic drinks beginning at 10:30 a.m. on weekends, state and federal holidays and at private events — an hour earlier than under current law. Weekday liquor service for restaurants remains the same, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. There also are no changes for bars, which can sell alcohol between 10 a.m. and 1 a.m. seven days a week.
The most significant part of HB442 is the modification of the liquor-dispensing barrier requirements — aka "Zion Curtains," designed to prevent children from seeing drinks mixed.
All restaurants with a state-approved liquor license now have several options: They can of keep the curtain; have a 10-foot buffer from the bar where minors are not allowed; or build a half wall or railing that delineates between the dining and liquor-dispensing areas. Owners would have until July 2022 to comply with the barriers and designated dispensing-area rules.
HB442 also does away with dining club and social club designations and creates a single bar license. Owners who now have a dining club license would have until July 1, 2018, to decide if they would switch to being a bar.
On July 1, 2017, the state markup on wine and spirits increases from 86 percent to 88 percent. The markup on heavy beer sold in liquor stores jumps from 64.5 percent to 66.5 percent. The additional income will pay for prevention and training programs in eighth and 10th grades as well as employee-training programs.
Lawmakers also tweaked how close restaurants serving alcohol can be located to churches, schools and parks. New restaurants now can be as close as 300 feet — down from the current 600-foot requirement. However, the DABC no longer would be able to grant exceptions. Bars and liquor stores must remain 600 feet from community locations.
Another controversial bill to make Utah's drunken driving laws the toughest in the nation won't take effect for another 19 months, on Dec. 30, 2018. That law would lower the blood alcohol content to be considered legally drunk while driving from 0.08 to 0.05.
Some of the other laws taking effect Tuesday included:
Bigamy • Some polygamists say HB99 will allow prosecuting them for cohabitation that might otherwise be legal if they simply did not purport to be "spiritually married," without being legally married.
For prosecution under the new law, an offender would have to live with an extra spouse and "purport" to be married. Current law requires only one or the other.
Under the new law, unmarried couples living together in plural relationships without a claim of a spiritual marriage could not be targeted.
Bigamy would remain punishable by up to five years in prison, but the penalties could increase to 15 years if the offender is convicted in concert with crimes such as fraud, abuse or human smuggling. Anyone leaving a polygamous marriage and saying they suffered abuse or seeking to protect children would receive amnesty.
Bill backers, including Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and some former plural wives, have said the legislation would encourage pursuit of polygamous groups that commit fraud and abuse.
Polygamists and some civil libertarians who have sided with them argue that the state already has laws targeting those crimes, and the bill unfairly singles out those asserting spiritual, if not actual, marriages.
Abortion • HB141 expands Utah's informed-consent law with a disclaimer that says in some cases, a pregnancy could be carried to term after initiating a medication-induced abortion.
The procedure usually involves two rounds of medication; the first pill alone sometimes isn't enough to terminate a pregnancy. Critics say scientific literature doesn't support the idea that an abortion can be halted after the first pill.
The legislation also requires the Utah Department of Health to include in its literature an explanation of the "options and consequences" of conducting a medication-induced abortion.
Pornography • SB185 makes Utah the first state to allow lawsuits against pornographers for damage to minors — including seeking reimbursement for any therapy expenses.
The new law offers immunity to distributors who make a good-faith effort to verify a viewer's age and prominently display a content warning about the dangers of pornographic material. That bill is a sequel to a resolution last year that declared pornography to be a "public health crisis."
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsor of last year's resolution and the new law, said he sees the new statute as similar to early litigation against the tobacco industry that over time helped the public to realize the health risks of smoking.
Panhandling • HB161 outlaws panhandling at freeway exits and along high-speed highways by taking a different approach than previous, similar laws that were struck down as unconstitutional.
Rather than directly targeting panhandling — which has been ruled a form of protected speech by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart — the bill focuses on "pedestrian safety."
It bans pedestrians and drivers from exchanging money or property on freeways, highway and paved roads with a speed limit over 35 mph. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, the law's sponsor, said it still will allow panhandling, but not in dangerous highway locations.
18-year-olds • Two new laws affect 18-year-olds in different ways.
SB159 now requires motorcyclists ages 18, 19 and 20 to wear helmets.
Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, House sponsor of the bill, said it is simply "an opportunity to help young adults become older adults, and to do so safely" while studies say the portion of their brains affecting judgment is still developing.
Meanwhile, HB198 passed to allow that same age group to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons.
It was pushed as a way for young women to protect themselves from sexual predators, especially on college campuses.
'No promo homo' • SB196 repeals possibly unconstitutional language prohibiting advocacy of homosexuality in public schools' health classes.
The bill removing the so-called "no-promo homo" language was introduced in the Legislature after Equality Utah sued the state for what it said was a discriminatory policy. A federal judge stayed the lawsuit in late February pending the outcome of the legislation.
State symbols • Utah now has an official "state work of art" — the Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake — but also separate official plural "state works of art," namely ancient rock art scattered around the state.
Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, sponsor of HB211, the Spiral Jetty measure, said the two bills complement each other as "a nod to the prehistoric people who lived in our state and an acknowledgment of the contemporary land art that is so unique in our state."
The Spiral Jetty, recognized as one of the top land art features in the world, was made in 1970 by Robert Smithson. It is a 1,500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide counterclockwise coil jutting from the shore — somewhat near the Golden Spike National Historic Site.
Meanwhile, SB171 honors ancient rock art around the state. Rep. Christine Watkins, R-Price, House sponsor of the measure, said Utah has some of the oldest rock art in America, including its only authentic ice age art: two panels near Bluff depicting mammoths.