2013 Brings Bevy Of New State Laws
January 2, 2013

New State Laws For 2013 Include Everything From Social Media To Computer Driven Vehicles

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Thousands of new state laws and regulations went into effect on Tuesday, covering everything from social media and health care to education, same-sex marriage, minimum wage and the sexual conduct of law enforcement officers with prison inmates, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

“In 2012, all but four states met in regular session and enacted more than 29,000 bills and resolutions,” the NCSL said.

While most of these statutes took effect January 1, some kick in later in the year.

Lawmakers in California and Illinois were particularly busy in 2012, enacting a number of new laws, such as one prohibiting employers from requiring job applicants or employees to disclose social media passwords. The laws also ban employers from discharging, disciplining or retaliating against employees who don´t comply with such requests.

Other states, including Maryland, New Jersey, Michigan and Delaware, have already made these employer practices illegal. The Michigan law goes a bit further, penalizing educational institutions for dismissing, or failing to admit, any student for not disclosing passwords and other information used to access email and social media accounts.

However, employees and applicants will still need to be mindful of what they post online, as employers can always access any publicly available social networking information.

Among some of the more unusual new laws is one in California making it unlawful to let a dog pursue a bear or bobcat at any time. Previously, exceptions had been made for hunting, the NCSL said.

Another new California law prohibits workers and peace officers from having sex with anyone confined to a correctional facility, including prisoners who are being transported to jail.

A separate 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.

Illinois, meanwhile, made it a felony to have sex with a corpse.

Some of the other laws taking in effect in 2013 include:

• Registered sex offenders in Illinois will no longer be able to don Santa Claus or Easter Bunny suits, or distribute treats on Halloween.

California and Illinois now 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.

• A new California law makes computer-driven vehicles legal, allowing the cars to be tested on public roads as long as there is a human in the passenger seat capable of taking over.

• In Illinois, motorcyclists can now run red lights, since motorcycles and bicycles typically aren´t heavy enough to trigger ground sensors that switch traffic lights from red to green. Under the new measure, any motorcyclist approaching a red light or a left-turn arrow must wait at least two minutes for the light to change before being able to legally proceed — as long as it is safe to do so.

Illinois became the first inland state to ban the trade, sale or distribution of shark fins.

• In Oregon, teachers will now be required to report suspected student bullies. The state´s lawmakers also passed a law prohibiting employers from advertising a job vacancy if they won't consider applicants who are currently out of work.

• The second part of the California´s DREAM Act went into effect on Tuesday, allowing undocumented students in-state tuition and the ability to qualify for private scholarships and state financial aid.

• A number of states - Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — enacted new laws raising the minimum wage from between 10 and 15 cents per hour.

• In New Hampshire, partial birth abortion is now banned except to save the life of the mother.

• Maryland´s Civil Marriage Protection Act, which gives same-sex couples the right to marry, goes into effect, making the state the ninth in the nation to legalize same-sex civil marriage. Maine´s same-sex marriage law went into effect on December 29.

A number of new consumer protection laws also took effect on Tuesday, including a new Illinois law prohibiting manufacturers and wholesalers from selling children's food and beverage containers that contain bisphenol A (BPA).

Meanwhile, Oregon set new standards for the amount of mercury that may be contained in general purpose lamps, prohibiting manufacturers from selling lamps that contain more mercury than allowed in the content standards.

Massachusetts, meanwhile, repealed a law mandating that every item in a grocery store have a price label. Instead, price scanners must be distributed throughout the store.

And lastly, New York banned the sale of e-cigarettes to children.