AUGUSTA, Maine — In her driver education classes, Rosalie Alexander teaches students to keep their minds on driving and not become distracted. Sending text messages, says the Greenfield instructor, takes a driver beyond distraction.
“Texting is in a category by itself,” Alexander said. “I don’t think there’s any way you can text and drive.”
Neither do state legislators, who are banning the practice as of Wednesday. A law setting minimum $100 fines for texting while driving is among the scores of new laws taking effect that day, which marks 90 days after the close of the 2011 regular legislative session.
After a vague 2-year-old “distracted driving” law failed to do its job, lawmakers aimed directly at texting behind the wheel, putting Maine alongside the 33 other states that ban it.
Troopers will be on the lookout for violations, said state police Col. Robert Williams, which he says are easy to spot.
Some of the other high-profile laws passed during the session, such as the health insurance overhaul and authorization of charter schools, kick in on phased-in dates. But there are plenty of other new rules for Mainers to follow, and in many cases standing rules and regulations are eased.
Maine landlords must disclose smoking policies to tenants stating whether smoking is prohibited, allowed on the entire premises or allowed in limited areas.
Adults who are 60 or older, and those who are incapacitated or dependent, can seek protection from abuse orders if they are abused by an extended family member or an unpaid care provider. The old law applied only to family members or dating partners.
Some of the state’s gun laws will be eased as of Wednesday. Businesses no longer may bar employees who have concealed firearms permits from keeping a firearm in their vehicle, provided the vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible. Police from another state may carry a concealed firearm in Maine if they have proper identification. Concealed weapons permit holders may carry weapons in state parks and historic sites.
A law passed by special request allows a one-armed person to possess a switchblade.
Medical marijuana patients won’t be required to register with the state. Police and state agencies won’t be allowed to seize marijuana from legally qualified patients, caregivers and dispensaries. Privacy protections for medical marijuana patients are expanded.
Some environmental laws, such as those relating to construction near sand dunes, are eased. A rule that barred lobstermen from storing their traps on docks during the winter is scuttled. And a law that repeals the state’s online pesticide registry instead allows residents to request advance notification of the application of pesticides.
Regulations are eased for installation of chimneys and fireplaces. A company in Auburn that recycles old TV and computer monitors will be able to expand its operations thanks to a law allowing it to disassemble cathode ray tubes.
A change in development regulations makes it easier for big-box retail projects to go forward. Small businesses and high school students will get more leeway on work schedules by expanding allowable work hours. Off-track betting facilities can be operated at Class A lounges, and the law requiring a minimum 100-mile distance between casinos is clarified so the distance is measured in road, not air, miles.
Some provisions of the anti-terrorism law known as Real ID are rolled back, barring the state from using things like retinal scanning, facial recognition and fingerprint technology, to produce a license or nondriver identification card.
Wednesday will bring some changes in the hunting laws. Those 70 and older may hunt wild birds or animals with a crossbow during open season. Bear hunters now may take two bears per season, provided one is by firearm and one by trapping. Limited night hunting of coyotes will be allowed to control predation.
For all-terrain vehicle users who venture onto private property, a new law will make it a little tougher to get away with an infraction.
Another new law allows a court to order a dangerous dog to be securely muzzled and restricted by a tether whenever the dog is off the owner’s or keeper’s premises as an alternative to being kept in a secure enclosure or euthanized.
Maine’s Mixed Martial Arts Authority now will oversee boxing as well. Maine disbanded its boxing commission in 2007, but renewed interest in the sport prompted efforts to bring it back.
Maine wineries may charge for samples. And a new law makes whoopie pies the state treat, and blueberry pie — made with wild Maine blueberries — the official state dessert.