Laws Aim to Bolster Sagging Economies

ONE frayed thread - the poor economy - runs through dozens of laws that take effect Jan. 1, from Alaska's $10 fee for king salmon anglers to Georgia's promise of business tax breaks for jobs created in poor areas.

Minnesota will tax hospitals to finance health insurance for its working poor; Florida will require tighter security against crime in convenience stores; and some California schools will be freer to experiment.

New Year's Day also inaugurates Indiana's $125 tax break for used computers donated to public schools, lower workers' compensation costs for Maine employers, and a New York state ban on toys shaped like hypodermic needles.

Most of the laws resulted from legislators wrestling with shrinking revenues, dwindling jobs, and escalating social service needs while also trying to enhance their states' attractiveness to business and the work force.

"A big concern for states is the economy and what they can do within their state economy to make it better," said Doug Sacarto, an analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"The fundamentals are there," he said. "Saving jobs, education that's going to keep us competitive in a global economy. This has been talked about at the national level, but you see it acted on in very important ways at the state level."

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