New laws show U.S. states are diverging on guns, voting

TRENTON, N.J. -- Laws taking effect at the start of the new year show states diverging on some hot-button issues.

See Full Article

Restrictions on carrying guns eased in Texas, for example, but got tighter in California. It is easier to register to vote in Oregon, but there is another step to take at the polls in North Carolina.

The opposing directions in the states reflect a nation with increasingly polarized politics.

In the debate over gun control, both sides say their arguments are strengthened by a string of mass shootings this year. That includes the December attack at a county health department gathering in San Bernardino, California, when a couple who investigators say pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group killed 14 people.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a group backed by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is seeking to be a counterweight to the National Rifle Association's lobbying of state lawmakers. Both groups are expected to be active in legislatures in the coming year.

Whether to raise the minimum wage has become another hot topic in states and cities, with the issue getting no traction in the Republican-led Congress.

New voting laws, meanwhile, could help shape the outcomes in state and federal elections in the coming year. Democrats and others who want to boost voter participation have been pushing to expand access to the polls, while conservatives have pushed for measures aimed at preventing election fraud. Each side says the other is using legislation to help their favored party in elections.

A look at some of the more notable laws taking effect in January:

GUNS

Texas, the second-most populous state, joins 44 other states in allowing at least some firearm owners to carry handguns openly in public places. Under the Texas law, guns can be carried by those with licenses and only in holsters.

Meanwhile, California, the most populous state, has multiple new laws on gun control. One tightens a ban on firearms in and around schools. Under the new law, the prohibition applies even to most people who are allowed to carry concealed weapons generally. Another allows people to request that a judge order weapons be taken away from relatives who are believed to pose a threat.

VOTING

California and Oregon become the first states that automatically register eligible voters when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses. Critics of the measures - mostly Republicans - say that could lead to voter fraud and is part of a plan to register more voters who are likely to be Democrats. They say voters should register voluntarily. In both states, people are able to opt out of being registered.

Similar measures have been proposed in other states but never adopted. This year, Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the concept in New Jersey.

In North Carolina, a voter identification law passed in 2013 that requires people to show a photo ID takes effect.

An amendment adopted this year allows voters who have trouble obtaining the required ID to vote anyway. That provision keeps North Carolina from joining eight states in which a photo ID is strictly required. There are still legal challenges over the law, and opponents want a judge to delay implementation.

In most states, voters are asked to show some kind of identification.

PUBLIC HEALTH

Hawaii becomes the first state to raise its minimum age, from 18 to 21, to buy or use cigarettes or e-cigarettes. It's a move some local governments have made before, but never a state.

California joins West Virginia and Mississippi as the only states without a personal-belief exemption for parents who do not want to vaccinate their children. Children whose parents refuse to have them immunized against several diseases are not allowed to enroll in public or private school and instead have to be homeschooled. There is an exemption for children with serious health problems.

EMPLOYMENT ISSUES

In California, a new law lets female employees allege pay discrimination based on the wages a company pays other employees who do substantially similar work. Under the law, it is up to employers to prove a man's higher pay is based on factors other than gender.

Oregon becomes the fifth state with a paid sick leave mandate for many employers.

Some cities in traffic-congested urban areas are trying to ease the burdens of commuting. Employers with at least 20 workers in Washington, D.C., and New York City are required to offer commuter benefits such as tax-free mass transit subsidies to their workers. San Francisco already has a similar ordinance.

In Missouri, a new law links the duration of jobless benefits to the state's unemployment rate. When fewer people are out of work, those claiming the benefits will be cut off sooner. The maximum length of the benefits will be reduced from the current 20 weeks - already among the shorter periods in the nation - to 13. Only North Carolina, which has a similar sliding scale, has a shorter period: 12 weeks.

MINIMUM WAGE

The minimum wage rises in many cities and states with the new year. Some of the wage increases are coming under laws passed years ago that phased in the increases over a period of years. Some are automatic increases tied to the cost of living.

Fast-food workers in New York state receive their first pay bump under a new law that eventually will push their minimum wage to $15. The full amount will kick in at the end of 2018 in New York City and 2021 in the rest of the state.

The federal government has not touched the minimum wage since it was increased to $7.25 effective in 2009. Labor groups and workers keep pushing for higher raises while many business groups say raises could come at the expense of jobs. But with the federal rate unchanging, more state and local governments - particularly in the West and Northeast - are taking action.

The wages rise in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia on Friday. States with automatic annual increases effective Jan. 1 are Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota.

