As they do annually, our beloved legislators have passed thousands of new laws that will be going into effect this year. As we stated in 2017, instead of writing new laws, legislators should repeal thousands of existing ones, or at least erase 10 for every new one written until total laws have been reduced by at least 80 percent! This would be a giant step towards restoring true justice in our U.S. legal system. Many of the newly written laws will certainly reshape the political and legal landscape in the coming months. They cover a broad spectrum, from recreational marijuana use and paid leave from work to traveling barbers and exotic pets. What follows is a glimpse of notable new laws that we have selected for this post.
Eighteen states are raising their minimum wage this year. The federal minimum wage, however, is set to remain steady at $7.25 per hour. And the five states that have the highest percentages of hourly workers earning the federal minimum or below have no plans for a wage hike this year.
Also, multiple states are changing their rules regarding how gender is recorded in official documents. The reason for this change may be other than one of accommodating people born intersex.
Not every new state law bears weight of national import. In fact, the vast majority are of a more "specialized" nature. That said, here's a little selection of some that stand out. Of course, as strange as some of the following laws may be, they are but a few of the thousands newly enacted across the country.
Washington and Rhode Island
Washington has become the seventh state—in addition to Washington, D.C.—to require employers to offer paid sick leave to their workers. Rhode Island is set to become the eighth to do so later this year when its own laws take effect in July.
New York has joined the small handful of states that require employers to provide paid family leave benefits. There, employees will eventually be entitled to a maximum of twelve weeks per year once the law takes full effect.
In Nevada employers are now required to offer up to 160 hours of leave per 12-month period to workers or their family members who have been victims of domestic violence.
Tennessee is implementing a measure granting broad free speech rights to speakers on higher education campuses, wading into a debate that has flared into national focus lately. The law marks an implicit response to the protests that have surrounded—and even derailed—recent speaking engagements by incendiary figures, such as Ann Coulter among others.
If you're a barber in the state, you are now legally free to make house calls. Previously, barbers were only able to do so for clients who were actually ill. Now, even those in perfect health won't need to leave their home to get a good haircut.
Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia
Several states are making changes at the ballot box. Iowa and West Virginia both adopted measures that require voters to show an accepted form of ID, though the former's law won't be fully phased in until 2019. Texas, which had a similar law from 2014 tossed earlier this year by a federal judge, is adopting a revised version of the measure allowing people to cast a ballot without identification but only if they swear they could not reasonably obtain one in time.
Illinois has set aside a day in honor of one of its best known politicians: former President Obama. Henceforth, the state's former senator will be honored with Barack Obama Day every year on his birthday, August 4. It should be noted that if you live in that state, don't expect a day off from work or school since it is considered a "commemorative date" rather than an official holiday under state law.
Transgender and intersex people will be allowed to change the designation on their birth certificates, provided they do so with the approval of a medical professional.
Residents are no longer required to choose between either "male" or "female" on their ID documents. The Golden State has also joined a small but growing list of states to legalize recreational marijuana use. On January 1, 2018, licensed retailers were legally allowed to begin selling the substance to customers age twenty-one and up. And they didn't lack for customers. The day comes more than a year after California voters passed Proposition 64, which mostly decriminalized marijuana there.
Previously, the state had only allowed the sale and possession of the substance for medicinal use. Still, even with it legalized, it bears its fair share of regulations. The state has set up a specific agency, the Bureau of Cannabis Control, to grant and monitor licenses to retailers. Adults over twenty-one can only possess a maximum of one ounce of buds and up to eight grams of concentrates, and they cannot smoke in vehicles or public places.
And then there are the state taxes that commercial buyers must pay—and that authorities believe will offer a windfall for state coffers. Recreational marijuana is expected to raise up to $500 million in revenue in the first year alone, and some estimates place the eventual revenue as high as $1 billion a year. Nevertheless, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and as such, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to seize the substance at checkpoints.
In South Carolina, people hoping to buy a Siberian tiger to celebrate the new year are likely to be disappointed. As of January 1, it is illegal in the state for residents to buy or own exotic animals for pets. That's right; no more apes, lions, or polar bears to stalk your residence in captive splendor unless you happen to be one of the estimated twenty-five South Carolinians who already own such an animal. The local paper notes that those owners will be grandfathered in, albeit with new restrictions. Zoos, of course, are exempted from this law.
It's best to check what new laws have been enacted in your own state to be sure what ones now apply to you. Doing so could help prevent being surprised by an unexpected lawsuit or being accused of an obscure crime. Understand that with so many laws in the land and with the number constantly increasing, government officials have more room for selective enforcement. Corruption also becomes more prevalent. Remember that we quoted Tacitus last year: "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."