New Laws Take Effect Nationwide
SAN ANTONIO — New laws added to the books around the country during last year’s legislative sessions have now gone into effect with the arrival of the new year. Measures governing redistricting, police reforms, minimum wage increases and more with effective dates set on Jan. 1 are now effective. In California, for instance, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law 770 bills from the regular legislative session — some of which range from mandating mental health instruction in schools to permanently expanding mail-in ballots as an option for voting in local elections — according to the state legislature.
Other California measures approved by Newsom include prohibiting the use of rubber bullets or tear gas by law enforcement to disperse crowds at a protest, later school day start times for public middle and high schools, and the extension of pandemic-instituted rules allowing the sale of takeout alcoholic beverages through the next five years. Corporate requirements first passed in 2018 mandating companies in California ensure a plurality of their boards of executives are female are also now effective as of this year.
In total, 21 states approved minimum wage increases during their regular congressional sessions last year. The pay bumps ranged from $0.22 to $1.50 and were meant to support low-wage workers in the absence of a federally mandated minimum wage increase after attempts to include one failed during the passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in March, as previously reported by The Well News.
“Raising Ohio’s minimum wage will increase productivity and stimulate consumer spending,” Ohio Sen. Hearcel Craig said in a written statement. “It is very simple: if Ohioans have more money, they will be more likely to spend it. Increasing our state’s minimum wage is not just the right thing to do, it is also a smart investment in our economy.”
Six states — California, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and Virginia — all raised their minimum wages by at least a dollar per hour. Although Washington state further increased its baseline minimum wage, solidifying it as the highest in the country at a rate of $14.49 per hour, wages will be raised to $15 per hour for California businesses with more than 25 employees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Additionally, new federal protections against surprise medical bills will take effect this year after initially being passed as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. The law applies to nearly all private health plans offered by employers as well as non-group health insurance policies. The law requires the plans to cover surprise medical bills for emergency services while also forbidding out-of-network health care providers from sending bills for excess charges.
“Under this legislation, Americans will no longer be caught in the middle of out-of-network surprise billing disputes between their doctors and insurance companies,” Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., said in a joint statement following the bill’s passage. “The legislation creates strong new consumer protections and establishes a fair payment resolution process between insurers and health care providers. The Energy and Commerce Committee has a long tradition of working in a bipartisan way, and we can think of no better example than the effort it took over the last two years to get this bill across the finish line.”
While 2021 was a landmark year for the introduction of new restrictions on abortion in states like Texas, Arizona, Mississippi and others, that trend is set to continue as another abortion law takes effect in New Hampshire this year. The new law in New Hampshire prohibits the procedure after 24 weeks of gestation and provides exceptions only in cases in which the woman’s life is jeopardized, but includes no exceptions in instances of rape, incest or fetal anomalies.
Twenty-one states enacted laws restricting abortion prior to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision or passed “trigger bans” set to take effect should the decision be overturned, and 19 states passed a combined 106 abortion restrictions as of last year alone. Those laws ramped up significantly in 2021 largely due to the new conservative-majority composition of the Supreme Court. According to an analysis published by the Guttmacher Institute, more states are poised to enact similar legislation.
Law enforcement laws passed in Illinois, Oregon and North Carolina will set new standards for police to follow in 2021 — the first full year that states began enacting legislation in response to George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota police in May 2020.
New police laws include:
- Police officers in Illinois are now subject to both certification and decertification by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
- In North Carolina, law enforcement recruits are now required to receive psychological screenings prior to joining the force.
- Police officers in Oregon are now compelled to report their colleagues’ violations of the state’s minimum moral fitness standards to a supervisor within 72 hours of an incident.
“In North Carolina and across the country, communities are demanding change and reform to our criminal justice system, and Democrats are working to get it done,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson said in a written statement. “Recent events continue to reinforce the systematic violence against Black and Brown communities that plague our state and nation.”
Reece can be reached at [email protected]
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