Happy New Year! As strains of “Auld Lang Syne” resound across the country, major new laws affecting your family’s income, healthcare, parenting decisions and daily life will go into effect.
While many news reports has focused on gay marriage and legalization of marijuana, there are other new laws parents need to know about. Here are some of the most impactful:
Wage slaves get minimal relief.
- Nine states have increased the hourly minimum wage affecting almost one million workers, although saying they’ve been “hiked” would be an overstatement. According to the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, the average hourly worker will see an annual raise of only $190 (Missouri) to $510 (Rhode Island) because the increases are mere pennies. Arizona (15¢), Colorado (14¢), Florida (12¢), Missouri (10¢), Montana (15¢), Ohio (15¢), Oregon (15¢), Vermont (14¢), Washington state (15¢) and big spender Rhode Island (35¢) have increased their hourly minimum wages resulting in a range between $7.35 and $9.19.
- Meanwhile, employers in Illinois and California won’t have the right to require access to your social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter.
Underage substance use laws get tougher on parents and kids.
- In Pennsylvania, minors face steeper fines if they’re caught drinking. First offenders are fined $500 and repeat offenders pay up to $1,000. No wonder they run when the police arrive.
- Illinois amended their Social Host Law making it significantly easier to arrest “party hosts” if minors are discovered drinking on their property, by expanding the definition beyond private homes to include boats, backyards, offices and stores, reducing the number of minors caught imbibing to just one and adding felony charges if that one person is injured or killed. So, if you hold a company Christmas party and one of your employees is 20 years old and has a beer, you are now liable for a misdemeanor. If he falls down the stairs and breaks his neck, you can go to jail for one to three years and pay fines of up to $25,000.
- In California, charter bus and limousine drivers must now inform all passengers under 21 that alcohol is illegal for them even if they are not carrying alcohol. If they are, they must hire someone over 25 to make sure no minors drink.
- In New York, electronic cigarettes have been added to the long list of products banned for sale to minors; although they were initially considered safer than cigarettes, attitudes changed when the manufacturers introduced candy flavors and the Federal Drug Administration announced they may include toxic ingredients.
Any age substance use issues, do too. California AB 2552 adds marijuana and synthetic marijuana to the list of substances banned for use by drivers. Although medical marijuana is still legal with a prescription in the state, it will be a crime to drive if “any level of cannabinoids or synthetic cannabinoid compound” is found in the driver’s blood or urine via “a chemical test performed within three hours after driving.” Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have stated that marijuana impairment testing via blood sampling is unreliable. This law isn’t measuring just impairment; it measures any use. Regular marijuana use can be detected in urine for weeks, so perhaps the highways of California will be considerably emptier?
New protections for children from abuse and bullying.
- The federal Child Protection Act of 2012, which was signed into law on December 7, 2012, doubles the penalties for possessing child pornography involving children under 12 and adds more protections for children who are victims or witnesses.
- Pennsylvania, California, Florida, Georgia and Oregon passed new laws which detail who is responsible for reporting abuse and acting on suspected abuse cases. For example, in California, two bills (AB 1434 and AB 1435) expand the list of “mandated reporters,” people who must inform authorities if they know or suspect child abuse or neglect, to include employees and administrators of post-secondary schools and athletic coaches, administrators and directors at K-12 schools. If they don’t, the mandated reporter is guilty of a crime punishable with up to 6 months in jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both.
- In Louisiana, Senate Bill 753, Act 693 adds public libraries to the list of places convicted child sex offenders can’t visit or be near (under a thousand feet).
New protections for adults as well. In New York state, victims of domestic violence don’t have to provide their current address to medical or mental health providers. They can provide an alternate address or a post office box number, to receive bill and correspondence, making it harder for their abusers to find them.
Healthcare and insurance changes, including abortion issues.
- The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act passed both houses of Congress on December 21. While it’s primarily an appropriations bill for the Department of Defense, it offers some key military healthcare legislation including SEC. 704. which uses Department of Defense funds for abortions if military personnel become pregnant from rape or incest and SEC. 705 and 706 which both fund pilot programs; the first for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders, and the second for research, treatment, education, and outreach on mental health and substance use disorders and traumatic brain injury for National Guard and Reserves members and their families. It also calls for studies on breast and recalcitrant cancers among servicewomen and men.
- Connecticut added colorectal cancer screening to the list of tests insurance policies must cover.
- Montana parents with daughters under 18 will be notified before they can have an abortion.
- Georgia will join six other states to pass a “fetal pain act”, meaning doctors can’t abort a fetus 20 weeks old or older unless it can be proven the fetus is medically incapable of surviving outside of the womb even if it reaches full-term.
- Although partial birth abortions are already illegal under federal law, the Associated Press says New Hampshire lawmakers passed a state version, overriding the veto of Gov. John Lynch, because “they don’t trust the government to prosecute the law.”
If we’re missing any state or federal laws that can greatly impact families, please mention them in the comments section below.