Some cities, including New Orleans, also have new rates starting Jan. 1. Minimum-wage fast-food workers in Seattle get a bump as part of that city's phased-in increase to $15 an hour.

TAXES

Taxes have gone up in some places and dropping in others.

Income tax rates dropped slightly in Oklahoma, where state revenues have fallen sharply, and Massachusetts.

In North Carolina, the tax on gasoline dropped by a penny a gallon to 35 cents. The sales tax on boats will drop in New Jersey as of Feb. 1.

Taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products rose in Minnesota, as will hotel taxes in Hawaii.

ABORTION

Physicians in North Carolina are required to provide the state with ultrasound images of fetuses and other data related to abortions performed after the 16th week of pregnancy.

For pregnancies terminated after the 20th week, doctors must explain to the state Department of Health and Human Services how continuing the pregnancy would have threatened the life and health of the mother. Some lawmakers who favor abortion rights say the state should not have this medical data.

IMMIGRANT DRIVER'S LICENSES

Two more states allow people who are in the United States illegally to be licensed to drive. Delaware's law took effect Sunday and Hawaii's is in effect in the new year.

Ten states and the District of Columbia already have similar provisions.

PETS

Illinois made it a misdemeanor to leave pets outside during extreme weather. Missouri, in a crackdown on the state's commercial "puppy mills," required dog breeders to provide more space for their animals and barred them from using wire-strand flooring in dog kennels.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Japan heads to polls in snap election

    World News CBC News
    Japanese are voting in a general election that will most likely hand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition a majority in parliament.Japan wrestles with future of its pacifist constitution ahead of election Sunday'We're scared, obviously': Japanese worry over growing North Korean nuclear threatsUp for grabs Sunday are 465 seats in the more powerful lower house, which chooses the prime minister. Source
  • Japan votes for lower house; PM Abe's party seen headed for win

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Japanese are voting in a general election that will most likely hand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition a majority in parliament. Up for grabs Sunday are 465 seats in the more powerful lower house, which chooses the prime minister. Source
  • 5 living ex-presidents attend Texas hurricane relief concert

    World News CTV News
    AUSTIN, Texas -- All five living former U.S. presidents will be attending a concert Saturday night in a Texas college town, raising money for relief efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria's devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Source
  • Pair of Hip-loving teachers urge colleagues to 'teach like Gord'

    Canada News CTV News
    Following Gord Downie’s passing, a pair of teachers in Clinton, Ont. are urging their colleagues to use The Tragically Hip frontman’s words to inspire a new generation through a social media campaign they’ve dubbed ‘Teach Like Gord. Source
  • Three injured as small plane goes down in Saint-Lazare, west of Montreal

    Canada News CTV News
    SAINT-LAZARE, Que. - Three people have been injured in a small plane crash in a western suburb of Montreal. Emergency services received a call at about 4:20 p.m. about a small Cessna that landed in a tree on a private property in Saint-Lazare, Que. Source
  • True crime notebook [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    The body count is relentless. Americans kill other Americans at a rate that would have made the Viet Cong envious. Once in a while, stepping away from horrific massacres like the bloodshed in Las Vegas, Sandy Hook and elsewhere, you will find the true American Horror Show. Source
  • Virginia school's football season cancelled over players' racist simulated sex video on Snapchat

    World News Toronto Sun
    SHORT PUMP, Va. — A middle school football team in Virginia has forfeited the remainder of its season after players made a racially insensitive video. The video posted on Snapchat shows football players simulating sex acts on their black peers, WWBT-TV reported. Source
  • 'I think they got lost and were suffering in 100-degree heat'; Missing couple's deaths in Joshua Tree believed to be 'sympathetic murder-suicide'

    World News Toronto Sun
    SAN FRANCISCO — Friends and relatives of a couple whose bodies were found in Joshua Tree National Park say they believe the two got lost while hiking in the sprawling desert park and struggled in the searing heat with little food or water before they died in a “sympathetic murder-suicide. Source
  • Democratic chairman calls Trump 'most dangerous' president ever

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- Navigating ongoing rifts on the political left, Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said party unity is crucial in the fight against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he lambasted as an "existential threat" to the nation. Source
  • Anti-Trudeau, anti-racism demonstrators clash in Toronto; four arrested

    Canada News CTV News
    A group of anti-Trudeau protesters and anti-racism counter-demonstrators clashed in Toronto on Saturday. According to organizers, the anti-Trudeau protest was planned as a means of expressing displeasure with the Liberal government’s tax policies, spending and controversial multi-million dollar settlement with former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr. Source