As is usual every year, 2019 will see the enactment of new laws across the country. Once again, our beloved legislators have passed thousands of needless new laws that will be going into effect this year. Passing more laws is not the solution, but instead, part of the problem! We already have millions of laws in the nation—far too many. Having ample laws is one of several causes of corruption in our legal system. Many of the newly written laws will have an impact on the vast majority of Americans. In California alone, more than 1,000 new laws will be added to the books. In some states, minimum wages will go up, guns will be harder to obtain legally, plastic straws will get the boot, and hunters will get to wear pink for a change. Here are some of the noteworthy laws going into effect this year:
Tighter gun restrictions in several states
In the wake of the shooting massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school last year, California passed several laws to prevent domestic abusers and people with mental illness from obtaining guns. Californians who are involuntarily committed to a mental institution twice in a year or who are convicted of certain domestic violence offenses could face a lifetime gun ownership ban.
Under an expanded Oregon law that went into effect on January 1, domestic abuse offenders or people under restraining orders are banned from owning or purchasing a gun. In Illinois authorities now have the right to seize firearms from people determined to be a danger to themselves or others. A similar red flag law will go into effect in New Jersey later this year.
At least six states: California, Washington, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, and Vermont and the District of Columbia are raising the minimum age from eighteen to twenty-one for the purchase of long guns this year. Washington state will also be enforcing a few other gun control measures, including enhanced background checks, secure gun storage laws, and a requirement for gun purchasers to provide proof they’ve undergone firearm safety training. It would be nice if all law enforcement officers underwent this same training…..
New “me too” laws
Several states are taking aim at workplace sexual harassment. California has banned non-disclosure provisions in settlements involving claims of sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination based on sex. California employers will also no longer be allowed to compel workers to sign non-disparagement agreements as a condition of employment or in exchange for a raise or bonus. By the end of 2019, publicly held corporations in the Golden State will also need to have at least one female on their board of directors. Depending on the size of the board, corporations will need to increase that number to at least two or three female board members by the end of 2021. Putting aside the fact that the most qualified people should fill these positions, once again, government knows best about who should be running companies.
In New York, all employees will be required to complete annual sexual harassment prevention training. Larger businesses in Delaware will have to provide such training to their workers, and legislators and their staff in Virginia will need to undergo such training every year.
Minimum wages get a boost
Though the federal minimum wage has languished at $7.25 since 2009, at least nineteen states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, will be raising their minimum wages this year. Each will boost its minimum wage to at least $12. Some cities like New York, Seattle, and Palo Alto, California, will see their wage floors increase to $15.
So long straws!
As public awareness increases about the hazards of plastic waste, cities and states around the country have been targeting a major source of the problem: single-use plastic products like straws and food containers. A new law in New York City bans restaurants, stores, and manufacturers from using most foam products, including takeout containers, cups, and packing peanuts. Eateries in the District of Columbia are now prohibited from giving out straws and stirrers. In California, restaurant patrons will need to ask explicitly for a plastic straw if they want to use one. Restaurants can be fined $25/day for serving beverages with plastic straws that aren’t requested by customers. Perhaps next year we can count on legislators to pass a law requiring everyone to have common sense.
Former felons in Florida can head to the voting booth
On January 8, Florida restored the voting rights of felons, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense. Some 1.4 million possible voters will be added to the rolls—an addition that could have a significant effect on elections in the swing state.
Utah implements strictest DUI law in the country
Utah has lowered its blood alcohol content standard for drunk driving to 0.05 percent, the lowest limit in the country. Under the new law, a driver who exceeds that limit and causes the death of another person will be charged with criminal homicide, a felony offense. All other U.S. states have a blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.08 percent for noncommercial drivers. Since at least 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board has been pushing to lower the limit to 0.05 nationwide. NyQuil users, beware.
Pets to get more rights in California
Pets in California will no longer be treated by courts as physical property in divorce cases. Instead, judges can decide who gets custody of the family pet. Under a separate California law, pet stores will no longer be allowed to sell cats, dogs, or rabbits that aren’t from animal shelters or non-profits. That law, which took effect on January 1, also requires that store owners maintain proper documentation of the backgrounds of the dogs, cats, and rabbits they sell.
Hawaii legalizes physician-assisted suicide
Hawaii’s new law allowing physician-assisted suicide took effect on Tuesday.
New Jersey requires all residents to have health insurance
A health insurance law in New Jersey that went into effect on January 1 requires residents to maintain coverage or pay a penalty. It’s the second state in the U.S. after Massachusetts to enact an individual health insurance mandate.
Vermont is paying remote workers to move there
In an effort to promote economic growth, Vermont has offered to pay some remote workers to relocate to the state. Qualified applicants can each apply for up to $10,000 in funding. The state has earmarked $500,000 for the initiative.
Hunters in Illinois can wear pink if they like
Not into the usual “blaze orange”? Hunters in Illinois can now wear equally bright pink under a new law. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) said the new shade could be even more effective in helping hunters stand out. Lemon yellow or lime green seem like similarly logical alternatives, but who are we to second-guess our legislators?
Ohio kids will soon be required to learn cursive
In an age of text messaging and email, Ohio is attempting to keep the handwriting tradition of cursive alive. A new state law will require that students be able to write cursive by the end of fifth grade. We wonder if next year the state will force them to learn to use a rotary phone or repair a horse and buggy.
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 how we have quoted Tacitus in the past: "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."