New For 2019: Laws On Guns, Harassment, Cannabis-Spiked Drinks (#GotBitcoin?)
The new year is bringing in a flurry of new laws and ordinances across the country—from crackdowns on plastic straws and foam containers to new measures spurred by last year’s school shooting massacre in Parkland, Fla., and the #MeToo scandals. New For 2019: Laws On Guns, Harassment, Cannabis-Spiked Drinks
Here Is A Look At Some Of Notable Changes To The Books Heading Into 2019
It was a busy year for California, whose Democratic state leaders churned out more than 1,000 new laws.
Among them are new gun restrictions aimed at keeping firearms away from the mentally disturbed and domestic abusers.
Californians convicted of some domestic-violence offenses can now lose their gun rights for life. A new law adds misdemeanor domestic violence or battery—including harmful touching of a spouse, roommate or dating partner—to the crimes that permanently disqualify a person from owning a gun.
Gun owners who are committed to a mental institution twice in a year—and deemed a danger to themselves or others—also face a lifetime ban. Departing Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure months after the Florida school shooting rampage, which was carried out by a mentally disturbed ex-student who had acquired his weapon legally.
Washington state now requires purchasers of rifles or shotguns to be at least 21, raising the legal age from 18, as Florida did several months ago. Gun owners in Washington can now also face criminal liability if they let their weapons slip into the hands of a child or anyone else unauthorized to carry a weapon.
California has new laws targeting workplace sexual harassment. One bars employers from staving off discrimination claims by offering bonuses or job offers to aggrieved employees. Another law makes it harder for companies to keep a lid on sexual misconduct claims that they have settled. Employers can conceal the size of payouts but settlement terms may not make a complainant keep silent about the underlying allegations.
Virginia also has a new #MeToo law mandating sexual-harassment training for legislators and their staffs. Large businesses in Delaware have to provide harassment training to all of their employees.
A California law lowers the bar for proving sex discrimination in court, making clear that a single incident of office harassment can support a plaintiff’s claim. The statute also says that a stray sexist joke or remark made by a manager can count as evidence in a discrimination suit, even if the comment didn’t relate to a hiring decision.
Other notable laws deal with health, death, abortion and defendants’ rights.
Hawaii now allows terminally ill and suffering patients to end their lives with the help of a doctor. It is the sixth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, following Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Colorado and California.
In Tennessee, women who get an ultrasound before an abortion must be offered an “opportunity to learn the results,” which must indicate whether a heartbeat was detected.
A new Democratic-backed health-insurance law in New Jersey requires residents to maintain coverage or pay hundreds of dollars in fines. Following efforts by the Trump administration to roll back the Affordable Care Act, New Jersey became the second state, after Massachusetts, to impose a statewide individual mandate.
Under a New York City law, people who identify neither as male or female can now list their gender as “X” on birth certificates. New Yorkers can also adjust their gender on birth certificates without the blessing of medical and mental-health professionals.
On the criminal-justice front, Louisiana has abolished split verdicts in felony trials and now requires a unanimous jury vote to convict. Before, a defendant could be found guilty even if two jurors wanted to acquit. The change leaves Oregon as the only state without a unanimous jury requirement.
Illinois is giving jailhouse-informant testimony more scrutiny. A new law prompted by concerns of wrongful convictions requires a court hearing to gauge the reliability of inmate informants testifying against murder, sexual-assault or arson defendants.
The new year also means higher minimum wages in 19 states and 21 cities. More than a dozen cities and counties now have wage floors around $15, according to the National Employment Law Project. The $15 threshold was reached in New York City and Seattle for businesses with 11 or more employees. About 10 California cities clustered around Silicon Valley now have minimum wages at or above $15.
Finally, New York City and California took aim at the way foods and drinks are packaged and consumed. A legally contested law in New York City bans restaurants, stores and manufacturers from using foam takeout containers, cups and packing peanuts.
In California, restaurant patrons who want to drink through a plastic straw will have to ask for one. Effective Jan. 1, full-service restaurants can be fined $25 a day for serving beverages with unsolicited plastic straws.
California is also requiring restaurants that sell children’s meals to make unsweetened water, unflavored milk, or milk alternative the default beverage.
Another beverage-related law makes it more difficult for California bar patrons to get drunk and high on marijuana in the same sip. While recreational marijuana is legal in the state, a new law prohibits taverns from selling their customers cannabis-spiked booze.
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