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Sales tax changes, safe gun storage rules among new laws

Courant Reporter Preview Opening Day Of The Legislature

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Sales tax changes, new safe gun storage rules, and a new minimum age to purchase tobacco and vaping products are among a host of new laws set to take effect in Connecticut.

Tuesday will also mark when the first of several planned increases to Connecticut’s minimum wage, which is scheduled to incrementally climb to $15 an hour by June 1, 2023. On Tuesday, the wage will increase from $10.10 to $11 an hour.

“This is perhaps one of the most impactful pieces of legislation for working families that a governor can sign,” Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said in May when he signed the minimum wage legislation into law. The wage increase is expected to impact approximately 130,000 workers this year.

A new 1% meals tax included in the new, two-year $43 billion budget crafted by Democrats earlier this year has already received some of the greatest scrutiny. Concerns were raised by minority Republicans and later by many majority Democrats about how broadly the Department of Revenue Services was interpreting tax change.

At Lamont’s request, DRS recently issued a new memo clarifying that prepared meals sold in grocery stores that were already subject to the 6.35% sales tax would be taxed at 7.35%, not additional items such as loose muffins or containers of lettuce. Republicans have argued they still want a special legislative session held to change the underlying law.

Here are highlights of the new laws taking effect:

TAX CHANGES
Besides the new meals tax, consumers can expect to pay a higher tax on certain digital goods. The tax on things like streaming services, electronic books, certain software downloads and ring tones will increase from 1% to 6.35%, the state’s standard sales tax rate.

Lamont had originally proposed a long list of goods and services that should be taxed at the full rate, arguing for the need to “modernize” the state’s sales tax. Ultimately, the list was whittled down to a handful of services in the final state budget, including parking in certain lots, dry cleaning and laundry services, and interior design services.

While the tax on alcoholic beverages except beer will increase by 10%, the tax on beer produced by craft breweries will be cut in half. The tax on dyed diesel fuel sold for marine purposes will drop from 6.35% to 2.99%.

Also on Tuesday, the motor vehicle trade-in fee that new and used car dealers are charged on each vehicle they accept as a trade-in will increase from $35 to $100.

TOBACCO AND VAPING
Purchasers of tobacco products, e-cigarettes and vaping products will now have to be 21 years old in Connecticut.

Besides raising the age, a new law that takes effect on Tuesday increases annual license fees for cigarette dealers from $50 to $200 and from $400 to $800 for e-cigarette dealers. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will be allowed to conduct unannounced checks to make sure e-cigarette dealers are not selling to underage individuals. Tougher financial penalties for violators will also take effect.

The new law also bans smoking and e-cigarettes on the grounds of child care centers and schools.

Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, has said the administration is reviewing what, if anything, Lamont can do to further restrict vaping, given a growing number of vaping-related lung illnesses in Connecticut. Lamont doesn’t have the same executive power as some other governors who’ve called for bans.

“So what we’re doing is we’re exploring what are the emergency powers of the governor when it comes to something like this,” Reiss said. “And if it needs to be done in a special session that’s something he’s looking at.”

GUN LAW CHANGES
Three bills that passed on mostly bipartisan votes that attempt to toughen Connecticut’s gun laws will take effect on Tuesday.

One stems from the death of Ethan Song, a Guilford 15-year-old who accidentally shot himself with a handgun owned by a friend’s father. The new law requires loaded and unloaded firearms to be safely stored in homes where there are minors under age 18.

The Hartford Courant reported Monday that Song’s family, who played a key role in passing the new safe storage law, settled a lawsuit against the gun’s owner for $1 million.

A second new law requires handguns left in an unattended vehicle to be stored in a trunk, locked safe or locked glove box and prohibiting unmarked. The third new law bars untraceable weapons known as ghost guns.

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