New Laws in 2018 include Paid Leave and Voter IDs

New year's eve in New York city. Photo by: Anthony Quintano.

WASHINGTON (ViaNews) – The turning of the new year means a traditional rushing in of new laws across American states and 2018 is no different.

From paid leave to voter ID requirements all the way to recreational marijuana legalization, new laws impact a majority of states. Here’s a look at some of the new laws that took effect Jan. 1:

Minimum wage

Eighteen states saw their minimum wage increase on Jan. 1. Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington all implemented varying minimum wage increases.

According to National Public Radio news, all of those states had already implemented higher rates while the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour – a rate that has held since 2009.

“This is a life or death issue for businesses,” Michael Saltsman, director of the Employment Policies Institute, told NPR. “I think you will see an increased rate of businesses not being able to make the math work as they’re forced to give a raise to their best-paid employees in the house. They can’t offset that through higher prices.”

Unions, on the other hand, see the wage increase as a benefit to the economy as workers will now spend more.

“We’ve seen the distribution of income and wealth skew very much to the top of the income scale,” said, Damon Silvers, policy director for the AFL-CIO, a union organization, to NPR. “The fact is that rich people don’t spend money the way that middle-class and poor people do, and that makes our economy weak. Raising the minimum wage puts more money in the hands of people who need to spend it.”

While some states have implemented increases, cities have followed suit. In California, according to NPR, 11 local governments have approved even higher minimum wage rates than their state government counterparts.

Other workplace rules

In Vermont, employers can no longer request or require employees to provide their social media content, according to CNN.

Employers in Nevada must now grant up to 160 hours of leave per year to employees who are victims of domestic violence or have family members who are victims. And, in California, employers can not use the salary history of potential employees to determine a job offer.

Washington state now requires employers to offer sick leave to employees. Rhode Island will be the eighth state to require such a measure when its law takes effect in July.

In New York, employers are now required to offer paid family leave benefits. According to NBC News, once the law takes full effect, employees will receive up to 12 weeks a year.

Recreational marijuana

As of 6 a.m. Jan. 1, licensed retailers in California were able to sell recreational marijuana to those 21 years of age and older.

There were long lines of people at dispensaries Monday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The state has established the Bureau of Cannabis Control to grant and oversee retail licenses. The new law also comes with taxes. NPR previously reported potential tax revenues of $500 million in the first year to revenue as high as $1 billion in the future.

Under the new law, only adults over the age of 21 are allowed to have marijuana and they are allowed a maximum of one ounce of marijuana and eight grams of concentrates. Additionally, smoking marijuana is prohibited in public places and vehicles.

Since it is still against federal law to have marijuana, it will still be confiscated by the Border Patrol at checkpoints, according to NPR.

Voter ID

Iowa and West Virginia have implemented rules requiring voters to show “an accepted form of ID” when voting. West Virginia’s law will not be fully implemented until 2019.

Texas had to go back to the drawing board after their 2014 voter ID law was rejected by a federal judge earlier in 2017. So, they have a revised version of their bill that allows people to cast a ballot without an ID, if they swear they could not obtain one in time to vote.

Now, for something different

Of course, with the slew of new laws comes some that may seem a little (or a lot) strange.
For example, it is no illegal to buy or own exotic pets in South Carolina. The Humane Society said the Palmetto State was one of five “with virtually no laws regarding private possession of dangerous wild animals.”

So, no more apes, lions or animals of that kind at your home. Approximately 25 residents own such an animal and those owners will be grandfathered in with new restrictions, according to the Myrtle Beach Sun News and NPR.

Illinois has added Barack Obama Day on Aug. 4 of every year. The “commemorative date” for the former president will not include a day off work or school, however.

In Tennessee, barbers are now allowed to make house calls. In the past, barbers could only make house calls for clients “who are actually ill.”

These are just samples of new laws implemented across the United States. For more details on new laws where you live, check your home state for information.

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