New year ushers in new laws

As of Jan. 1, a slew of new legislation has become effective, ranging from the offering of special driver’s licenses for veterans, to changes in permits issued to beginner drivers, to new strategies to reduce phosphorus in state waters.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles will now honor veterans with a special distinction on driver’s licenses, which will make access to certain offerings and programs more convenient.

“People often get a good deal because they’re a veteran, but haven’t had something to show that is generally recognized,” said state Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143rd District). “It’s a nice tribute to them and it can make their lives easier.”

A new act also offers lifetime free admission to state parks, forests, and recreational facilities to certain veterans with disabilities. This pass is similar to the privileges currently available to residents who are 65 or older.

Another act will ease voting for residents who are of permanent absentee ballot status. Mandatory re-applications for ballots will be replaced by annual notices, in which registrars of voters will ensure the voters are still of permanent absentee status. Upon verification, absentee ballots will automatically be sent to residents for each primary, election and referendum for their respective municipality.

This type of status is designed for residents with permanent disabilities. Such voters must apply with a doctor’s certificate of disability through their registrar of voters office.

Another change affecting elections enables voters to register up to and including Election Day beginning this November. The next municipal election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Drivers

Learner’s permits for beginner drivers, which were required only of people 18 and under, will now be replaced by “instruction” permits that will be required of beginner drivers of all ages.

Greater penalties will be enforced on drivers of commercial vehicles who are repeat offenders. Two counts of certain offenses, such as driving under the influence, will disqualify a commercial driver from driving a commercial vehicle for life.

In the past, drivers could reapply for their commercial license after 10 years.

Another act now requires the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to develop strategies with municipalities across the state in an effort to reduce phosphorus in inland nontidal waters. The department will have to reduce levels of phosphorus to levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The act also establishes certain restrictions on certain fertilizers, soil amendments, and composts containing phosphates, and expands the eligibility of projects for Clean Water Fund financing, in efforts to remove hazardous nutrients in addition to nitrogen.

For a complete listing of new legislation that has been made effective on Jan. 1, visit cga.ct.gov.

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