New State Laws Affect Most Residents

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by Donald Loose

It's been quite a year for changes to Arizona law. 2007 saw the beginning of a state minimum wage, a statewide smoking ban, tougher DUI penalties, more homeowners' rights, and perhaps most significantly, the passage of an employer sanctions law. We live in a much different state than we did a mere 12 months ago.

Proposition 202, passed by the voters in the November 2006 general election, established a state minimum wage and raised the minimum wage from the federally mandated $5.15 per hour to $6.75 per hour, effective Jan. 1, 2007, with increases each Jan. 1 for changes in the cost of living. Arizona's minimum wage will be increased again on Jan. 1, 2008, to $6.90 per hour. More than 145,000 working Arizonans, half of whom are working women struggling to live on less than $11,000 per year, benefit from the wage increases.

Proposition 201, also passed by the voters in the last general election, bans smoking in virtually all public places and places of employment. The measure, officially known as the Smoke-Free Arizona Act, took effect on May 1, 2007. An estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and more than 35,000 coronary heart disease deaths occur annually among adult nonsmokers in the U.S. as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke. The Smoke-Free Act significantly reduces our exposure to secondhand smoke.

Arizona got tougher on drunk drivers with the passage this summer of a law requiring motorists convicted of any drunk-driving offense to install ignition interlock devices. Under prior law, only those convicted of extreme DUI, aggravated DUI, or repeat offenders were required to equip their vehicles with ignition interlock devices. First time, non-extreme DUI offenders were exempt from the requirement. The DUI amendment also increased the minimum jail time for extreme DUI of .20 or more, to 45 days from 10 days. After enactment of the new law, state representatives, saying they made a mistake, voted to repeal the interlock requirement. It was too late to change the law, however, because the governor had already signed it.

Homeowners living in communities with homeowners associations -- and there are more than 9,000 such communities statewide -- got greater rights this year with the enactment of two legislative bills. Under the new laws, an association may not prohibit the indoor or outdoor display of for sale signs, or the installation or use of solar energy devices. These new private property owners' rights are in addition to last year's passage of a law providing for a quicker and less-costly resolution of disputes between homeowners and their associations through the office of administrative hearings.

The Legal Arizona Workers Act was by far the most significant and controversial new law enacted this year. The state immigration law penalizes any Arizona employer who knowingly or intentionally employs undocumented workers after Jan. 1, 2008. Beginning on that date, Arizona employers must confirm the employment authorization of all new hires using the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify Internet-based program. An employer who knowingly or intentionally hires illegal workers faces suspension of its business license for up to 10 business days. A second infraction can result in a permanent revocation of the employer's business license. Business groups filed lawsuits in federal court to stop the law from taking effect on Jan. 1 -- but they were unsuccessful in their attempts. More litigation over the employer sanctions law -- which covers 150,000 Arizona employers -- is sure to follow. Stay tuned next year.

Donald Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers (Fenestra Books 2005).

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