Dec. 27, 2011
New Laws Ring in the New Year
A wide range of new legislation goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
A host of new laws—from making it a crime to sell a live animal on any street or in any parking lot, to honoring law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty with a special medal—become effective Jan. 1, 2012.
In 2011, all 50 states and territories met in regular session and enacted more than 40,000 new bills and resolutions on issues across the board. Laws do not always become effective on Jan. 1, however. State constitutions or statutes usually establish when they go into effect, or sometimes, an effective date is written into the specific piece of legislation.
Several states passed legislation regarding the use of E-Verify that will go into effect at the start of the new year. Several legislatures also changed requirements for upcoming elections. Other bills range from prohibiting the sale of shark fins to allowing civil unions, from creating a license plate for music teachers and banning people under the age of 18 from using tanning beds.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) found an assortment of laws in at least 21 states that will become effective on New Year's Day. The following list is a sampling of some of the new state laws (organized alphabetically by topic) ringing in the new year.
Alcohol & Drug Policy
A new law in California will make it a misdemeanor to sell, dispense or distribute a synthetic cannabinoid compound, commonly known as “spice” or “K2.” At least 40 states have adopted laws or departmental rules to ban chemical substances related to synthetic cannabinoids. California SB 420
Another California law prohibits the production, distribution or sale of beer to which caffeine has been directly added as a separate ingredient. California SB 39
And another new law in California will prohibit any person or retail distributor from knowingly supplying a drug or substance containing any quantity of dextromethorphan, or DXM, to a person under 18 without a prescription. DXM, an active ingredient in cough suppressants, is often used as a recreational drug. California SB 514
Animals & Wildlife
New legislation in California increases the misdemeanor penalty for animal neglect and makes it a crime to sell a live animal on any street, highway, public right-of-way, parking lot, or carnival. California SB 917
Two new laws in Oregon and California prohibit the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins. The California law specifies that a person must hold a license in order to possess shark fins for scientific purposes. In addition, restaurants may possess and sell shark fins purchased before Jan. 1, 2012, until Jan. 1, 2013. California AB 376 and Oregon HB 2838
A package of bills in Oregon aims to increase compliance with the requirement to report any hunting activity. HB 2126 gives an incentive for individuals to comply with the requirement by allowing the State Fish and Wildlife Commission to issue free tags to hunt antelope, deer and elk to a select number of hunters. HB 2125 allows the department to impose a $25 surcharge on the hunting license renewal of anyone who fails to file a report.
A new law in Oregon authorizes the State and Wildlife Commission to issue a habitat conservation stamp and to charge a fee not to exceed $50. Revenues from stamp sales will be directed to the conservation of important species and habitats as outlined in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. Oregon HB 2127
An Oregon law increases the damages for unlawfully taking or killing certain game mammals, and specifies the value of the wildlife for purposes of certain crimes. Oregon HB 2439
Other legislation in Oregon establishes requirements for closing or restricting access to public lands for hunting. It specifies that public lands currently accessible for hunting must remain open unless a state agency restricts access for reasons of public safety. It also requires that additional lands be opened to hunting if land that is normally available for hunting is closed. Oregon HB 2875
Children & Families
A law in New Mexico amends the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act to provide a basis for the registration, recognition and enforcement of child support orders from foreign countries. It ensures that the state’s Child Support Enforcement program remains in compliance with federal requirements and will allow CSED to more efficiently process international child support cases with more nations than it does currently. New Mexico SB 284
A New Mexico law enacts the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, which provides a road map for addressing multistate jurisdiction issues and provides comprehensive rules relating to adoption, divorce and children born as a result of assisted reproduction. New Mexico SB 146
Civil Unions / Rights
A law in California amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the enumerated characteristics that require equal rights and opportunities under the law and prohibit discrimination. California AB 887
New laws in Delaware and Hawaii make same-sex couples eligible for civil union recognition and grant them the same rights and benefits as married couples under the law. Delaware SB 30, Hawaii SB 232
A new law in California prohibits the use of ultraviolet tanning devices by children under the age of 18. California SB 746
Legislation in Oregon will exempt certain farmers from certain regulations, allowing them to sell products directly to the consumer without licenses of inspection. The law covers products considered fairly safe; foods that pose a greater hazard must be produced in a licensed facility. The law also issues labeling requirements for products sold by one farmer but produced by another. Oregon HB 2336
