Sun, 29 Dec 2013 15:02 UTC
A new state law takes effect Jan. 1 that bans anyone under 18 from using tanning salons in the Land of Lincoln. Illinois becomes the sixth state to keep teens out of the facilities, part of a growing trend of regulating tanning facilities to help reduce the risk of skin cancer, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a Washington-based group that tracks lawmaking.
The new measure is one of an estimated 40,000 new laws, regulations and resolutions approved by state legislatures in 2013, many of which take effect Jan. 1. Among them:
- Arkansas voters must now show a photo ID at polling places, while Virginia voters for the first time will be able to register online.
- In Colorado, 16-year-olds will be able to pre-register to vote, but must still wait until they're 18 to vote.
- California students must be allowed to play school sports and use school bathrooms "consistent with their gender identity," regardless of their birth identity.
- In Oregon, new mothers will now be able to take their placentas home from the hospital - some experts say ingesting it has positive health benefits. Another new state law bans smoking in motor vehicles when children are present.
- Minimum-wage increases take effect in four northeastern states: Connecticut's rises to $8.70 an hour; New Jersey's to $8.25; and New York's and Rhode Island's to $8. In nine other states, the minimum wage rises automatically because it's indexed to inflation.
Perhaps most significantly, Colorado adults age 21 or older will be able on Wednesday to buy up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use from a state-licensed retail store. Marijuana advocates expect many of the new stores to be up and running by then, and observers say the new Colorado regulations are a sign of things to come.
"I think state legislatures will be faced with the marijuana issue" in 2014, says Jane Carroll Andrade, NCSL's spokeswoman.
In Washington state, regulators are combing through more than 2,000 applications for similar stores after voters approved a similar measure in 2012, says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He expects the first Washington stores to open in a few months.
Armentano, who likens these developments to the state-led reversal of Prohibition in the 1930s, says a dozen states are due to debate marijuana legalization measures in the coming year or so. "The genie's out of the bottle and it's simply not going back in."
Many new state laws take effect 90 days after they're signed, but a few states, like California, Colorado, Illinois and Oregon, get extra attention this time of year because traditionally many laws in these states take effect on Jan. 1.
As a result, life changes a bit more radically for Illinois residents each new year: On Wednesday, in addition to the tanning measure, they'll find that they can now return a pet or be reimbursed for veterinary costs if an illness was not disclosed by the seller. So-called "lemon pets" laws already exist in 21 states, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Also in Illinois: Anyone who flicks a cigarette butt on a street or sidewalk could be fined at least $50 for littering; police must receive training on the psychological and physiological effects of stun guns, and penalties are now tougher for inciting a violent flash mob or riot via social media.
Illinois also becomes the 13th state to prohibit handheld cellphones while driving. Meanwhile, school districts on Jan. 1 will be able to install cameras on school buses to photograph drivers who pass them when buses are stopped. And school-based sex education must include information about both abstinence and contraception.
Illinois is also home to tough new laws prohibiting unmanned aerial drones. Come Wednesday, it'll be illegal to use a drone to interfere with hunters or fishermen - and police must get a warrant to use a drone for surveillance, except in cases of terrorism or if a suspect is fleeing a crime scene. Even with the warrant, police must destroy information gathered within 30 days unless it's linked to a crime, says Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
Lawmakers in both parties overwhelmingly passed the new surveillance prohibition, he says. "They understood that it was something that could occur in the relatively near future, and so there was a desire to get on top of it."
A sample of other state laws taking effect Jan. 1:
Colorado: Drivers will see a new annual $50 fee for plug-in electric cars. Colorado is one of several states looking to capture revenue from alternative fuel, electric and hybrid vehicles.
Connecticut: New gun-control laws in the aftermath of the school shooting in Newtown include mandatory registration of all assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines bought before April 2013, and creation of a statewide registry that will track parolees whose crimes involved weapons.
Delaware: Sale, possession or distribution of shark fins prohibited.
Florida: Expanded early voting.
Maine: Becomes the 48th state to require a check-off for organ donation on driver's licenses to promote organ donation.
Oregon: Privately run websites that feature police mug shots must take down photos for free if subjects can show they were not guilty or that charges were dropped.
Rhode Island: Becomes the eighth state to enact a so-called "ban the box" law that prohibits prospective employers from inquiring into an applicant's criminal history on written job applications.
Contributing: Associated Press and Reuters