One new law going into effect Thursday could make things safer for all of us by strengthening local emergency management agencies. Previously, counties and cities within them could join forces for emergency management. Now those joint efforts can be made across county lines. Plus, instead of a maximum of $1,000 a year in help from the state, the Division of Emergency Management will dole out state and federal funds based on merit and need. Safety for children is the target of a new law banning cigarette lighters that look like, well, anything but a lighter. So no more cars, cartoon characters or guns to light your smokes. The state will install speed bumps or similar traffic calming devices in a subdivision if 70% of homeowners agree to it and if the homeowners association agrees to pay for and maintain them. Don't maintain your property? If a city or county has cited you three times in a calendar year that your mess is a public nuisance, the next year, they only have to tell you once before they take action and give you bill. Watch out for that garbage truck. A new law makes it OK for the refuse collectors to stop on roads outside municipal limits to pick up garbage or recyclables. Until now, that was illegal outside of towns. Victims of identity theft have greater protection. Instead of needing a certified letter to freeze their credit, they can do it by first-class mail, a phone call or secure website or e-mail. Credit reporting agencies can report the freeze, but cannot imply it has anything to do with anything negative about the consumer's credit. Have a sleep problem? Polysomnographists, or the people who run sleep studies, now have official state recognition that will eventually require them being listed by the state medical board. Are you planning to hit the slopes this winter? State law now expands protections for skiers and the duties of ski area operators to cover other winter sports like snowboarding and snowshoeing. The state's Consumer Economic Protection Act also goes into effect Thursday. It gives clerks of court the power to postpone foreclosure hearings up to 60 days to give lenders and homeowners more time to work out a deal.
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