Oregon will now allow the Department of Agriculture to waive routine inspection of certain food establishments if the business sells only pre-packaged foods or if food and beverage sales are not a major activity of the establishment. Oregon HB 3332
California begins banning stores from selling expired infant food and formula, and over-the-counter medication that has lost important nutritional or pharmaceutical benefits. California AB 688
Corrections & Criminal Justice
Legislation in California requires that when a defendant is extradited back to the state, the judge issue bail at $100,000 in addition to any bail already issued for the underlying original offense. California SB 291
The Kentucky Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act made comprehensive changes to drug-crime sentencing and offender supervision laws that are projected to save the state $422 million over the next 10 years. A provision that goes into effect on Jan. 1 requires certain inmates who have not been released on parole to serve the final six months of their sentence in the community under supervision. Kentucky HB 463
An Oregon law expanded the list of people eligible to have their convictions set-aside to include some non-violent class B felony offenses. Class B felons are only eligible for the set-aside if 20 or more years have elapsed since the date of conviction or release from prison, whichever is later, and if the person has not had any subsequent arrests or convictions. Oregon HB 3376
Crime & Law Enforcement
A California law includes encouraging, persuading or forcing a person under 18 years of age to engage in a commercial sex act within the definition of a criminal profiteering activity. The law also requires that any proceeds from any criminal activity be deposited in the Victim-Witness Assistance Fund for child sexual exploitation counseling centers and prevention programs. California AB 90
California now will include injury as a result of strangulation or suffocation in the list of traumatic conditions under the felony domestic violence statute. California SB 430
A new law in California makes it a misdemeanor to openly carry an exposed, unloaded handgun while in a public place or on a public street in an incorporated city, or in specified prohibited areas of an unincorporated county. California AB 144
A new law in Kentucky amends the provisions for those who commit elder and vulnerable adult abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. The new law includes the commission of these felonies among the offenses that trigger an offender’s forfeiture of the right to inherit property from the victim. If there are no other beneficiaries, the property will go to the elder and vulnerable victims trust fund. Kentucky HB 52
A new California law authorizes wage garnishments of those convicted of elder financial abuse. California AB 2619
Legislation in Oregon establishes the Law Enforcement Medal of Ultimate Sacrifice, which the governor may award to the family of a law enforcement officer who dies performing job duties or is killed because of his or her position. Oregon SB 976
An Oregon law requires an applicant for a license, tag or permit to hunt wildlife with firearms to attest that he or she is not prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a previous felony conviction or being found guilty by reason of insanity. Oregon HB 3125
Legislation in California will include certain posts on social networking sites as a form of bullying, incorporating them into existing law that deems cyber bullying as grounds for student suspension or expulsion. California AB 746
Many states passed laws restricting texting or the use of cell phones while driving. A Nevada law will prohibit all drivers from text messaging and using handheld phone devices (SB 140). North Dakota passed a law that bans drivers younger than 18 from using cell phones in their cars (HB 1256), and another that bars all drivers from text messaging (HB 1195)
A new Oregon law adjusts exceptions to the offense of operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone. The law prohibits texting while driving, but adds an exception for Oregon drivers operating a tow vehicle, roadside assistance vehicle, or a vehicle owned by a utility. Oregon HB 3186
A new law in California creates the process to bring the state’s school curriculum, instruction and assessment system into alignment with Common Core State Standards adopted last year by the State Board of Education. California AB 250
California will now require school districts that offer athletic programs to remove an athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury from the activity. The law also prohibits the return of the athlete until he or she is evaluated and receives written clearance from a licensed health care provider. The law also requires the athlete and his or her parent or guardian to sign a related information sheet each year before practice or participation. California AB 25
The California Dream Act expands eligibility for non-state funded scholarships to students who quality for the existing exemption from non-resident tuition (California AB 130). The second part of the Dream Act, expanding eligibility for financial aid, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 (California AB 131). Additional legislation authorizes any student, including one without lawful immigration status, to serve in any capacity in student government (California AB 844).
