New State Laws on Hot-Button Issues Take Effect Today


A spate of new state laws, including on guns, minimum wage and gender transition care, went into effect as the calendar flipped to 2024. Perhaps the most significant change bans programs that promote diversity, equity and inclusion at publicly funded colleges and universities in Texas.

Conservative politicians have targeted these diversity initiatives, known as D.E.I., because they have said that the programs have used taxpayer money to stoke racial division and push a liberal agenda on campuses. The new Texas law follows a similar one that Florida enacted in May to prohibit public colleges and universities from spending funds on D.E.I. initiatives.

In other states, Americans will follow new rules on guns and marijuana, as well as have additional health care and workplace protections. About three dozen states enacted new laws on voting in 2023, but most of the practical effects won’t be felt until primary and general elections in 2024.

Many of these changes will have an immediate impact on everyday life starting Monday. Here are some other new and noteworthy state laws:

Californians will be barred from carrying guns in most public places after an 11th-hour ruling from a federal appeals court. A lower court judge had blocked enforcement of the law earlier in December, but just two days before the law was set to take effect, the appeals court put a hold on the lower court ruling. The law lists more than two dozen locations, including libraries and sports venues, where firearms are prohibited.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have red-flag laws that authorize the temporary removal of firearms from people who are deemed dangerous. Minnesota this week became the 20th state to give family members and law enforcement the ability to ask a court to take away guns in certain situations.

Next month, a red-flag law will take effect in Michigan, which is also adding more expansive background checks and a safe gun storage law in homes where a child is present.

Washington State is expanding its 10-day waiting period to purchases of any gun, not only semiautomatic weapons. Gun buyers will also have to show that they have passed a safety training program within the last five years, or prove that they are exempt from training requirements.

Illinois is banning high-powered semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, and Colorado is getting rid of ghost guns.

Twenty-two states are raising their minimum wages at the start of 2024, according to the Economic Policy Institute. About 40 cities and counties will do the same, with many of the wage levels meeting or exceeding $15 per hour for some or all employees, the National Employment Law Project says.

For Alabamans, employee hours above 40 in a week will no longer be included in gross income, effectively exempting overtime pay from state taxes.

It will be harder to get fired in California. Employees, with few exceptions, can’t be punished for using marijuana outside of work, or if traces of THC — the psychoactive component in marijuana — show up in their blood or urine tests. They also cannot face retaliation for discussing their wages, asking how much co-workers earn or encouraging colleagues to seek a raise.

An executive order in Nebraska demands that some state workers who have been working remotely since the pandemic return to the office starting on Tuesday, but a public employees union has asked a state labor court to delay the requirement.

In Arkansas, unemployment claims will be denied to anyone who fails to respond to a job offer or show up for a scheduled job interview, in what the state calls the Prohibiting Unemployment Claimants from Ghosting Employers Act of 2023. And videoconferencing while driving will be banned in Illinois.

Two notable laws in California aim to increase equity. Law enforcement officers must inform drivers why they have been stopped before they begin any questioning. Black motorists get pulled over at higher rates, and the new requirement is intended to deter officers from using traffic stops as a means to search vehicles or investigate drivers for other crimes.

The California Highway Patrol also will launch an emergency system, called Ebony Alerts, to notify the public when there are missing Black children and women between the ages of 12 and 25. Proponents said that young Black residents comprise a disproportionate share of people who go missing and that their cases receive less attention in the media.

In Pennsylvania, new laws will add protections for female inmates. The state is banning the shackling and solitary confinement of pregnant incarcerated women, and full-body searches of female inmates by male guards.

At least 20 states with Republican-controlled legislatures passed bans or restrictions on gender transition care for young people in 2023, and changes will go into effect on New Year’s Day in Louisiana and West Virginia.

West Virginia lawmakers carved out exceptions to its law, including allowing minors to get treatment if they have parental consent and a diagnosis of severe gender dysphoria from two doctors. Doctors could also prescribe medical therapy if a minor is considered at risk of self-harm or suicide.

State legislatures have also considered bills related to abortion in the year and a half since the Supreme Court upended Roe v. Wade, but there are few new rules to start 2024.

California will legally shield its doctors when they ship abortion pills or gender-affirming medications to states that have criminalized such procedures. New Jersey pharmacists will be allowed to dispense self-administered hormonal contraceptives to patients without a prescription. Law enforcement officers in Illinois will be prohibited from sharing license plate reader data with other states to protect women coming for an abortion.

In Arkansas, new mothers will be required to undergo screenings for depression, which will be paid for by health insurance providers in the state. Public safety employees in Arkansas who experience a traumatic event while on duty will be provided counseling.

Illinois is prohibiting book bans in libraries, after a year in which many materials were removed from shelves across the country. The law allows state grants only for libraries that adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights or those who have a statement rejecting the banning of materials.

In California, the teaching of cursive writing from first to sixth grades will be mandatory, and media literacy and Asian American history will be added to the curriculum for K-12 students.

Online dating services operating in Connecticut must now have procedures for reporting unwanted behavior and provide safety advice, including warnings about romance scams.

In California, large retailers will be required to provide gender-neutral sections of children’s toys or child care products. Proponents said the law would help reduce gender stereotypes at a young age and prevent price disparities in items marketed for girls. The law does not require gender-neutral clothing sections. Retailers can be fined $250 for the first violation and $500 for subsequent ones.

Telemarketers who don’t follow new rules in New Jersey can be charged with a disorderly persons offense. The state is requiring them to identify, within the first 30 seconds of a call, themselves, whom they’re representing, what they’re selling and a phone number to reach their employer. The law also bans unsolicited sales calls to any customer from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. It has been referred to as the “Seinfeld law,” after a memorable scene from the 1990s sitcom.

While the law went into effect in December, it might be the best example of state legislative consensus in 2023, having passed 38-0 in the Senate and 74-0 in the General Assembly.



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