BRONXVILLE, NY — January 11, 2021 — With the new year came the enactment of many new laws across the nation, some of them with quite significant impact and perhaps a portend of what might come to us in New York in the near future.
The new laws will change everything from what you put your groceries into what you call your elected officials to how fast delivery robots can go on your sidewalk.
Following the lead of New York State and seven others, Delaware has banned single use grocery bags for most retailers. New Jersey is retiring the term freeholder which was used for county leaders. Since it originally referred only to white men who owned land free of debt and could therefore hold office, many found it offensive so now New Jersey county leaders will be called County Commissioners. The North Carolina legislature passed a bill that defines and regulates robots delivering packages without remote control or under the supervision of a human. The new law requires delivery devices to obey traffic laws and yield to pedestrians. The devices can’t move at a speed higher than 10 mph on sidewalks, weigh over 500 pounds and must be monitored by an adult who can control that device with some sort of remote control.
In response to the death of George Floyd, many police-related laws were adopted throughout the country.
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 and Connecticut State Police must also undergo a mental health screening once every five years. A new law in Missouri requires all law enforcement officers to undergo training in recognizing implicit bias and learn techniques to de-escalate conflicts.
In response to the concerns of immigrants, drivers’ license and state ID card applicants in Oregon will no longer be required to show proof of legal presence and in Colorado, landlords are now prohibited from asking an applicant about their immigration status. However, beginning this Fall, every airline passenger, 18 years of age or older, must have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or other authorized form of identification such as a passport. States are now required to check an applicant’s records to verify identity before issuing the new licenses which incorporate features making them harder to counterfeit. This nationwide directive will take effect October 1, 2021.
The California Consumer Privacy Act, (CCPA), the toughest in the nation, now allows California residents to demand that companies disclose what data they have collected on them and if users want the data deleted, the company must comply. This law has already prompted many other states to review their privacy measures.
Many states raised the hourly minimum wage for 2021, with Virginia and Florida poised for significant increases heading towards New York’s 15 dollar per hour by 2026. The hourly minimum wage in Virginia will rise from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour and in Florida, it will climb from $8.56 to $10. About 15 additional cities and counties will reach $15 an hour sometime in 2021, including Flagstaff and Chicago joining the 25 already at that benchmark. New Jersey’s minimum wage is going up to $12 an hour as part of step increases to eventually get to the $15 number.
In the same area of employee relations, approximately 1.3 million additional workers in New York State gained access to paid sick leave. The leave can be used to recover from an illness, care for a sick family member or seek help for themselves or a family member who has experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking. New York is one of only 15 states that has a paid sick leave law.
Students in California now have a Student Borrower Bill of Rights that grants them protection from student loan companies. Under the new law, student loan companies must provide borrowers quality customer service, reliable information and access to affordable repayment and debt forgiveness programs. California will be the first state to provide consumer protection standards for student loan borrowers. In the same vein, as of January 1, every child born or adopted in Illinois will have $50 deposited in a college savings account intended to keep pace with rising tuition. Sponsors of the measure said children are more likely to attend college if an account is set up for them.
Some new legislation that brings unique issues to the forefront include the banning of the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens in Hawaii that contain Oxybenzone and Octonoxate. The goal is to protect the state’s marine environment as it has been proven that these two chemicals have a significant harmful impact on ecosystems, including coral reefs.
Virginia residents can now be pulled over and ticketed by police if they are holding a mobile phone while behind the wheel. It is a primary offense – meaning a driver can be pulled over even if no other traffic laws are being violated.
Four states –Montana, New Jersey, Arizona and South Dakota – legalized recreational marijuana for adults following ballot measures approved in November.
All greyhound racing has been banned in the State of Florida and all residents of Mississippi can now freely toast the new year in 2021 no matter where they live as the state repealed all remaining laws that made it illegal to possess alcohol, thus removing one of the last vestiges of prohibition.