A law in California adds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and others to the list of cultural groups whose roles and contributions to the development of the United States should be accurately portrayed in social science instructional materials. California SB 48
A law in Oregon requires state universities and community colleges to waive tuition and fees for current and former foster children under age 25, and gives foster children priority for state Opportunity Grants when there aren’t enough funds to help all eligible students. Oregon HB 3471
A law in California will require test sponsors of various graduate exams, such as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT and GMAT, to provide an alternative methods for verifying a test taker’s identity when he or she cannot supply a driver’s license or other traditional form of identification. A violation would subject a test sponsor to a civil penalty. California AB 176
California passed a series of election reform bills that will go into effect on Jan. 1. AB 80 consolidates the presidential primary with the state primary. AB 84 allows new citizens to register and vote on Election Day, compared with other citizens who must register at least seven days before the election. One law (AB 459) joins the state to the National Popular Vote compact, whereas another requires votes on initiatives and referenda be in even-year general elections only, not in primary or special elections (SB 202). AB 547 makes it a misdemeanor for someone who provides care to an elderly person in a state facility or program to coerce or deceive the person into voting a certain way.
A new law in California allows active duty military personnel who are serving outside the state to file candidacy papers through a power of attorney. AB 754
North Carolina adopted the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act, which makes the voting process easier for service members and civilians overseas. HB 514.
A Tennessee law clarifies that the federal postcard application used by military and overseas voters will be accepted for all elections, not just federal elections (HB 1081).
Legislation in California will protect farm workers when an employer, acting in bad faith, prevents them from holding a fair secret ballot election. The law requires that if the Agricultural Labor Relations Board refuses to certify an election due to employee misconduct, then the labor organization will be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative. California SB 126
New laws requiring voters to present photo identification will go into effect in Kansas (HB 2067), Rhode Island (HB 5680), Tennessee (SB 16) and Texas (SB 14). A law in New Hampshire will require election day registrants who do not present a photo ID to return a mailed identify verification (HB 487). An additional Tennessee law will require election officials to identify possible non-citizens who are registered to vote and require them to present proof of citizenship in order to remain a registered voter (SB 352).
A new law in North Carolina prohibits an individual from running on the same general election ballot for more than one office. North Carolina SB 356
A new law in Texas require deputy and volunteer voting registrars to meet the same requirements as a registered voter: be U.S. citizens and eligible to vote in the state of Texas. The law also prohibits performance-based compensation for voter registration drives. Texas HB 2194
Laws requiring businesses to enroll in the federal E-Verify program to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. will go into effect in Louisiana (HB 646), Tennessee (HB 1378), South Carolina (SB 20) and Georgia (HB 87).
California will now prohibit any state or local government from requiring a private employer to use the federal E-Verify program unless required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds. AB 1236
A new law in California prohibits an employer or prospective employer from using a consumer credit report for employment purposes. The law will bar employers from using consumer credit reports to evaluate candidates unless the position for which the candidate is applying meets one or more of the law’s exemption criteria and the employer obtains the consent from the candidate. AB 22
Another new law in California prohibits employers from refusing to maintain and pay for individual maternity coverage under a group health plan for the duration of an employee’s pregnancy leave, for up to four months. SB 299
Legislation in California establishes new misdemeanor penalties for employers who violate wage laws. The bill also requires employers to provide workers, at the time of hire, with a written disclosure of basic terms of employment, such as rate and date of pay. AB 469
A California law imposes penalties on employers who willfully misclassify individuals as independent contractors and enhances penalties on employers showing a pattern of misclassification. California SB 459
A law in Oregon prohibits employers from ceasing to provide health, disability, life or other insurance to an employee who is serving jury duty. It also makes it illegal for employers to fire, threaten to fire, or intimidate employees over their service as a juror. The law applies to Oregon employers who employ 10 or more people. Oregon HB 2828
Legislation in California will permit the Department of Public Health, until Jan. 1, 2019, to specify which entities may provide hypodermic needles and syringe exchange services, in any area where DPH determines that conditions exist for the rapid spread of HIV. The law preempts local laws prohibiting needle exchanges, if the state specifies an entity within a local jurisdiction.California AB 604
Florida has enacted new reporting requirements for physicians and dentists who dispense controlled substances for treatment of nonmalignant pain. Florida HB 7095
A Louisiana law requires health benefit plans to notify and disclose covered prescription drugs. The law will also limit modifications to drug coverage during a plan year and will allow it only upon renewal. Louisiana HB 345
