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Legislation

Most of the legislation passed earlier this year by the divided Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will take effect Friday. That includes measures that lifted a sweeping ban on facial recognition technology, expanded hunting on public lands, and added a new criminal penalty for marijuana possession. Another new law toughens the penalty for stealing catalytic converters. The emission control devices have become popular targets for thieves as prices for the precious metals they contain have skyrocketed. The legislation makes tampering with or stealing a catalytic converter a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. It was previously a misdemeanor. New Virginia laws typically take effect July 1, unless otherwise specified.

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A long slate of new Tennessee laws significantly affecting transgender athletes, controversial books, homeless camps, and harsh criminal sentences will go into effect July 1. The state’s GOP-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed off on hundreds of bills earlier this year during the annual legislative session. Many of those laws will kick in Friday, which is the start of a new fiscal year. Notably, Tennessee will become the first U.S. state to make it a felony to camp on local public property such as parks — a move critics say is designed to target homeless encampments.

The North Dakota attorney general has found the sale of a couple thousand acres of prime farmland to a group tied to Bill Gates complies with a Depression-era law meant to protect family farms because the land is being leased back to farmers. The state’s Republican Attorney General Drew Wrigley had inquired into the land sale and his office issued a letter Wednesday saying the transaction tied to Microsoft's co-founder complied with the archaic anti-corporate farming law. The law prohibits corporations or limited liability companies from owning farmland or ranchland, but allows individual trusts to own the land if it is leased to farmers.

A Danish Parliament-appointed commission has harshly criticized the country’s government for its decision to cull millions of healthy mink at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to protect humans from a mutation of the virus. The 2020 decision to wipe out Denmark’s entire captive mink population had stirred strong controversy, particularly as the necessary legislation to allow such a drastic move was put in place more than a month after the cull had started. In its report released Thursday, the commission said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was “grossly misleading” during a Nov. 4 press conference when she announced that all mink — infected and healthy animals alike — should be culled. The report also criticized other top Danish officials.

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The German government has presented plans to make it easier for transgender people to legally change their name and gender. Under the planned “self-determination law” outlined Thursday, adults would be able to change their first name and official gender at registry offices. Germany's existing “transsexual law” took effect in 1981. It requires individuals to obtain two expert assessments and a court's authorization for a legal gender change. Over the years, Germany’s top court struck down other provisions that required transgender people to get divorced and sterilized, and to undergo gender-transition surgery. Germany's minister for families says the current rules are humiliating and superfluous.

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the British handover of a city that his rule has transformed from a global hub known for its political freedoms to one that is much more tightly controlled by the Communist Party. In a staged event carried live on Chinese TV, students and others greeted the leader Thursday. He is making his first trip outside of mainland China in nearly 2 ½ years. Under Xi’s leadership, China has reshaped Hong Kong, imposing a strict national security law used to silence dissent and revamping election laws to keep opposition politicians out of the city’s Legislature. The changes have all but eliminated dissenting voices in a place once known for its vibrant political debate.

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Pennsylvania’s new fiscal year will begin without a state budget in place, as Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and top Republican lawmakers planned to work through the deadline to hammer out a roughly $42 billion spending plan whose details were still largely being kept secret. As of Thursday, negotiators had yet to fully brief rank-and-file lawmakers or publish the details of budget-related legislation. Without a new budget signed into law by Friday, the state will lose the authority to make some payments. Negotiations in closed-door talks revolve around a substantial amount of new aid for public schools and various concessions by the Democratic governor to Republican lawmakers who control the Legislature.

The lower house of Russia’s parliament has given final approval to a bill that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries taking actions against Russian news outlets. The Kremlin-controlled State Duma approved the bill on its third and final reading on Wednesday. The upper house of parliament is set to rubber-stamp the measure before Russian President Vladimir Putin signs it into law. Russia has repeatedly complained that Western countries were improperly restricting Russian media by banning their operation or denying visas to their journalists. Russia's Foreign Ministry warned journalists for American media this month that they could be denied renewal of their visas and accreditation.

Most new laws traditionally take effect in Georgia on July 1. But this year, many of the most important measures became law as soon as Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed them. A few of the General Assembly’s most consequential accomplishments won’t take effect until January or even later. Top measures beginning Friday include a raft of conservative-inspired school legislation, higher lawmaker pensions and an increase in lawmaker pensions. Laws that took effect earlier include a suspension of state motor fuel taxes, special income tax refunds and repeal of the permit requirement to carry a concealed handgun in public.

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Arizona’s Republican attorney general says that a pre-statehood law that bans all abortions is enforceable. Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced his decision Wednesday and said he will soon file for the removal of an injunction that has blocked it for nearly 50 years. Brnovich has been weighing the old law since last Friday, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 decision that said abortion was a constitutional right. His decision puts him at odds with Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who says a new law banning abortions after 15 weeks takes precedence. Abortion providers across Arizona worried about being prosecuted stopped performing the procedures last week.

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A Delaware judge has struck down a small town ordinance mandating burial or cremation of fetal remains. Wednesday's ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Jennings against the town of Seaford. The town council passed the ordinance in December after Planned Parenthood opened a facility in Seaford, its first clinic in southern Delaware since a Rehoboth Beach location closed in 2011. The judge said state law regarding the disposal of humans remains supersedes the local ordinance. Under state law, fetal remains from an abortion are not considered a “dead body” and must be incinerated as “pathological waste. Laster noted the case didn't involve any federal constitutional rights or any Delaware law regarding abortion.

