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New laws target car tags, Web prowlers
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A number of new state laws take effect today, including statutes involving everything from railroad crossings to specialized license plates.

Privacy advocates are questioning an aggressive Georgia law, beginning today, that requires sex offenders to hand over Internet passwords, screen names and e-mail addresses.

This law has Georgia joining a small band of states complying with guidelines in a 2006 federal law that requires authorities to track Internet addresses of sex offenders. But, the state is among the first to take the extra step of forcing its 16,000 offenders to report their passwords as well.

A federal judge ruled in September that a similar law in Utah violated the privacy rights of an offender who challenged it, though the narrow ruling only applied to one offender who had a military conviction on sex offenses but was never in Utah's court or prison system.

Also under a new law in effect today, cameras used for traffic-signal enforcement must be permitted by the state. The law also sets provisions for enforcement of penalties from cameras.

Another new law exempts insurance companies from paying state taxes on premiums paid by residents with high-deductible health plans sold in connection with a health savings account. The tax break is expected to save insurers $146 million over five years.

The tax break will reduce the money flowing into state coffers during tough economic times. Still, Gov. Sonny Perdue isn't pulling his support. The law was part of his legislative agenda last year, and a Perdue spokesman said the governor continues to believe it will provide cost savings down the road by covering some of the roughly 1.7 million Georgians who lack health insurance.

"The whole thought behind this is that if we make these plans more affordable and that we get more folks insured," spokesman Bert Brantley said.

But Kirk McGhee, executive director of the Georgia Health Plans Association, said if the insurers want customers they will have to price the plans competitively.

Also, state insurance premium tax credits can now be extended for insurance companies in counties designated as "less developed areas" under a portion of a law that is effective today.

A new law requires local school systems to provide the Georgia Department of Transportation with information regarding rail crossings without active warning devices that are crossed by school buses.

The act also provides that local school districts should use their best efforts to reroute buses to minimize the use of these crossings.

Also, a law addressing a few issues related to car tags and titles begins today. The law adds license plates for disabled persons and certain veterans tags to a list of plates exempt from having to display a county name decal. The act also sets new license fees for various classes of commercial vehicles and sets requirements for issuing state titles for off-road vehicles and vehicles and motorcycles made from kits.

The law also requires lienholders to register the title for their vehicle within 30 days of purchase or face a $10 penalty. Also defined in the bill is a "rebuilder": a person who takes two salvaged or wrecked motor vehicles for the purpose or restoring or rebuilding them.

Foreign nationals may keep their license and personal identification cards from their home country under specified circumstances under another new law. The act exempts some nonresidents from having to obtain a Georgia drivers license, but requires verification of a noncitizen's lawful presence in the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this report