In New Mexico, an oncologist who participates in certain cancer clinical trials in rural areas may claim a cancer clinical trial income tax credit of $1,000 per patient, not to exceed $4,000 a year. The tax credit is effective for three years. New Mexico SB 282
Another new law in New Mexico provides consumer protection procedures for health insurance rate review. The bill requires an insurer to make a number of disclosures to the public when filing a rate increase, including an explanation of the rate change. A new standard of review in the bill requires that health insurance rates be sound, reasonable and not excessive. New Mexico SB 208
The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 requires large retailers and manufacturers to tell consumers on their websites what steps, if any, they take to ensure their product supply chains are free from slavery and trafficking. California SB 657
A new Oregon law will require businesses with liquor licenses to supply proof of age for all their employees upon request. Oregon SB 898
A New Mexico law adopts the Uniform Assignment of Rents, which defines who should receive rent payments when a creditor takes over a mortgage on a property. It also clarifies to whom rent payments should be made. New Mexico HB 199
A new law in California authorizes courts to revoke for up to 10 years the driver’s license of any person convicted of three or more DUI offenses. Offenders will be able to apply for a possible license reinstatement after five years if specified conditions are met. The current law allows for a license revocation of three years. California AB 1601
An Oregon law requires the courts to include ignition interlock devices as a condition of DUI diversion agreements. The law imposes a fine on drivers who violate their agreement and raises fees for the Intoxicated Driver Program fund to pay for the cost of the diversion agreement program. Oregon HB 3075
A law enacted in North Carolina and five other states requires companies offering insurance against loss, theft, or mechanical failure for portable electronic devices to hold a limited lines license issued by the North Carolina Department of Insurance. The Department of Insurance would have the same regulatory authority over portable electronics insurance as it has with all limited lines insurance. North Carolina HB 617
Pensions & Employee Benefits
An Arizona law limits eligibility for the deferred retirement option plan in the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System to those who become a member of the system before Jan. 1, 2012. The law also makes numerous changes in the Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan, which covers legislators, state and county elected officials, and some other kinds of public officials. The legislation changes the formula for retirement benefits for those who become members on or after Jan. 1, 2012, in a way that will reduce benefits compared with those for people who are members now. Arizona SB 1609
A new law in Delaware will require people who become members of the Delaware Pension Fund on or after Jan. 1, 2012, to make larger contributions than earlier members. It also will require those new members to be older or to work longer than current members to earn a pension benefit. Delaware HB 81
Legislation in North Dakota increases member and state government contributions for almost all members of the North Dakota Public Employee Retirement System. The increases will occur over two years, and will raise a non-public safety member’s contribution from 10.3 percent for employees to 12.3 percent. The increase will be slightly less for law enforcement personnel. North Dakota SB 2108
An Oklahoma law increases the age requirements for retirement for judges and justices whose service begins on or after January 1. The new requirements are two years higher than the former ones. Oklahoma HB 1010
In addition to being asked if they want to be an organ donor, people applying for a driver’s license or state identification card in Minnesota will be asked to contribute $2 to a donor awareness campaign, which will be used as grants to federally certified organ procurement organizations and nonprofit organizations that advocate for organ and tissue donation. Minnesota HF808
A new California law will prohibit the impounding of a vehicle at a sobriety checkpoint if the driver’s only offense is the failure to hold a valid license. California AB 353
An Oregon law directs the Transportation Department to construct and maintain a roadside memorial sign for police officers killed in the line of duty. The law creates a Roadside Memorial Fund to finance the memorials. Oregon HB 3039
A Minnesota law taking effect May 25, 2011, required that information about carbon monoxide poisoning be included in the driver’s manual and be part of driver’s education training. Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, those seeking a driver’s license will be tested on their knowledge of carbon monoxide dangers. Minnesota HF 650
Legislation in California mandates that children remain in booster seats an additional two years until they reach age 8 or four feet nine inches tall. California SB 929
Washington legislation authorizes the use of modified off-road motorcycles on public roads and grants drivers all the rights motorcycle drivers. Washington SB 5800
Washington approved special license plates to support volunteer fire fighters (HB 1136) and music teachers (HB 1329).
Veterans & Military
An Oregon law requires public employers to interview every veteran who applies for a civil service position, or applies to be put on an elligibility list, and has the necessary skills for the position, with some exceptions. Oregon H.B. 3207
An Oregon law requires all state agencies to ask if their customers or clients are veterans and provide information from the Department of Veterans' Affairs and reintegration team within the Oregon Military Department to veterans and creates a process for establishments that provide food to indigent or needy persons to disseminate information on how to contact Department of Veterans' Affairs or reintegration team within Oregon Military Department. Oregon S.B. 241
*NCSL amended the release to say 'bills and resolutions' in the opening paragraph on April 25, 2012.
NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.