New Year, new laws


January 1 is more than just the date that marks the start of a new year, and the time that many people make resolutions about how their life is going to change. January 1 also marks the date that hundreds of new laws and regulations take effect across the country.

Laws mandating the minimum allowed hourly pay rate, which also affect many union contracts, are taking affect in 20 states, with some increases being as small as 5 cents per hour – in Alaska, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio – with the largest increase of $1.95 per hour being implemented in Arizona. The minimum pay rate will be increased by $1 per hour to $11 in Massachusetts and Washington state. The Wall Street Journal reports, “A 2014 study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce job creation by 500,000 over two years. At the same time, the report estimated that the increase in the federal minimum wage would raise the pay of 16.5 million workers who kept their jobs.”

Not letting pesky facts about economics get in the way of good intentions, “many states are in the process of multiyear increases to the minimum wage,” according to NBC Atlanta. “Arizona’s move is just the first in a series that will push the wage to $12 per hour by 2020. California has even more ambitious plans, with annual increases of $0.50 next year [2018] to be followed by $1 per hour raises in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, bringing the state to the $15 mark. New York State’s $0.70 per hour move is just the first in a series of five hikes that will lift minimum wages there to $12.50 per hour.”

Along with the higher wages in some states, there are also higher taxes. Fox News reports, “the [Portland, Oregon] city council passed a so-called CEO tax, a first-in-the-nation ordinance to put a tax surcharge on publicly traded companies whose CEOs earn 100 times more than the median wage of other company employees. According to the National Law Review, a surcharge of 10 percent of the base tax liability would be imposed on those companies beginning on Jan. 1.” Meanwhile residents of Utah will be hit with a 4.7 percent sales tax when shopping online.

Gun ownership will also be affected in some states with Missouri & Ohio implementing “Constitutional Carry,” Nevada expanding background checks for private transfers of firearms, New Jersey making it more difficult to get a carry permit, Tennessee reducing the fee for a permit & California implementing a bevy of new gun regulations.

Despite making gun transfers more difficult, recreational cannabis laws took effect in Nevada on January 1, with similar laws soon to be implemented in Maine, and criminal penalties for most cannabis possession having already been revoked in California & Massachusetts.

Many other laws were added to the books across the country on January 1, including laws related to right-to-know, hunting, fishing and much more. Here’s hoping that 2017 will see the beginning of legislative repeal of some of these burdensome regulations with more freedom in 2018 and beyond!