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A bill heading to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's desk would require elevator safety improvements inside North Carolina vacation cottages and short-term rentals. The House voted unanimously on Wednesday to accept a version of legislation that the Senate passed last week. The bill was prompted by the death of a 7-year-old Ohio boy on the Outer Banks last summer when he became trapped between the elevator car and elevator shaft. The bill requires the gap between landing and car doors be narrowed, such as by installing space guards. The bill also sets minimum force requirements on elevator car doors and gates.

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New York leaders plan to ban people from carrying firearms into many places of business unless the owners put up a sign saying guns are welcome. Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that she and lawmakers have agreed on the broad strokes of a gun control bill that the Democratic-led Legislature is poised to pass Thursday. The legislation was written after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s handgun licensing law. It will also include provisions that make it harder to apply for a permit to carry a gun outside the home and create more rules around firearm storage.

Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Senate is approving bills to prohibit classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity and require educators to notify parents of sexually explicit content in the curriculum and library books. The bills passed nearly along party lines Wednesday and Democrats warned that Gov. Tom Wolf will veto them. The bills still require approval from the state House of Representatives. Meanwhile, a bill that would bar transgender girls from playing in sports in a way that matches their gender identity now goes to Wolf's desk. He has vowed to veto anti-LGBTQ legislation.

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It appears North Carolina’s hemp industry will avoid a shutdown. The General Assembly gave its final approval Wednesday to legislation that would make its products permanently exempt from the state’s controlled substances law. The Senate voted for a House measure that keeps lawful the production and sale of industrial hemp and products derived from hemp like CBD. The bill now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk for his expected signature. North Carolina’s industrial hemp program began as a pilot several years ago and is now operated through a federal production program. Without the legislation, the products would become illegal later this week.

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Laws banning most abortions at the point of the “first detectable heartbeat"are beginning to take effect following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision. Court actions in states including Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee have revived laws stalled under Roe and left some abortion seekers and clinics scrambling. Generally, abortion is still legal in states under such laws until six to eight weeks into pregnancy. Clinics, abortion rights and some faith groups are mobilizing to help women beyond that point get abortions elsewhere. Some abortion foes also are providing family-related resources online.

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North Carolina House Republicans are seeking a constitutional amendment that would significantly remove the governor's powers to choose members of the State Board of Education. A House committee voted Wednesday for legislation that would largely eliminate in most cases the governor's ability to appoint 11 of the board's 13 members. The legislation would put an amendment question on the ballot this November that if approved would have nearly all board members elected by the public. A bill sponsor says the change would give parents greater influence over their children’s education. Critics say it could harm minority representation on the board.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had provided a constitutional right to abortion. The June 24 ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. In anticipation of the decision, several states led by Democrats have taken steps to protect abortion access. The decision also sets up the potential for legal fights between the states over whether providers and those who help women obtain abortions can be sued or prosecuted.

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Top Indiana lawmakers are delaying until late July the start of a special legislative session during which they are expected to consider tougher anti-abortion laws following U.S. Supreme Court’s decision ending the constitutional right to abortion. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb called last week for a special session beginning July 6 to take up a tax refund proposal. But when the Supreme Court issued its abortion ruling  days later, Republican legislative leaders said lawmakers would also debate anti-abortion measures. Leaders of the Republican-dominated Legislature announced Wednesday that lawmakers would convene starting July 25 to allow sufficient preparation time.

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The Montana Supreme Court says the state Board of Regents, not the Legislature, has the constitutional authority to regulate the possession and storage of firearms on public college campuses. Wednesday's unanimous decision upholds a lower court ruling that found lawmakers overstepped their authority in passing gun law legislation in 2021 that included a provision to allow more people to carry guns on university campuses. Montana’s constitution gives the Board of Regents the authority to regulate the university system. The courts agreed with the board that its power includes setting campus firearms policies. The policy bans firearm possession on campus, with the exception of police officers and security.

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When the leaders of Finland, Sweden and Turkey met with NATO’s chief this week, some remained pessimistic the meeting would lessen Turkey’s objections to the Nordic pair’s historic request to join NATO. The government in Ankara had indicated for weeks that it would veto the applications unless its demands were met. Nearly three hours into Tuesday’s talks, journalists were invited to witness the nations’ foreign ministers sign a joint memorandum. The 10-article document addresses Turkey’s main objections with a promise that Finland and Sweden won't support a Kurdish militia and the network of an exiled Turkish cleric. They also pledged to lift an arms embargo against Turkey and to address Ankara's extradition requests.

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People who work to protect rivers and waterways have begun using drones to catch polluters in places where wrongdoing is difficult to see or expensive to find. The images they capture have already been used as evidence to accuse companies of wrongdoing. Now as the Clean Water Act turns 50, a network of Waterkeepers is looking to expand the use of this new investigative tool and is holding trainings. Drones are still rare in environmental enforcement, but perhaps due to the compelling images they capture, some states and localities are putting limits on their use.

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The lower house of Russia’s parliament has the second reading of a proposed law that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries taking actions against Russian news outlets. Following Wednesday's vote, the proposal must still pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the upper house’s approval before going to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law. But the Duma’s approval on second reading almost always prefigures a law’s enactment. Russia has repeatedly complained in recent months that Western countries were improperly restricting Russian media by banning their operation or denying visas to their journalists.

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