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New Missouri laws to take effect, ranging from caps on court fines to sex education courses

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JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — Numerous new Missouri laws are set to take effect Friday, ranging from legislation addressing concerns about court fines raised after the fatal police shooting of a black 18-year-old in Ferguson to child-proof packaging for liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes.

Here is a look at some of the new laws taking effect:

COURT COSTS

Cities won't be able to collect as much money from traffic fines and court fees, an effort by lawmakers to address concerns raised after the August 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown by a white Ferguson police officer.

After Brown's death, residents and legal advocates criticized the use of police to collect revenue through traffic fines and court fees, saying the practice added to the predominantly black community's distrust of police. A U.S. Justice Department report similarly raised issues with what was described as predatory revenue-generating practices in Ferguson.

The new law caps fines for minor traffic violations and lowers the percentage of revenue most cities can collect from traffic fines and fees from 30 percent to 20 percent. St. Louis County cities will be subject to a lower limit of 12.5 percent.

DATA CENTERS

Computer data centers will be eligible for a new sales tax exemption on their computers, equipment, utilities and Internet services. To be eligible, a new facility must invest at least $25 million and create at least 10 good-paying jobs, or an existing facility must invest at least $5 million and add at least five good-paying jobs.

DRIVING LAWS

Motorcycles and trailers will be able to have rear license plates mounted vertically, instead of just horizontally. The measure, which includes a number of loosely related changes to driving laws, also allows the Department of Revenue to require a driver to keep an ignition interlock device on a vehicle longer if the driver tampers with the device or blows above a certain blood-alcohol level between three and six months after having such a device installed.

ELECTRONC CIGARETTES

Child-proof packaging will be required for electronic cigarettes. E-cigarettes work by heating liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor. The substance sometimes is flavored like candy, prompting concerns that it might entice children and lead to accidental poisonings. Retailers who violate the new law will face a $250 first-time fine. The fine is $500 for each additional offense.

SEX EDUCATION

Sex education courses at traditional public schools and charter schools will have to include information about the dangers of online predators. That includes teaching children about emails, instant messaging and other forms of online communication. The new law also requires education about inappropriate text messages, including between peers.

TIP TAXES

Restaurant owners will only be responsible for collecting income taxes on cash tips workers report to them. The new law is in response to restaurant owners who have complained that the Department of Revenue has been trying to collect money from them when it appears servers have failed to report tips. They say there's no way to track cash tips, unlike credit card payments, and that they have to trust workers.

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