New Laws Take Effect in Several States ... Or Not

New Year's Eve is usually the holiday associated with alcohol. But it's New Year's Day in California when you'll have a better chance of getting free beer.

A new state law goes into effect allowing beer makers to give free samples at restaurants and bars. The practice was previously banned in the state.

Beer giant Anheuser-Busch backed the bill as a way of fighting back against the growing wine and liquor industries — which can already offer free tastings in California.

Beer tastings can't exceed eight ounces per person per day under the new law. The beer must be served in a glass — not in a bottle or can.

Some religious groups worry the new law could lead to out-of-control drinking.

While Californians lighten up on alcohol, just a few states over, the definition of a persistent drunk driver just got a little tighter in Colorado starting Monday.

Several new state laws take effect Monday, including one that lowers the blood alcohol level definition for persistent drunk drivers from 0.2 percent to 0.17 percent. That law also requires violators to drive with an ignition interlock device.

Another new law bars the public posting of a person's Social Security number or transmitting it over the Internet unless the information is encrypted.

And as of Monday, home sale contracts must disclose whether properties were ever used as a methamphetamine laboratory, with hazardous chemicals requiring a costly cleanup.

In New Hampshire, methamphetamine makers and users will face stiff penalties aimed at curbing the growth of "mom and pop" labs that use household chemicals to produce the highly addictive drug.

And first-time child molesters could be locked up for a minimum of 25 years in prison — and potentially indefinitely afterward — under a tough new law taking effect. The new Sexual Predators Act will pressure judges to impose a 25-year minimum sentence on people who sexually assault children under 13, but the sentence will not be mandatory. When judges choose a shorter sentence, they will have to explain, taking into account such factors as the age of the victim, the use of force and the relationship between victim and assailant.

Second offenders who rape young victims or hurt them badly will face life without parole. Predators who murder children will face 35 years to life.

The law will make it easier to keep violent sex offenders in a secure psychiatric facility if they are mentally incompetent or still considered dangerous after they complete their prison sentences. Commitment orders would be reviewed at least every five years. State officials say that provision could cost millions of dollars for new facilities, housing and treatment.

The law will have more stringent requirements for sex offenders to register and new penalties if they fail to follow the rules.

Smokers in Texas will have to start paying a dollar more for a pack of cigarettes. The addition to the existing 41-cent per pack tax is the first in Texas since 1991. It applies only applies to cigarettes. Taxes on chewing tobacco will increase only about 5 percent, while cigars are unaffected.

The increases were signed into law in May to help offset cuts in local school property taxes. About one in five Texans are smokers, so lawmakers expected the increase to generate an extra $680 million for the state over the next year.

In Georgia, Cherokee County officials say they will probably delay enforcing a contentious ordinance that would crack down on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants.

The ordinance, which county commissioners unanimously approved last month, was scheduled to take effect Monday. But county workers are not trained to enforce it. And the possibility of having to spend money to defend it from legal challenges has also prompted second thoughts.

Officials in Escondido, California, recently abandoned a similar law after agreeing to pay $90,000 to lawyers representing civil rights groups who sued the city.

New Governor, New Priorities

In Nevada, Republican Jim Gibbons was sworn in as Nevada governor seconds after the New Year opened at midnight Monday. Citing security concerns, the former five-term congressman was administered the oath of office by Bill Maupin, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, in the living room of Gibbons' Reno home.

Immediately after his oath-taking, Gibbons named Larry Martines, who has had a long career in police and security work — including work for the CIA — as the state homeland security director; and law enforcement veteran Phil Galeoto as state Department of Public Safety director.

Gibbons said that while state agencies "know of no credible threat, recent world events and New Year's celebrations raise the potential for problems during Nevada's first government transition since the terror attacks of 9-11."

"Nevadans should be assured that their leaders are in place, ready for any emergency," Gibbons said. Spokesman Brent Boynton said "recent world events" was a reference to the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.