While The 2016 Election Kept Our Attention, Lawmakers Were Busy Passing New Laws For 2017.

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by Amna El Tawil
Just because the year 2016 was characterized by the presidential campaign, election, and various political affairs, it doesn’t mean lawmakers took a pause. In fact, they were quite busy which is why we have a bunch of new laws to follow in 2017.
For instance, gun legislation will go into effect in different states. While California is working to restrict guns, Tennessee is opening up its gun laws. As stated on the Tennessee General Assembly page: “Handgun Permits – As enacted, lowers the age for receiving a handgun carry permit from 21 years of age to 18 years of age for persons who are an honorably discharged or retired veteran of the U.S. armed forces or a service member on active duty status. – Amends TCA Section 39-17-1351.” The bill passed unanimously and was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam back in April.
In California, assault weapons are off limits, including semiautomatic rifles. The bill dictates: “Existing law generally prohibits the possession or transfer of assault weapons, except for the sale, purchase, importation, or possession of assault weapons by specified individuals, including law enforcement officers. Under existing law, “assault weapon” means, among other things, a semiautomatic centerfire rifle or a semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and has any one of specified attributes, including, for rifles, a thumbhole stock, and for pistols, a second handgrip.
This bill would revise this definition of “assault weapon” to mean a semiautomatic centerfire rifle or a semiautomatic pistol that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of those specified attributes. The bill would also define “fixed magazine” to mean an ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.
By expanding the definition of an existing crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.”
If you’re in California, you will have to go through a background check to purchase not only guns but the ammunition as well.
In Missouri, the new law will allow residents to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense without a permit from the government. The Newsmax reports: “The legislation also allows guests like babysitters to use deadly force in a confrontation in the home, which is an expansion of the “castle doctrine.”
Further commentary: In a bid to decrease the gun violence rates or provide people an opportunity to defend themselves, various states used different measures to modify gun laws. After whirlwind 2016, let’s hope we see less gun violence this year.
Besides gun legislation, 2017 will see changes in minimum wage. In fact, this year a record of 20 states and the District of Columbia will see an increased pay for low-wage workers. The fight for 15 (movement fighting for $15 an hour and union rights) is on in New York in California. Also, New York is working toward a statewide $15-per-hour minimum wage but Governor Andrew Cuomo has different timelines, depending on each industry and location in the state. The official site reports: “The minimum wage will be phased in to reach $15.00 for the following groups on the dates set forth below.
Group 1: New York City Large Employers (employees who work in New York City for Fast Food Establishments and employers of 11 or more employees) – New York City Large Employers will reach $15 on December 31, 2018;
Group 2: New York City all others – All other employees who work in New York City will reach $15 on December 31, 2019;
Group 3: Downstate and all other Fast Food – On December 31, 2021, for all employees in Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties and all other Fast Food Workers throughout the state;
Group 4: All others – Employees who work in the balance of the State (outside of New York City or Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, other than Fast Food Workers) will reach $12.50 per hour on December 31, 2020. On December 31 of each year, starting in 2021, the minimum wage for Group 4 will be increased at rates to be determined annually until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour.”
Furthermore, Ohio’s state legislature took steps to block Cleveland’s efforts to reach a $15 minimum wage by passing a law that forces local jurisdictions to maintain the same wage as the state rate, which will go up to $8.15 in 2017.
These wage increases went into effect on January 1:

  • Massachusetts: $10 to $11
  • Connecticut: $9.60 to $10.10
  • Arizona: $8.05 to $10
  • Colorado: $8.31 to $9.30
  • Arkansas: $8 to $8.50
  • Michigan: $8.50 to $8.90
  • Vermont: $9.60 to $10
  • Maine: $7.50 to $9
  • Hawaii: $8.50 to $9.25
  • Washington state: $9.47 to $11

Further commentary: while it’s true that the US economy improved compared to its status eight years ago and employment rates increased, the quality of jobs is still bad forcing thousands of people across the country to work for minimum wage. This year, the minimum wage will increase in some states, which is always good news. It’s expected that a few other states do the same later this year. End of commentary
Starting this year, cosmetologists, hairdressers and nail technicians in Illinois will be required to undergo one hour of training on how to provide support to victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and to recognize the signs in their clients. Becky Winstead, Remedies’ domestic violence program director, already provides training to students at local cosmetology schools. She said: “Hairstylists are in a situation where they may see their clients every five, six or seven weeks, or even more frequently. So they start to build a rapport, and the client begins to feel more comfortable. They may feel (their hairstylist) is someone neutral that they can share some of their personal experiences and concerns.”
California removed the statute of limitations in some rape cases i.e. there’s no time limit for filing charges against a perpetrator. The law dictates: “Existing law generally requires that the prosecution of a felony sex offense be commenced within 10 years after the commission of the offense. Under existing law, prosecution for the crimes of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, if committed against a victim who was under 18 years of age, may be commenced at any time prior to the victim’s 40th birthday. Existing law allows prosecution of an offense punishable by death or by imprisonment for life or for life without the possibility of parole, or for the embezzlement of public money, to be commenced at any time.
This bill would allow the prosecution of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, that are committed under certain circumstances, as specified, to be commenced at any time. The bill would apply to these crimes committed after January 1, 2017, and to crimes for which the statute of limitations that was in effect prior to January 1, 2017, has not run as of January 1, 2017.”
It seems like all laws that got into media attention are introduced in California. For example, a new law allows beauty parlors and salons to serve up to 12 ounces of complimentary alcohol without violating state liquor law requirements.
Of course, it’s impossible to overlook marijuana legalizing law in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. While in Connecticut advanced practice registered nurses will now be allowed to certify a patient for medical marijuana use (except for glaucoma). New York announced a similar regulation in November.
Further commentary: Every year starts with a set of laws regarding different aspects of social life and 2017 is no exception. While some laws do seem surprising, many of them go in favor of domestic abuse victims, rape victims, and so on. While these new laws do seem interesting, I’m sure everyone’s looking forward to the end of January when Trump takes the office to see what his administration can do.

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