New Laws For 2020: A Review

By Richard Dahl on January 08, 2020 | Last updated on January 14, 2020

Now that we're done saying goodbye to 2019, it's time to look ahead to the new year and the changes it may bring into our lives.

One of the ways that happens, of course, is through new laws. Every year, plenty of them go into effect at every governmental level, affecting our lives in many ways.

There can be a dizzying number of them, but every year they reveal a number of broad trends that reflect the changes that we think are important to make.

We sifted through many of these new laws — federal, state, and local — coming our way in 2020 and spotted a few trends. Here's a summary:

Higher Minimum Wages

A whopping 24 states, along with 48 cities and towns, are increasing their minimum wages. These 72 jurisdictions have stepped in to aid their lowest paid workers after the U.S. Senate scuttled a House-passed effort to hike the minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $15 in early 2019. Washington and California now have the highest state minimum wages at $13.50 and $13 per hour respectively. Washington, D.C., has a $14 minimum wage, set in July 2019, that will rise to $15 on July 1, 2020.

Weed, Weed, Everywhere

Although marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, many states have taken steps to legalize it or ease restrictions in 2020. In Illinois, for instance, recreational marijuana is now legal. As of Jan. 1, residents over age 21 with valid IDs may now buy recreational pot from licensed retailers. Hawaii has decriminalized marijuana possession of three grams or less. A new Colorado law allows the creation of marijuana "hospitality establishments," such as marijuana cafes. In Nevada, a new law prohibits employers from failing to hire applicants because they failed a marijuana test.

Bye-bye, Plastic Bags

A raft of state laws and local ordinances will ban plastic bags in stores. Oregon's ban went into effect Jan. 1, and New York's is set to start in March. Albuquerque, New Mexico, banned plastic bags on Jan. 1, and so did Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

More People Can Sue for Sexual Abuse

Restrictive statutes of limitation made it difficult for many sexual abuse victims to sue for childhood incidents, but more states are relaxing the deadlines. California has expanded the age requirement for filing sexual abuse claims from 26 to 40 and also opened a three-year window for people of any age to file claims. Starting Feb. 1, residents of New York State will have three years, instead of one, to file a workplace sexual-harassment claim. On Jan. 1, Illinois tossed its 10-year statute of limitation on prosecuting crimes of sexual violence.

New Laws of Interest, Here and There

Meanwhile, a few new laws caught our eyes just because they're interesting. Here are a few:

  • California passed a far-reaching privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, that allows consumers to better see what kinds of personal data companies are keeping on them and what they are doing with it.
  • A new bail-reform law in New York eliminates cash bail for nearly all misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.
  • A new Texas law lets people avoid big hospital bills when they didn't have a choice of the facility where they were taken during an emergency.
  • As of July 1, food scraps will be banned from Vermont landfills. Residents, restaurants, and supermarkets will need to get their own compost bins, solar digesters, or pay composting professionals to handle their food waste.
  • Michigan passed a new law mandating that all egg-laying hens must be housed in cage-free areas by 2025.

Correction: An earlier version of this blog stated that Hawaii's marijuana decriminalization applied to possession of "three ounces or less." It has been corrected to "three grams or less." 

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