WASHINGTON – The new year is bringing a host of new laws taking effect in January or thereabouts. A look at some state and local laws that are making news:
ALCOHOL AND MARIJUANA
COLORADO, MAINE AND WASHINGTON: Colorado pot stores open Jan. 1 as retailers usher in the nation’s first legal recreational pot industry. Sales in Washington, which also legalized recreational marijuana, are expected to start later in the year. The laws still fly in the face of federal drug rules, but the federal government has said it’s not going to fight to shut down pot shops for now. A law legalizing recreational marijuana went into effect in early December in Portland, Maine, but it’s largely symbolic because the state has said it will continue to enforce its own ban.
ILLINOIS: It becomes the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana in a pilot project with some of the strictest standards in the nation. However, it may take more than a year to actually buy marijuana as separate state agencies draft rules that must be approved by a legislative committee.
WISCONSIN: Towns and cities may legalize pedal pubs, multiple-person bicycles that ferry riders to and from taverns. A driver steers while multiple riders sit at a bar mounted behind him, each with his or her own pedal-and-chain assembly.
CALIFORNIA: It becomes the first state to give specific rights to transgender students starting in January unless opponents show they have gathered enough petition signatures to put a referendum before voters seeking to overturn the law. It lets transgender students choose which restroom to use and whether to play on boys’ or girls’ sports teams. Critics say that violates the privacy of other students.
CONNECTICUT: Guns that are considered assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines that haven’t been registered with Connecticut authorities will be considered illegal contraband as of Jan. 1. The law was passed in April in response to the massacre that left 26 people dead at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.
NEW YORK: The state’s new gun law, passed shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, already banned high-capacity magazines and the purchase or sale of popular AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. By April 15, it will also require registration of weapons now classified as assault weapons by owners who previously bought them legally.
CALIFORNIA: Photographers who harass celebrities and their children face tougher penalties under a law backed by actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, who testified in favor of it. Berry told lawmakers her daughter has been intimidated by aggressive photographers who follow them daily. Those who take photos and video of a child without consent and in a harassing manner could face up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. They also can be sued for damages and attorney’s fees under the new law, which media organizations opposed. Supporters say it also will help protect the children of police officers, judges and others who might be targets because of their parents’ occupations.
NEVADA: Immigrants living in the United States without legal permission can apply for driver authorization cards starting Jan. 2. State officials anticipate tens of thousands of people will apply under the program.
MARYLAND: In a program similar to Nevada’s, immigrants living in the U.S. illegally will be able to obtain a state driver’s license or identification card if they can provide evidence of a filed state income tax return or were claimed as a dependent for each of the preceding two years.
MAINE: Health care providers will have to provide patients who request it a list of prices of the most common health services and procedures, a law designed to boost transparency around medical costs.
DELAWARE: The state will limit patient copays for “specialty tier” prescription drugs to $150 a month for up to a 30-day supply.
WORKING AND WAGES
OHIO: The minimum wage for untipped employees rises from $7.85 to $7.95 an hour, while tipped employees will go from $3.93 to $3.98 an hour, plus tips.
CALIFORNIA: The minimum wage is being boosted to $9 an hour starting in July, the first of two dollar-an-hour boosts that will push the base minimum wage to $10 by 2016, making it one of the nation’s highest minimums. Under another bill, domestic workers will have to be paid time and a half if they work more than nine hours in a day or more than 45 hours in a week; baby sitters are exempt.
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