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  • Jon Kuhl
    Public Affairs & Media Manager
    Washington, D.C.
Dec. 20, 2012

New Laws for a New Year

NCSL’s Annual List of State Laws Going Into Effect on Jan. 1

Along with New Year’s resolutions, Jan. 1 marks the day many new state laws go into effect. In our annual tradition, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has compiled a list of some of the most interesting ones.

In 2012, all but four states met in regular session and enacted more than 29,000 bills and resolutions. Not all new laws go into effect on the first of the year
it depends on the state’s constitution and whether the statute itself specifies when the law will officially begin.

Among the wide variety of new laws NCSL has identified, several have made news in the last year. Maryland’s same-sex marriage law, for example, became national news when the legislature first passed it, and voters later approved it in a statewide ballot referendum. Numerous states considered and passed legislation making it illegal for an employer to request social media account information from an employee or applicant. One such law goes into effect on New Year’s Day in Illinois.

The following laws grouped by general topic area will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

Alcohol and Drug Policy

A new Illinois law allows those under 21 who are participating in culinary programs to consume alcohol. Illinois SB 758
A new law in Oregon funds a program,
distinct from the General Fund, for retired state police officers to discourage tobacco use in underage children. Oregon HB 4172
In California, it’s not a crime to possess illicit drugs if you are seeking assistance for yourself or someone else who has suffered an overdose. California AB 472
A new law in Illinois enhances the penalties for manufacturing and selling bath salts. Illinois HB 5250
A new Washington law licenses medical marijuana producers and dispensaries to ensure qualified patients have access to an adequate, safe, consistent and secure source of medical quality cannabis. Washington SB 5073

Animals, Agriculture and Wildlife

In California it’s unlawful to let a dog pursue a bear or bobcat at any time. Previously, exceptions had been made for hunting. California SB 1221
In Illinois it’s against the law to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade or distribute shark fins. Illinois HB 4119
Laws in California and Illinois prohibit the use of a vehicle or watercraft if any aquatic plants or animals are attached to the exterior.  Similar bills aimed at stopping the spread of invasive species have been adopted in Michigan, Maine, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. California SB 935 and Illinois HB 3888

Children and Families

Alaska will become the 31st state to enact autism insurance reform. The new law requires private health insurance plans to cover the diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for children and young adults up to the age of 21 with no financial cap on benefits. Alaska SB 74
A new Illinois law requires licensed day care centers and homes to have their facilities tested for radon at least once every three years. Illinois HB 4606
Film producers in California must have permission from a board-certified pediatrician before filming a child under the age of one month. California AB 2396
Maryland passed the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which gives same-sex couples the right to marry. The law was approved by a majority of Maryland voters in November. Maryland now becomes the ninth state in the nation to legalize same-sex civil marriage (in addition to the District of Columbia). Maine’s same-sex marriage law goes into effect on Dec. 29, 2012. Maryland HB 438
In California objecting clergy members do not have to perform same-sex marriages. California SB 1140

Consumer Protection

A new Illinois law creates the Toxin-Free Toddler Act banning manufacturers and wholesalers from selling children's food and beverage containers containing bisphenol A (BPA). Illinois SB 2950
Oregon is setting  standards for the amount of mercury that may be contained in general purpose lamps and prohibiting manufacturers from selling lamps in Oregon that contain more mercury than allowed in the content standards. Oregon SB 1512
Also in Oregon, a new law requires the Oregon Health Authority to develop and maintain a lead poisoning prevention clearing-house on its website, providing information to help reduce lead exposures. Oregon HB 4015

Corrections and Judiciary

A new law in California prohibits prison workers and peace officers from having sex with someone who is confined to a correctional facility, including prisoners who are being transported to jail. California AB 2078
Another California law allows offenders who were under 18 years of age when they committed an offense for which they were sentenced to life in prison without parole to petition the court for resentencing. California SB 9
California also prohibits picketing a funeral one hour before and one hour after the event. California SB 661
A new law in Oregon increases the classification for disorderly conduct crimes committed within 200 feet of property on which the offender knows a funeral service is being conducted. Oregon SB 1575
A new California law extends the state tattoo removal program to individuals tattooed for identification in trafficking or prostitution. California AB 1956
Oregon requires health providers and financial institutions to permit law enforcement to inspect protected information of an elderly person during an abuse or fraud investigation. Oregon HB 4084
A new law in California adds breastfeeding as a category of sexual discrimination in housing and employment. California AB 2386
California requires professional sports facilities to post emergency numbers for patrons to call or text to report acts of violence. California AB 2464
California amended its Fair Employment and Housing Act to explicitly include an employee’s religious dress or grooming practice as an observance covered by the protections against religious discrimination.  California AB1964
New Corrections and Judiciary Laws Specifically in Illinois

