New Laws For a New Year

From shark fin bans to drone regulation, here are some legal changes taking place in 2014

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Brennan Linsley / AP

Marijuana plants mature inside a grow house, later to be harvested, packaged and sold at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary, which is to open as a recreational retail outlet at the start of 2014, in Denver, on Dec. 27, 2013.

If you’re hoping for change in the new year, then boy do lawmakers have something for you!

State legislatures alone passed nearly 40,000 bills this year — ranging from drone policy to minimum wage — on top of local ordinances and what little came out of Congress, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Residents of California, Illinois and Oregon are in for a particular shock: Laws passed in those states generally go into effect Jan. 1. In other states, laws may take effect July 1, 90 days after passage, or on the date specified.

Here’s a look at some of the most notable changes due to become law in 2014:

Healthcare: Insurance policies purchased under the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, go into effect Jan. 1, as does the expanded Medicaid coverage in participating states.

Minimum wage: California’s minimum hourly wage is on track to be highest in the country. The minimum hourly pay will rise to $9 in July, before going up to $10 in 2016, surpassing Washington State’s $9.19 that is automatically adjusted according to inflation. But before that, on Jan. 1, Connecticut will raise its minimum wage to $8.70, New Jersey to $8.25, and New York and Rhode Island to $8.

Gun control: Connecticut will implement measures stemming from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December. The state will require assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines purchased before April 2013 to be registered starting Jan. 1, and it will create a registry of parolees whose crimes involved a weapon. In Illinois, police will be required to undergo training on the psychological and physiological effects of using stun guns, generally considered “less-lethal weapons,” on humans.

Drones:  Illinois will aim at the potential use of unmanned drones in the state. One law prohibits their use if they interfere with hunters or fisherman, and another greatly reduces when law enforcement can use drones to gather information.

Marijuana: In Colorado, anyone aged over 21 will be able to legally purchase recreational marijuana from licensed retailers starting Jan. 1. And Oregon will become the 13th state with licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

High schools: In California, K-12 students will be able to use bathrooms and join sports teams according to their “gender identity.” In Illinois, school buses will be allowed to carry cameras that photograph drivers who pass the buses while they’re stopped to pick up children–and use the images to fine violators. And in Oregon, another new law will ban smoking in a vehicle with children present.

Animals: Pet owners in Illinois will be allowed in 2014 to return animals that have an illness that was not disclosed by the seller, or demand the seller cover veterinary costs. The “lemon pets” laws, as they’re called, already exist in 21 states. In Delaware, a law will forbid the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins.

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