HONOLULU — This part of summer is a time for patriotism. It’s also the time new state laws go into effect across the nation.
Fiscal years begin July 1 on most financial calendars, and a slew of state government spending regulations kick in each year on that date. Policy laws also hit the books in a wave, though states often mark their independence by enacting such legislation on their own time.
Among the laws set to take effect this year around the U.S. are new abortion limits, gun laws and technology rules. And one state, Wyoming, will start setting up a lottery Monday, leaving only a handful of states without a jackpot drawing.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has been signing laws daily in recent weeks, with a deadline coming next month to take action on bills. So as you get ready for Fourth of July cookouts and family gatherings, consider this roundup of new laws going into effect in Hawaii on July 1:
— CAR SAFETY: Counties previously had their own regulations, but hand-held use of cellphones and other electronic devices will now be prohibited for drivers statewide. The law still allows drivers to use hands-free devices, like Bluetooth headsets and systems integrated within car stereos. But it’s tougher on younger drivers — those under 18 aren’t allowed to use the devices at all while driving.
The cellphone law isn’t the only new law for drivers on the islands. The same day he signed the cellphone restrictions, Abercrombie signed a bill requiring adults to wear seat belts in the back seats of cars. It took effect immediately.
— HOMEBUYERS HELP: More homebuyers will qualify for mortgage loans at below-market interest rates under a new law expanding Hawaii’s Hula Mae Single Family Mortgage Loan Program. The law adds features, like down payment assistance, and broadens the program to new potential homeowners. More than 10,000 families have used the program to help buy their first home since it started in 1979. And the median home price for a single-family home in Honolulu during the first quarter this year was $625,800, according to the National Association of Realtors.
— FILM CREDITS: In broadening its economy from tourism and the military, Hawaii is hoping for some Hollywood glitz. A new law extends film tax credits to 2019 and boosts them from 20 percent to 25 percent on the Big Island, Kauai and Maui. It boosts the credits from 15 percent to 20 percent in Honolulu. Movie productions will be able to claim a credit of up to $15 million after the law takes effect.