A new law orders the state departments of health and corrections to establish procedures for testing and notifying prisoners who are suffering from sexually transmitted diseases. Illinois HB 4453
A new law makes failure to report the death or disappearance of a child under 13 a criminal offense. Illinois SB 2537
Two new laws relating to elder abuse mandate training for probation officers to recognize elder abuse, and the second expand the definition of what constitutes elder abuse. Illinois HB 5098 and Illinois HB 5653
The state must create a program to train police officers to recognize symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and respond appropriately to individuals exhibiting those symptoms. Illinois HB 5587      
Sex offenders are prohibited from distributing candy on Halloween, or playing Santa or the Easter Bunny. Illinois SB 3579


In Oregon school districts must adopt a policy on teen dating violence and funding for teen dating violence education must be allocated. Oregon HB 4077
A new California law allows schools to teach junior and senior high school students about the Bracero Program. California SB 993
Vermont has created the position of secretary of education and clarified the purpose of the state board of education. Vermont HB 440
Nevada has made numerous changes to the structure and governance of its public elementary and secondary education system.  Included among these changes are provisions requiring the State Board of Education to review and revise its current vision and mission statements and establish a statewide program of educational excellence. Nevada SB 197
A new law in Illinois establishes the Enhance Physical Education Task Force to promote physical education in school. Illinois SB 3374
Another sports-related law in California enacts a Student Athletes Bill of Rights, which would, among other things, allow intercollegiate athletic programs in the state to collect revenue from media rights. California SB 1525
New Hampshire has defined residency status for the purpose of receiving in-state college tuition within the state university system. New Hampshire HB 1383


In Illinois it is illegal for an employer to request social networking passwords or account information from an employee or applicant. Illinois HB 3782
A similar new California law prohibits employers from requiring applicants or employees to disclose social media passwords. California AB 1844


A new law in California requires in-car or conveyor-driven car washes to recycle at least 60-percent of their wash or rinse water. California HB 2230
As part of the Global Warming Solutions Act, another new California law requires tire pressure gauges to meet specified requirements. California SB 1076
Oregon must create and maintain a website related to seismic risk categories for schools. Oregon SB 1566

Gun Control

A new law in Michigan changes the definition of a “pistol” under the law from any firearm less than 30 inches in length to 26 inches. This new definition encompasses some rifles with folding stocks, subjecting these weapons to the same restrictions as pistols. Michigan SB 761
California is permitting Los Angeles to have more restrictive laws regulating the manufacturing of toy guns that a reasonable person could perceive is a firearm. California SB 1315
A new Illinois law exempts military re-enactments from the definition of unlawful use of weapons. Illinois HB 4901        


New Hampshire clarified the protocol for a health care facility to exercise authority to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment from a mentally incompetent or developmentally disabled person. New Hampshire HB 1216
New Hampshire has banned partial birth abortion by physicians and nonphysicians except to save the life of the mother. The law was vetoed by the governor, but was later overridden by the legislature. New Hampshire HB 1679
A new California law prohibits mental health providers from engaging in efforts to change the sexual orientation of patients under the age of 18. California SB 1171
Illinois requires insurance companies to cover medical services related to autism. Illinois SB 679
Alaska requires insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders, and establishes the Comprehensive Autism Early Diagnosis and Treatment Task Force. Alaska SB 74
A California law requires a surrogate mother and the intended parent or parents to be represented by separate independent counsel before executing an assisted reproduction agreement for gestational carriers. California AB 1217
A new law in Massachusetts is designed to improve the quality of health care and reduce costs through increased transparency, efficiency and innovation. Massachusetts SB 2400


A package of laws in California, AB 340 and AB 197, reforms several of the state’s pension systems, including CalPERS.
Alabama reformed the defined benefit tier for public employee pensions. Alabama SB 388


A new law in California prohibits driving with any object or material that obstructs the driver's clear view through the windshield or side windows. California AB 1890
California no longer requires passengers in off-road vehicles to keep both feet flat on the floorboard. California AB 1266
California drivers can text while driving if the driver is using a voice-operated, hands-free device.  California AB 1536
Illinois changed the definition of pedestrian to include in-line skaters. Illinois SB 3336     
Florida law revised the term “motor vehicle” to exclude swamp buggies. Florida HB 1223
A new law in Alabama requires the state to use a new electronic verification system to help enforce the existing mandatory automobile insurance law.  Alabama SB 137
Illinois bans drivers from texting while operating commercial motor vehicles. Illinois HB 5101

Changes to the original list were made on Dec. 30, 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.