With a new year come new rules and regulations across the country.  A plethora of new laws that went into effect on January 1, 2021, reflect the issues of the last year when employment, the pandemic, and criminal justice reform was top of mind for many Americans.

Here are some of the biggest changes that went into effect on January 1.

Criminal Justice Reform
Following George Floyd's death at the hands of police officers, elected officials across the country introduced bills designed to curb racial profiling, reduce violent conflicts between officers and civilians, and improve transparency among police precincts.

A new law in California bans police officers from wearing uniforms that have camouflage or otherwise resemble military uniforms.  All uniformed officers in Connecticut are now required to wear their badges in a prominent place.  The state's officers must also undergo a mental health screening once every five years.

In Portland, private businesses are banned from using facial recognition technology "in places of public accommodation."  Some states have implemented laws that reduce punishments for nonviolent offenses and provide alternatives to prison.  Following the passage of Proposition 17 during the November election, former felons on parole will be allowed to vote in California.  Four states: Montana, New Jersey, Arizona, and South Dakota are slated to introduce legal recreational marijuana use for adults this year, following ballot measures approved in November.

FollowingTwenty states, including Florida, California, Ohio, and Arizona, raised their minimum wage on January 1.  By August four more states will join the list.  The move comes as millions of Americans are struggling financially as the COVID19 pandemic enters its second year.

Colorado implemented a new law at the beginning of the new year that requires employers to post a salary range with each job opening and announce promotion openings within their company.  The law also prohibits employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history.  California will now allow people who worked on inmate fire crews while incarcerated to petition the court upon their release to have their records cleared, which will give them better opportunities for jobs once they're out of prison.

Driver's license and state ID card applicants in Oregon won't be required to show "proof of legal presence" under a new law that went into effect on January 1, 2021.  Applicants will still have to prove their identity and Oregon residency, and their license will not be "Real ID" compliant, which will be required for all Americans to board passenger planes starting in October.  In Colorado, landlords are now prohibited from asking an applicant about his immigration status.  Landlords in that state are also banned from denying housing to people based on their source of income, but they're allowed to do credit checks as long as the check is performed on all applicants.

Other New Laws
It is now illegal to hold a cell phone and drive in Virginia.  Under the new law, drivers are also only permitted to have their headphones in one ear if they are talking on the phone hands-free.  Exceptions will be made for calls to report an emergency and when the car is parked.

Delaware became the eighth state in the union to ban plastic bags.  Roughly 2,400 tons of plastic bags currently occupy Delaware's landfills, according to the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

And two years after Florida voters chose to ban statewide greyhound racing, the sport is now prohibited in the Sunshine State.  Florida's final greyhound race took place at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg on Dec. 27.

Remember that laws are definitely not always intuitive.  Some are even downright stupid.  Whether or not you own a business, you should view as a probable reality eventually falling prey to an overzealous or unethical prosecutor or a greedy plaintiff who chooses to apply one or more of the 1,000,000+ laws that exist at the local, state, and federal levels.  This is one point we strongly stress in our book, www.stloiyf.com#readpart1free.  You need to understand that the legal system will never victimize you...until it does.

It’s always best practice to check your state and local laws to see how you will be impacted by new legislation.  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.

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulged, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be to-morrow.  Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?”—James Madison