New Idaho Laws: Knives, jury duty, drones, kegs & metal theft

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - 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.

So as you get ready for your Fourth of July cookouts and holiday gatherings, consider this roundup of recent legislation from lawmakers in Boise:

- DRONE LIMITS: A law takes effect July 1 forbidding anybody in Idaho from using an unmanned drone aircraft to conduct unwarranted surveillance or to inappropriately snoop on somebody - including media paparazzi who might be tempted to fly over some celebrity's estate in the resort town of Sun Valley to take unauthorized photos. Those targeted by unwarranted drones could, in turn, pursue their airborne pursuers - not from the sky, but with a courtroom civil action.

- DIRECT DEMOCRACY: Prospective initiative backers, pay attention, because it could be tougher to get your ballot measure in front of voters. That's after the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation succeeded in convincing lawmakers to require that signatures of 6 percent of registered voters in at least 18 counties be gathered before a measure makes it on the ballot; there's currently no geographic requirement. The agriculture group said it was trying to stave off possible animal-cruelty measures that could limit livestock operations.

- CHARTER CASH: For the first time in Idaho charter school history, nontraditional public schools are due to start getting a share of state tax dollars to support their facilities and maintenance costs. Come next fall, the first installment of the plan is expected to distribute about $1.4 million to the 40 charter schools across the state. Before lawmakers in 2013 passed the measure, charter school proponents said the lack of funding for their buildings was threatening their financial existence.

- CONCEALED KNIVES: Idaho residents will be allowed to carry concealed knives with blades of four inches or less without a permit, according to a new law brought by a southern Idaho Republican, Rep. Pete Nielsen of Mountain Home, after he said his son was cited for illegally concealing such a knife beneath the seat of his automobile. The measure also allows people in Idaho to conceal legally obtained Tasers, stun guns, pepper spray and cooking knives.

- BIG TRUCKS: The timber industry successfully fought for a package that aims to allow 129,000 pound trucks - above the current limit of 105,500 pounds - on more roads, winning out over foes who said it could make for more dangerous driving. Don't expect bigger trucks on lots more Idaho highways in the near future, however, because the Idaho Transportation Department is still putting together the rules that will govern just how the state's byways and highways will be vetted for their ability to accommodate heavier traffic.

- MINI-KEGS: Lawmakers said "Cheers" to a plan that will allow Idaho microbreweries that produce most of their beer in five gallon kegs to actually sell these smaller kegs to the public. Before the change, dealers or wholesalers were forbidden from making sales of beer in kegs that were less than 7 1/2 gallons. So bottoms up!

- PHONE SOLICITATION: After July 1, the caller on the other end of the line might well be the phone company hawking faster Internet service. That's after companies including Century Link Inc., Idaho's largest landline company, and Frontier Communications convinced lawmakers that Idaho should lift a 13-year-old restriction barring phone and cable TV companies from calling existing customers to market new products or services.

- JURY DUTY: For nearly 50 years, serving on a jury earned panelists just $5 for a half day and $10 for each full day of service. Mindful that this civic responsibility isn't to be taken lightly and sometimes is a real burden, lawmakers voted to allow counties to quintuple payments to $25 per half day and $50 for a whole. But the decision to actually increase payments was left up to local commissioners, so it isn't likely to happen everywhere at once.

- HISTORICAL HORSE RACING: Lawmakers agreed to allow some race tracks in Idaho to offer a new form of wagering, where patrons will be allowed to bet on historical horse races contained in a computer database. The state's horse racing industry said expanding gaming opportunities like these will help preserve their favorite sport, by increasing revenues at tracks.

- TAX GARNISHMENTS: Those behind on their taxes may get a little relief, after which the Idaho State Tax Commission will be limited to garnishing 25 percent of their earnings. Lawmakers feared that the agency needed new limits, to prevent overzealous collectors from draining somebody's bank account and leaving them without enough money to buy essentials, pay the rent, or eat.

- METAL THEFT: Thieves who target copper wire and other metals found in power transmission systems and substations may face tougher penalties after July 1, when a new law goes into effect making it a felony to interfere with a utility's ability to provide service. Buyers of such metal face tougher standards, too, including requiring them to take photos of the sellers and their vehicles to help track down thieves.

- ENHANCED CONCEALED CARRY: Come July 1, firearms enthusiasts will be able to get a beefed-up, voluntary "enhanced" concealed weapon permit after completing an eight-hour class, live fire training and a mental health check. The measure is aimed at increasing the likelihood that Idaho's concealed weapons permits more likely to be recognized by other states, easing travel for gun owners.