- Associated Press - Saturday, December 31, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah drivers will no longer have to pay an extra fee for an “In God We Trust” license plate starting Jan. 1.

The fee waiver is one of a handful of new state laws taking effect in 2017.

Most of the laws passed in 2016 already took effect in July, when the new budget year began, or in May under a default date marking 60 days from the end of the Utah’s short legislative session.

Highlights of the new laws taking effect Sunday:

‘IN GOD WE TRUST‘ PLATE:

Utah has offered a license plate that features the motto “In God We Trust” and an American flag since 2013, but it cost drivers $11 to get the special plate. Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, said the plate is one of the most popular specialty plates, along with those for disabled drivers and vintage cars, so it makes sense to offer it to drivers for no extra charge. Under a new law, drivers can now choose among designs of a skiing theme, sandstone arches from Arches National Park, or the “In God We Trust” plate.

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MENTAL HEALTH HELP:

Utah’s suicide rate is 7th in the nation and higher than the national average for more than a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials say more than 600 people take their own lives in Utah every year and about 4,500 attempt suicides annually. Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said to help combat the suicide rates, Utah needs more psychiatrists and nurse practitioners who work in psychiatric mental health. He sponsored a law that would offer a $10,000 tax credit to those psychiatrists or nurse practitioners who open new practices in Utah or help serve communities where the rates are higher, including rural areas, veterans and the homeless.

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WILDFIRE PREVENTION

One new law taking effect in 2017 would allow cities, counties and other local governments to get state help paying for the costs of fighting wildfires on their lands, as long as the communities took steps to try to prevent or mitigate fires. That would include making sure local firefighters know the best practices for fighting wildfires and preventative measures to mitigate fires, such as removing trees or bushes close to homes.


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