With Congress passing just 26 bills that became law in 2023, the usual influx of new federal laws that go into effect on Jan. 1 is much smaller than usual. The 118th Congress is on track to be one of the most unproductive in modern history, with many of the bills passed being uncontroversial, including multiple measures to rename Veterans Affairs clinics, the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Marine Corps and the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023.
But one key federal law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2024, is the Corporate Transparency Act, which was passed in 2021. The law is designed to eliminate anonymity in business ownership that had allowed bad actors to hide illicit financial dealings and launder money. It will require more than 30 million small and medium-sized businesses to report ownership information to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Failure to report the information could result in fines of $500 per day, up to $10,000 maximum, or two years jail time.
The ABA, through several entities and its Governmental Affairs Office, opposed rules and measures in the proposed legislation. The association successfully worked to get a measure dropped that would have extended suspicious activity reporting requirements to “gatekeepers,” including those who file corporate registration documents. The provision would have imposed burdensome regulations on lawyers and undermined the attorney-client privilege and state supreme courts’ longstanding authority to regulate and oversee lawyers engaged in the practice of law.
But the new law still will have an impact on lawyers who may have to assist clients with reporting, find exemptions to the law or even report information on their own firms.
State laws taking effect on Jan. 1 are much more plentiful. A major trend involves 22 states that will raise their minimum wage. Workers in Washington state will be entitled to the highest hourly minimum wage in the U.S., at $16.28, up from $15.74 in 2023. California’s minimum wage will go up to $16 an hour, from $15.50, while New York state’s will rise to $15, from $14.20.
Many states have new laws that affect everyday life including changes to tax rates, building laws, licensing rules, labor requirements and many other statutes. A new Florida law modifies existing statutes that outline bail and pretrial release rules. Ohio has legalized marijuana (a new law that took effect on Dec. 7 of this year) and employers in Minnesota must provide qualified workers with paid sick leave. Illinois will have mandatory paid leave, protections against deep fakes — images manipulated digitally to show false events —and book banning and a law that makes it illegal to videoconference while driving.
A new Texas law preventing higher education institutions in the state from implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion policies takes effect this month as do new laws in New York protecting tenants and freelance workers. California will have hundreds of new laws including one that prevents concealed carry of firearms in certain public spaces and an increase in prison time for people convicted of dealing high amounts of fentanyl.
- ABA comments to FinCEN on new rules on beneficial ownership
- ABA letter opposing the Corporate Transparency Act
- 2023 led to fewest laws in decades
- Bills passed in the 118th Congress
- “How a new federal law will affect more than 30 million small U.S. businesses”
- ABA Journal