- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

Smokers in six states will pay more for their habit beginning today, nudity with "artistic value" no longer will be off-limits to minors in Utah, and grits will become Georgia's official prepared food.
Hundreds of new laws take effect with the start of fiscal years in many states. The laws reflect legislators' concerns with the burdensome threats of terrorism and budget deficits, spiked with a few less-weighty matters.
Florida lawmakers, for example, found time to stipulate that cooking-school students under the legal drinking age can taste small amounts of wine during class although they will be expected to spit it out after swishing it around their mouths.
Budget woes dominated many recent legislative sessions, and smokers were a preferred target in efforts to raise more revenue. As of today, the per-pack cigarette tax will rise by 49 cents in Vermont, 46 cents in Kansas, 40 cents in Indiana and Illinois, 31 cents in Ohio and 12 cents in Louisiana.
A measure raising the per-pack tax by 70 cents in New Jersey was awaiting the signature of the governor, who proposed the increase.
Kansas also is increasing inheritance, sales and business taxes, part of a bill aimed at raising $252 million for the state.
Though terrorism already is covered by numerous federal laws, several legislatures prompted by the September 11 attacks passed their own anti-terrorism measures.
Oklahoma, Iowa, Idaho and South Dakota are designating terrorism as a state crime; Oklahoma also outlawed committing a terrorist hoax, and Iowa outlawed possession of anthrax spores. Georgia is giving authorities broader powers to conduct wiretaps and listen to cell phone conversations.
Death- penalty laws are changing in Indiana, where the minimum age for execution rises from 16 to 18, and in Alabama, where lethal injection becomes the primary form of execution. Alabama's switch leaves Nebraska as the only state with the electric chair as the sole means of execution.
Targeting drunken drivers, Wyoming, South Dakota and Mississippi are lowering the legal intoxication limit from 0.10 percent blood alcohol content to 0.08 percent. The lower limit now adopted by 32 states conforms with a federal standard required by October 2003 to avoid losing some highway construction funds.
Wyoming lawmakers rejected similar legislation in the past, but approved the lower limit after a crash in which eight University of Wyoming student athletes were killed by a drunken driver.
Some anti-crime legislation is narrowly focused. Florida created new penalties for people who intentionally injure or kill a guide dog; Indiana made it a crime, punishable by a maximum $10,000 fine, to flick a cigarette butt from a car.
Utah, at the behest of state pornography czar Paula Houston, rolled back a law banning any public nudity that might be viewed by minors. Fearing the old law might be struck down for encompassing a work such as Michelangelo's "David," lawmakers rewrote it to exempt displays that have artistic value.
In Georgia despite one lawmaker's plea that there were more pressing topics to tackle the legislature passed a bill recognizing grits as the state's official prepared food. The breakfast staple joins peanuts, peaches and Vidalia onions as Georgia's designated food symbols.

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