POLITICS

All The Laws You Should Know About That Go Into Effect In 2019

From minimum wage hikes to stricter gun control measures and Me Too-inspired legislation, 2019 will usher in thousands of new laws in various states.

2019 will see the enactment of a slew of new laws across the country (in California alone, more than 1,000 will be added to the books). In some states, minimum wages will go up, guns will be harder to obtain, plastic straws will get the boot and hunters will get to wear pink for a change.

Here are some of the noteworthy laws going into effect this year:

Tighter gun restrictions in several states

Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last February, thousands of protesters across the nation demanded stricte
Following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last February, thousands of protesters across the nation demanded stricter gun control measures.

In the wake of the shooting massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school last year, California passed several measures to prevent domestic abusers and people with mental illness from obtaining guns. Californians who are involuntarily committed to a mental institution twice in a year, or who are convicted of certain domestic violence offenses, could face a lifetime gun ownership ban.

Under an expanded Oregon law that went into effect on Jan. 1, domestic abuse offenders or people under restraining orders are banned from owning or purchasing a gun. In Illinois, authorities now have the right to seize firearms from people determined to be a danger to themselves or others. A similar “red flag” law will go into effect in New Jersey later this year.  

At least six states — California, Washington, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois and Vermont — and the District of Columbia are raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 for the purchase of long guns this year, CNBC reported.

Washington state will also be enforcing several other gun control measures, including enhanced background checks, secure gun storage laws and a requirement for gun purchasers to provide proof they’ve undergone firearm safety training.

New ‘Me Too’ laws

In 2018, the Me Too movement spurred many people to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse -- and pro
In 2018, the Me Too movement spurred many people to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse -- and prompted several states to pass new laws targeting sexual violence.

Several states are taking aim at workplace sexual harassment. California has banned nondisclosure provisions in settlements involving claims of sexual assault, harassment or discrimination based on sex. California employers will also no longer be allowed to compel workers to sign nondisparagement agreements as a condition of employment or in exchange for a raise or bonus.

By the end of 2019, publicly held corporations in the Golden State will also need to have at least one woman on their board of directors. Depending on the size of the board, corporations will need to increase that number to at least two or three female board members by the end of 2021.

In New York, all employees will be required to complete annual sexual harassment prevention training. Larger businesses in Delaware will have to provide such training to their workers, and legislators and their staff in Virginia will need to undergo such training every year.

Minimum wages get a boost 

Though the federal minimum wage has languished at $7.25 since 2009, at least 19 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, will be raising their minimum wages this year. Each will boost its minimum wage to at least $12. Some cities like New York, Seattle and Palo Alto, California, will see their wage floors increase to $15.

So long straws and stirrers!

Under a new California law, restaurant customers will have to explicitly ask for a plastic straw if they want to use one.
Under a new California law, restaurant customers will have to explicitly ask for a plastic straw if they want to use one.

As public awareness mounts of the hazards of plastic waste pollution, cities and states around the country have been targeting a major source of the problem: single-use plastic products like straws and food containers.

A new law in New York City bars restaurants, stores and manufacturers from using most foam products, including takeout containers, cups and packing peanuts.

Eateries in the District of Columbia are now prohibited from giving out single-use plastic straws and stirrers. In California, restaurant patrons will need to ask explicitly for a plastic straw if they want to use one. Restaurants can be fined $25 a day for serving beverages with plastic straws that aren’t requested by customers.

Former felons in Florida can head to the voting booth

In November, Florida voted to approve a ballot measure that enabled more than 1 million former felons to regain their voting
In November, Florida voted to approve a ballot measure that enabled more than 1 million former felons to regain their voting rights.

On Jan. 8, Florida will restore the voting rights of all former felons except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. Some 1.4 million possible voters will be added to the rolls — an addition that could have a significant effect on elections in the swing state.

Utah implements strictest DUI law in the country

Utah has lowered its blood alcohol content standard for drunk driving to 0.05 percent — the lowest limit in the country.

Under the new law, a driver who exceeds that limit and causes the death of another person will be charged with criminal homicide, a felony offense.

As CNN notes, all other U.S. states have a blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.08 percent for noncommercial drivers. Since at least 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board has been pushing to lower the limit to 0.05 nationwide. 

Pets to get more rights in California

Pets in California will no longer be treated by courts as physical property in divorce cases. Instead, judges can decide who gets custody of the family pet.

Under a separate California law, pet stores will no longer be allowed to sell cats, dogs or rabbits that aren’t from animal shelters or nonprofit rescue groups. That law, which took effect on Jan. 1, also requires that store owners maintain proper documentation of the backgrounds of the dogs, cats and rabbits they sell.

Hawaii legalizes physician-assisted suicide

Hawaii’s new law allowing physician-assisted suicide took effect on Tuesday.

Tobacco targeted in several states

Some states and cities are taking aim at tobacco products this year.
Some states and cities are taking aim at tobacco products this year.

Smoking will be banned at all New Jersey public beaches and parks starting in July.

In New York City, a new ordinance bans pharmacies from selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. And Massachusetts has raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Nonbinary people can list their gender as ‘X’ in NYC

People who identify as neither male nor female can now list their gender as “X” on birth certificates in New York City.

New Jersey requires all residents to have health insurance

A health insurance law in New Jersey that came into effect on Jan. 1 requires residents to maintain coverage or pay a penalty. It’s the second state in the country, after Massachusetts, to enact an individual health insurance mandate.

Vermont is paying remote workers to move there

In an effort to promote economic growth, Vermont has offered to pay some remote workers to relocate to the state.

Qualified applicants can each apply for up to $10,000 in funding. The state has earmarked $500,000 for the initiative, The Associated Press reported.

Hunters in Illinois can wear pink if they want to

Not into the usual “blaze orange”? Hunters in Illinois can now wear equally eye-catching “blaze pink” under a new law.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) said the new shade could be even more effective in helping hunters stand out.

“[In the fall] we’re hunting in trees and in some fields, there are orange leaves. There is orange in the background, so it’s not always easy to see orange,” Rauner said, according to the Illinois News Network. “So we’re adding blaze pink to be one of the colors.”

Ohio kids will soon be required to learn cursive

In an age of text messaging and email, Ohio is attempting to keep the handwriting tradition of cursive alive. A new state law will require students to be able to write in cursive by the end of fifth grade. 

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