New legislation takes effect July 1
The beginning of July will usher in a series of new laws that range from lowering the penalty on marijuana possession to allowing inmates to earn credits toward reducing their sentence for good behavior.
One of the more hotly debated topics has been the lighter penalty for marijuana possession. As of July 1, anyone caught with less than one-half ounce will be subject to a fine of $150. The fine is increased to $200 to $500 for subsequent offenses. Three-time violators are required to participate in a drug education program. Also, offenders under the age of 21 will have their drivers' licenses suspended for 60 days.
Inmates who obey their offender accountability plans, participate in eligible programs and obey institutional rules will be able to earn risk reduction earned credits. The credits can be given five days per month and can reduce an inmate's maximum prison sentence. However, the credits cannot reduce a minimum sentence. Inmates who have committed murder, capital felony, felony murder, arson murder, home invasion and first-degree aggravated assault are not eligible to receive the credits.
Schools across the state will have new guidelines for how bullying and cyber bullying are handled due to a new bill that goes into effect on July 1.
Under the bill, behavior that constitutes bullying has been expanded and school officials are required to investigate and address any incidents that happen in school or, in certain situations, outside of school. Bullying a person based on their race, gender, sexual orientation or physical appearance is banned. Bullying using electronic devices is also banned.
In addition to the new rules, schools are also required to train employees on how to identify, intervene and prevent bullying and youth suicide. School principals are responsible for investigating and addressing bullying incidents and school boards, school employees, students, parents and others are immune to damage claims from reports of school bullying.
Another new law allows for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants as long as they meet certain criteria.
Anyone can qualify for in-state tuition as they as they aren't a non-immigration alien; they live in Connecticut, attended a school in Connecticut and completed at least four years of high school; graduated from a high school or the equivalent in Connecticut; is registered as an entering student or current student at UConn, a Connecticut state university, a community-technical college or Charter Oak State College. Undocumented immigrants must also file an affidavit with the college stating they have applied to legalize their immigration or will do so as soon as possible.
If you were hoping to avoid tax increases, you are out of luck as the sales tax and the tax on additional items will see an increase.
The general sales tax is being increased from 6 percent to 6.35 percent and the hotel tax rate is increasing from 12 percent to 15 percent. Passenger cars, boats, jewelry, clothing and footwear costing more than certain amounts will also be subject to a 7 percent sales and use tax.
Specific sales tax exemptions for clothing and footwear valued at $50 or less and nonprescription drugs and medicine are being eliminated. The exemption eliminations also apply to pet grooming, motor vehicle towing and spa services.
Amazon.com and Overstock.com will also be required to collect sales tax on any products they sell in the state despite the fact neither company has a physical presence in Connecticut.
Also included in the tax package is a 20 percent increase on the excise tax for alcohol and the tax on a pack of cigarettes is increasing from $3 to $3.40.
The last major legislative change to take effect is an increase in fines for using a cell phone while driving. The fine increases from $100 for the first offense to $125, from $150 to $250 for the second offense and from $200 to $400 for subsequent offenses.
New laws take effect on July 1 and additional legislation will take effect on Oct. 1.