TOP LEGAL NEWS OF THE WEEK

New Year, New Laws

With the start of the New Year, a wide assortment of new state and federal laws are now being enforced. 

Gun control, marijuana and privacy rights are among the legal arenas affected by new federal and state laws.

Gun control, marijuana and privacy rights are among the legal arenas affected by new federal and state laws.

On the national level, as part of the federal funding bill, it is now illegal to sell tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes) to anyone under the age of 21. The National Defense Authorization Act, signed in late December, also allows federal employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption or foster of a new child.

Around the 50 states, new legislation has begun to affect consumers, workers, new parents and law-enforcement personnel:

Marijuana: Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational pot. Illinois’ law also will expunge the records of 770,000 state residents with previous marijuana convictions.

Minimum wage: Pay will increase for more than seven million workers as 22 states will raise their minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is still $7.25 an hour and has not changed since 2009.

Paid family leave: New Jersey, California and Washington state joined Washington, D.C., in offering paid family and medical leave to care for newborns, newly adopted children and aging parents.

Guns: Colorado joined more than a dozen states that have red flag laws, which allow petitions to have a gun removed from a person who may pose a threat to society or themselves.

Environment: Oregon became the eighth state to ban single-use plastic bags. In an effort to make up for lost revenue on gasoline taxes, four states are adding charges for owning and registering electric vehicles. A majority of states now charge fees for electric vehicles.

Police use of force: California changed the law that allowed police to use deadly force when officers had “reasonable fear” for their safety to “only when ‘necessary’ to defend against an imminent threat of death” or serious injury to officers or bystanders.

Privacy: California now requires many companies to inform consumers who request it which personal data about them are being collected and who else gets that data. Illinois restricts DNA-collection companies from sharing results with health or life insurance companies without consent. New Jersey joined 15 other states that prevent employers from requiring job applicants to provide salary histories. Texas requires businesses to notify individuals of any security breach within 60 days.

Others: Seven states no longer allow handwritten prescriptions for controlled substances such as opioids and now require electronic prescriptions. California became the first state to ban workplace and school discrimination based on a person's natural hairstyle. Florida began ticketing people for holding a wireless communication device while driving.

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