This from Gov. Jodi Rell today on new laws kicking in tomorrow morning, including expanded penalties for distracted driving and more protection for the young and elderly. Here’s the governor’s release and list of salient laws:
“Each of these new laws is a ‘step in the right direction’ for the people of our state and I was proud to sign them into law,” Governor Rell said. “The health and welfare of our citizens – from the youngest to our elderly – is of utmost priority. These laws send a powerful message that Connecticut will not tolerate the exploitation of our most vulnerable groups and will make those who prey on them pay dearly.”
Among the laws that take effect Friday are:
Senate Bill 153, An Act Providing Safe Harbor for Exploited Children, which protects 16- and 17-year-olds forced into prostitution from prosecution and toughens penalties against those who exploit them. Previously, prostitution had been a crime regardless of the alleged offender’s age.
“Many of these children are the true victims of human trafficking and need the full protection of our laws. Common sense tells us that at these young ages, they can be forcibly coerced into criminal act by despicable, greedy individuals,” the Governor said.
The bill increases the penalty for promoting prostitution of someone younger than 18 years old, making the offense a Class B felony rather than a Class C felony and boosting sanctions to as much as 20 years in prison and fines of $15,000. The new law also imposes a mandatory minimum nine months in prison for promoting prostitution of someone younger than 18.
House Bill 5278, An Act Concerning Senior Centers and the Freedom of Information Act, excludes the disclosure of name, address, telephone number or e-mail address of anyone who is a member of, or enrolled in a program at a senior center that a public agency administers or sponsors.
“It is everyone’s right to hold public officials accountable for how taxpayer money is spent. What is not appropriate and potentially dangerous is making certain information available to the wrong people,” Governor Rell said. “There are unscrupulous individuals who will stop at nothing to get that information, even if it means hiding behind our FOI laws.”
Senate Bill 427, An Act Concerning The Use Of Hand-Held Mobile Telephones And Mobile Electric Devices By Motor Vehicle Operators, significantly strengthens Connecticut’s 5-year-old ban on the use of cell phones and other electronic devices by motorists. The new law eliminates the one-time exemption from a fine for purchasing a hands-free device and specifies that the ban on using electronic devices while driving applies to texting as well as cell phone conversations.
“The law is intended to save lives and make our roads safer. The message is clear – two eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel,” Governor Rell said. “There can be no more ‘grace period’ for a motorist caught using a hand-held phone in their car and if you get caught texting – you pay. There is nothing that urgent that is worth a life.”
The new law also increases the penalties for repeat offenders. First-time violators face a fine of $100. Second offenses carry a fine of $150 while subsequent violations are fined $200. In addition, the law specifies that 25 percent of fines collected will go to the municipality where the summons was issued.
House Bills 5497, An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ Task Force on Domestic Violence, and House Bill 5246, An Act Concerning the Protection of and Services for Victims of Domestic Violence. The new laws establish broader protections for victims of domestic violence, electronic monitoring of violent offenders and greater awareness of teen dating violence and other reforms that make it easier for tenants who are victims of family violence to terminate their rental agreement without penalty.
“These reforms will strengthen what are already some of the toughest domestic violence laws in the nation,” Governor Rell said. “Abusers will find it harder to hide from the law and victims will have safer havens for them and their families.”
Other new laws include:
Senate Bill 5435, An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Majority Leaders’ Jobs Growth Roundtable (Jobs Bill). Several provisions of the sweeping, bipartisan Jobs Bill, which offers incentives for employers and small businesses, are already in effect. On October 1, the law calls for the creation of a comprehensive marketing campaign that promotes Connecticut as a place of innovation. It also requires the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development to regionally promote the biomedical device industry in the Connecticut River Valley, also known as the “New England Knowledge Corridor,” between Hartford and Springfield, Mass.
Senate Bill 248, An Act Concerning Adverse Events at Hospitals and Outpatient Surgical Facilities, expands disclosure of medical errors at hospitals and surgical clinics and gives patients access to information regarding their complaints. The new law also adds protections for whistleblowers who report the medical errors, known as “adverse events” and requires the state Department of Public Health (DPH) report annually to the Legislature on medical errors for each hospital.
Senate Bill 501, An Act Concerning the Real Estate Conveyance Tax, exempts homeowners facing foreclosure from paying this tax when the property transfer is made through foreclosure or a short sale.