Christine Stuart photo

Of the many laws going into effect today is one that could save someone’s life lawmakers said Wednesday.

At a brief press conference lawmakers and union leaders touted the passage of a bill that toughens penalties for drivers driving recklessly near highway work zones. Lawmakers said they held the press conference Wednesday because the law can only be effective if the public knows about it.

Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said many families take it for granted that their loved ones will return home at the end of the day. That’s not true for families of police, fire, or highway workers, he said.

Co-Chairman of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain,  said last year there were 14,000 accidents in Connecticut work zones. “This is a major problem in Connecticut and across the country,” he said. 

The last Department of Transportation employee to die in such an accident was in 2005 and the daughter of the deceased DOT worker offered the most compelling testimony for the new law, lawmakers said.

Meanwhile, other laws that go into effect today include a new hate crimes law that makes it a hate crime – on par with cross burning – to hang a noose on public or private property with the intent to intimidate or harass another person.

Violators will now be subject to a year in prison, a $2,000 fine, or both.

Sen. Ed Gomes, D-Bridgeport, applauded the new law. “As a person of color, I can tell you that there is only one reason why most people display a noose: to send a message to black people that you are not welcome here, and that you risk your life by staying put,” he said in a press release.

“We hear about this all the time down South, but it happens in Connecticut, too. Now you’re going to pay a steep price if you want to use a noose to send a racist message,” Gomes said.

Tonight at 5 p.m. the state African-American Affairs Commission will host a civil rights informational forum at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. The event will focus on the efforts and activities of the FBI related to its civil rights and hate crimes programs, organizers said. FBI Special Agents Walter W. Grattan and Kimberly K. Mertz will speak at the forum.

Perhaps the most controversial new law going into effect Wednesday was the one requiring Town Clerks to post meeting minutes online no later than seven-days after the meeting. The law has town’s taking down web sites, afraid their staff won’t be able to comply with the requirements.