CARSON CITY, Nev. — Driving while texting or talking on a handheld device will hit Nevadans in their wallets come Jan. 1 as a new law shifts from warnings to fines, among nearly three dozen other laws that take effect in the new year.
The cellphone ban took effect Oct. 1, but until now authorities haven't issued tickets. Nevadans were given a three-month grace period to get used to the idea.
That changes Sunday, when the fine for a first offense will be $50. A second offense will cost $100, and a third or subsequent offense brings a $250 fine, not including court costs.
And there is no forgiveness for even peeking at your phone while at a stop sign or waiting at a traffic light — if you're behind the wheel, it's illegal, moving or not.
Hands-free talking is still allowed.
In the Reno-Carson City area, Nevada Highway Patrol troopers gave out more than 600 warnings during the 90 day period.
The driving and texting bill is one of 32 new laws or parts of laws that take effect Sunday.
State workers hired after Jan. 1 will have to pay their own health care costs in retirement under another law designed to rein in government spending by eliminating subsidized health care for retirees.
The state Attorney General gains new subpoena powers to investigate open meetings law complaints, and public officeholders who knowingly participate in violations will be subject to civil penalties up to $500.
People who drive electric or other alternative fuel vehicles will be eligible for free parking at some publicly owned facilities under a six-year program intended to show Nevada's commitment to green automotive technology.
The new law doesn't include parking at airports, universities and community colleges.
The Las Vegas City Council last week approved the parking perk for such vehicles at any city-operated parking areas.
Also under the new laws taking effect, candidates for city, county, district and statewide offices will now have to file campaign finance reports electronically with the Nevada Secretary of State. Supporters say the law will allow the office to set up a searchable database to track campaign contributions. The bill also sets earlier deadlines for filing the reports so voters have access to the information before early voting begins.
Music therapists and dietitians face new licensing requirements, while educators must now undergo a criminal background check when their licenses are renewed. Fire performers and apprentices must now apply to the state fire marshal for a certificate of registration.
Another law establishes a statewide emergency alert system for vulnerable elderly people, similar to the Amber Alert system for abducted children.
Other new laws require Nevada nursing homes to report hospital-inquired infections to the National Healthcare Safety Network, and mandate that medical and veterinary assistants administer drugs under the supervision of a physician or veterinarian.