- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Police in Utah are required to use body cameras when using force to execute search warrants - one of nearly 400 new laws that take effect Tuesday.

The requirement - if the agency has the technology - is part of a measure that limits what police can do after they get a judge’s approval to use force, if necessary, when serving a search warrant. The law is part of a larger set of police reforms in the state amid a flurry of officer-involved deaths across the U.S.

Since the legislative session ended in March, state lawmakers have held two study sessions to review police policies, including whether officers should receive more training on de-escalating encounters with people undergoing mental health crises.

Here’s a look at the most interesting new laws:

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POLICE BODY CAMERAS

Officers from agencies with body cameras must have one recording when they serve a search warrant where they may need to use force to get inside. The requirement ensures the public can see what happens in situations that often end in police breaking through people’s doors - a violent tactic that seldom should be used, said Connor Boyack, president of the libertarian policy group the Libertas Institute that backed the bill.

The rule also requires officers to wear a badge or clothing identifying them as law enforcement and bans officers from using force while serving drug possession warrants.

The law comes as many Utah law enforcement agencies incorporate the cameras that officers wear on their uniforms into their regular duties and as civil liberty groups call for their wider use. The Utah Department of Public Safety plans to equip all 560 state police officers with body cameras, at a cost of about $500,000.

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FIRING SQUAD

The firing squad is now the backup form of execution if lethal-injection drugs aren’t available. After razor-tight votes, the Utah Legislature passed the bill in an attempt to settle on a backup plan in case a nationwide lethal-drug shortage persists.

Gov. Gary Herbert gave his stamp of approval, even though he called the method “a little bit gruesome.” The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield, argued the use of trained marksmen is faster and more decent than the drawn-out deaths that occur when lethal injections go awry.

Opponents say firing squads are barbaric, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah saying the bill makes the state “look backward and backwoods.” The next execution in Utah is likely several years away.

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SEAT BELT REQUIREMENT

Utah drivers are now risking a ticket if they don’t buckle up. The law allows police to pull over motorists for not wearing seat belts during a three-year pilot program. People could be ticketed for the offense before, but only after they were stopped for something else.

The legislation allows the $45 ticket to be waived upon completion of a 30-minute safety course from the Department of Public Safety. A total of 33 states had so-called primary seat belt laws as of 2013.

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‘RIGHT TO TRY’

Terminally ill patients can use drugs that have passed the first stage of testing by the federal Food and Drug Administration but haven’t received final approval.

Proponents of the measure say the FDA’s process takes too long. A series of states have passed similar laws, which are being pushed by Arizona-based libertarian think tank the Goldwater Institute.

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BREAST-FEEDING PROTECTIONS

Two new protections go into effect for breast-feeding mothers, including a ban on discriminating against nursing mothers at work.

Salt Lake City Democratic Rep. Justin Miller has said he hopes it will help close the state’s gender wage gap, which is among of the largest in the country, by encouraging employers to accommodate nursing moms. Opponents expressed concern that the state’s workplace discrimination law was already too broad.

Breast-feeding mothers also can be excused from jury duty. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports 16 states and Puerto Rico offer a similar exemption.

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POWDERED ALCOHOL

Alcohol in powdered form is now illegal in Utah. Newly approved by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the product is an ounce of rum or vodka designed to be mixed with water and marketed as a lightweight way to carry drinks while traveling or backpacking.

But Republican state Rep. Steve Eliason says that it could be added to food or other products and be difficult to keep away from children.

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