California lawmakers made their fashion ruling: Crocodile handbags were out. Alligator boots, too. But for Louisiana, the nation’s top producer of all things made from alligator skin, those were fighting words.
The state’s attorney general filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month to stop California’s ban on alligator and crocodile products from taking effect in 2020. Last week, a federal judge agreed to temporarily block the new law, meaning Louisiana and California are headed for a showdown in court.
Every year on Jan. 1, hundreds of new state and federal laws take effect across the country. Many are mundane, but some can be contentious — and not just in the world of fashion.
As 2020 arrives on Wednesday, Arkansas will ban state-funded human cloning, while Illinois will legalize marijuana. Texas will try to save lives in school shootings, but not by taking action on guns. Here’s a look at changes coming across the country.
Requiring gunshot wound kits in schools
When a gunman opened fire at a high school in Santa Clarita, Calif., in November, a choir teacher barricaded her students behind a grand piano and grabbed a gunshot wound kit, wrapping the wounds of a freshman girl who had been shot in the torso and shoulder. The girl survived.
In Texas, which has seen its own rash of mass shootings, a new law will require local school districts to stock similar kits on their campuses, equipped with tourniquets, chest seals, compression bandages, bleeding-control bandages, emergency blankets, latex-free gloves, markers and scissors. University Health System, a San Antonio-based public hospital, will train students and school employees to use them.
No public money for embryo research
Arkansas lawmakers voted to prohibit state funding of human cloning or destructive embryo research, stating that the “prospect of creating new human life solely to be exploited or destroyed has been condemned on moral grounds as displaying a profound disrespect for a human life.”
The new law will also block funds to state educational institutions investigating stem cell research using embryos. In vitro fertilization, however, will not be affected.
Arizona, Maryland and Missouri prohibit the use of state funds to pay for reproductive cloning, while North Dakota, South Dakota and Oklahoma are the only states to ban all forms of human cloning.
A groundbreaking data privacy law
California, home of some of the country’s big tech giants, such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo, is rolling out a landmark digital privacy law that will regulate data collection from consumers. The California Consumer Privacy Act requires companies to comply with new privacy and transparency standards.
Consumers will be able to request access to information that tech companies have collected about them and ask that the data be deleted. Users can also opt out of companies selling their personal data — including photos, and information on what they buy and where they go — to other businesses.
California is the first place to implement such a law in the United States. In 2018, the European Union’s data protection law took effect, protecting all residents in the member countries.
Recreational marijuana now available in the Midwest
Illinois will become the 11th state in the country, and the first in the Midwest, to legalize recreational marijuana sales and use. As early as 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day, anyone 21 and over with a valid driver’s license will be able to purchase cannabis products at state-licensed stores.
The state has approved 35 medical cannabis dispensaries to sell pot and other products. There are, however, limits on how much an individual can purchase: 30 grams of marijuana, 500 milligrams of edibles and five grams of concentrated THC oils.
A ban on alligator products, blocked
The state was set to institute a ban on any merchandise made of alligator or crocodile skin, including popular boots and handbags, until the Louisiana attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit and a federal judge issued a hold.
“The temporary restraining order is the first step in protecting Louisiana’s alligator industry, which creates jobs, supports our economy and contributes to much-needed coastal restoration efforts,” Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said in a news release Friday.
Louisiana is the United States’ leading producer of alligator skins, according to the Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council. In 2017, the alligator industry generated almost $100 million for the state, the group said.
California will still go ahead with a ban on cosmetics companies importing or selling products that have been tested on animals.
Ending cash bail could release thousands of inmates
New York will become the latest state to eliminate cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, which could see more than 40 percent of inmates released from pretrial detention, according to the Center for Court Innovation.
Bail can still be set for people accused of more violent crimes, including sexual offenses, domestic abuse, witness tampering and conspiracy to commit murder. When deciding whether to set bail on those cases, judges are still expected to consider the defendant’s financial ability to pay.
Over the past few years, several states have taken similar steps as part of an effort to reduce the criminalization of poverty. California became the first state to abolish cash bail entirely last year. New Jersey has also all but eliminated cash bail, while New Mexico has minimized its use.
Previous salary: Don’t ask, you’re not allowed
Employers in New Jersey will be banned from screening applicants based on their past salaries or benefits history or asking what they previously earned, a rule intended to address the gender wage gap and promote equal pay among workers. Seventeen states — including California, Hawaii and Maine — have passed similar laws. And in recent years, such laws at the county level have been passed across the country.
Another ‘red flag’ law to reduce gun violence
Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, Colorado has suffered several more mass shootings. The state will now become the latest to implement a “red flag” law, which will allow family members or law enforcement officials to petition a court to confiscate firearms from people who are deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others.
Colorado follows in the footsteps of at least 17 states, including Florida, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana and California, which have approved some version of a red flag law. In Colorado, the seizure of firearms can be extended to 364 days, after which the burden of proof is on owners to have their firearms returned.
Gift cards, composting and zero-emission vehicles
Some new state laws won’t take effect until the summer. As of July 1, businesses in Washington State will be banned from putting expiration dates on gift cards. The new law will protect recipients if they do not use their gift cards in a timely fashion, and service charges will no longer be allowed.
Vermont residents will not be able to throw peels, eggshells, seeds, pits, bones, coffee grounds, loose-leaf tea, oil and other food scraps in landfills beginning on July 1. Trucking companies will be required by the state’s universal recycling law to provide scrap collection services to all residents and businesses. Supermarkets and restaurants will also have to comply with mandatory composting across the state.
Car owners across a number of states, including California, Hawaii, Kansas and Alabama, will be charged fees to register “zero emission” vehicles in the new year. With the growing trend of green technology, these special fees, which range from $50 to $200, are expected to make up lost gas-tax revenue that pays for upgrading and repairing roads and bridges across the country.
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