Even the legal system makes some New Year’s resolutions. There are going to be some major legal changes at the federal and state levels after a tumultuous 2017. A lot of these laws are meant to address the issues that came up during the past couple of years, and some are bound to make us angry all over again. Here are some of the major changes to the law that happened on Jan. 1, 2018. The last one will make you laugh or cry; you be the judge.
Voter ID laws
Voter ID laws take effect on Jan. 1 in both Iowa and West Virginia. Voter ID laws are intended to prevent voter fraud. These laws are passed despite the lack of evidence supporting any major voter fraud ever being reported or discovered.
In Iowa you’ll be required to sign an oath that verifies your identity if you are unable to show a valid ID in 2018. In 2019 you’ll be given a provisional ballot if you are unable to produce ID.
You are now required to show a valid form of ID when you head to the polls in West Virginia. They will accept photo or non-photo ID.
Next: Some efforts for a better and more equitable work environment.
New employee protections
California is prohibiting employers to ask about your salary history in an effort to narrow the gender wage gap. Only the employee can offer that information voluntarily. Potential employees can also request a pay scale for that position. This law is also intended to prevent employers from deciding whether to hire you based on your salary history.
Nevada is providing some much-needed relief to employees or employee family members who are victims of domestic violence. The new state law requires employers to provide up to 160 hours of paid leave so that they might get into a better situation and not lose their job because of it.
Vermont is providing some protections on privacy for its citizens. Vermont’s new state law prohibits employers from asking for potential or current employees social media accounts.
Washingtonians will now have paid sick leave. Full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers can all accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. This coincides with legal protections of tips, a rise in the minimum wage, and protections of employees enforcing their minimum wage.
Next: The new law enforcement laws
New policing laws
One of the most controversial laws is California’s unofficial “Sanctuary State” law. This law limits local law enforcement in how they will assist immigration officers. State Bill 54 will “prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”
New Jersey will require police officers who deal with sexual assault to get special training in how to handle those matters appropriately. Most police officers were unequipped to handle such sensitive matters before and this law is intended to help protect the victim when they’re reporting assaults.
In an effort to make it easier to deal with police, North Carolina is including “a description of law enforcement procedures during traffic stops and the actions that a motorist should take during a traffic stop, including appropriate interactions with law enforcement officers,” in the Drivers License Handbook.
Next: Who keeps the cat in the divorce?
Pets are now treated the same as children in Illinois state law when it pertains to divorce and no longer will be treated as though they are property when dividing assets. Now there will be sole custody or joint-custody of the family dog. This law does not apply to service animals as they would be placed with the person who is in need of their service.
Most New Yorkers will be getting eight weeks of paid family leave. The purpose of the paid family leave is so that an employee can have time to “bond with a newly born, adopted or fostered child; care for a close relative with a serious health condition; or assist loved ones when a family member has deployed abroad on active military service.”
Next: Ms. Frizzle would be excited about these new laws.
Both Illinois and California are now requiring feminine hygiene products be made available free of charge to school students. In California, the law only applies to schools in low-income neighborhoods.
Tennessee has a couple of major changes coming its way in the school system. Following a deadly school bus crash in 2016 where six children perished, Tennessee now requires new school bus drivers to go through the proper training and be at least 25 years of age. It also makes a new requirement of maintaining transportation supervisors.
Free-speech is vehemently protected on college campuses in Tennessee. No one can turn away a public speaker because their views oppose another.
Next: Prohibition keeps getting rolled back state by state.
Light it up! New marijuana laws
California is the latest state to legalize marijuana. The law makes recreational marijuana highly taxed and should generate significant revenue for the state. It will also help reduce crime because almost nobody will be arrested for it anymore. However, you may not be able to purchase it right away since businesses weren’t allowed to apply for business licenses until Jan. 1.
Colorado is fortifying their marijuana laws. You can now grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal use. If you are a medicinal marijuana user, you are allowed up to 24 plants at any given time. The purpose of the cap is to prevent black market sales out of state.
Next: All new taxes
Most of the new tax reform law starts this year
This year, we will all be under different tax brackets. Some of us may be saving a couple hundred bucks a year (if we’re lucky) and a very small minority will save millions or billions of dollars. This is just the first part of the GOP tax reform bill that narrowly passed last year. A lot of the other major changes will roll out in the coming years.
Happy New Year, everyone!
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