40,000 New Laws Set To Go Into Effect In 2012 - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

40,000 New Laws Set To Go Into Effect In 2012

MSNBC.COM - About 40,000 state laws taking effect at the start of the new year will change rules about getting abortions in New Hampshire, learning about gays and lesbians in California, getting jobs in Alabama and even driving golf carts in Georgia.

Several federal rules change with the new year, too, including a Social Security increase amounting to $450 a year for the average recipients and stiff fines up to $2,700 per offense for truckers and bus drivers caught using hand-held cellphones while driving.

NBC News, the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Associated Press, and other organizations tracked the changes and offered their views on the highlights.

Many laws reflect the nation's concerns over immigration, the cost of government and the best way to protect and benefit young people, including regulations on sports concussions.

Eight states will raise the minimum wage, NBC News reported. They include Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Ohio, Vermont and Florida, NBC News said. San Francisco will become the first city to raise its minimum wage above $10 per hour. The new $10.24 minimum is nearly $3 above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, set in 2009.

Jan. 1 is the effective date in many states for laws passed during this year's legislative sessions. In others, laws take effect July 1, or 90 days after passage.

Worker verification
Alabama, with the country's toughest immigration law, will require all employers who do business with any government entity to use a federal system known as E-Verify to check that all new employees are in the country legally.

Georgia is putting a similar law into effect requiring any business with 500 or more employees to use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of new hires. The requirement is being phased in, with all employers with more than 10 employees to be included by July 2013.

Supporters said they wanted to deter illegal immigrants from coming to Georgia by making it tougher for them to work. Critics said that changes to immigration law should come at the federal level and that portions of the law already in effect are already hurting Georgia.

"It is destroying Georgia's economy and it is destroying the fabric of our social network in South Georgia," Paul Bridges, mayor of the onion-farming town of Uvalda, said in November. He is part of a lawsuit challenging the new law.

Tennessee will also require businesses to ensure employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S. but exempts employers with five or fewer workers and allows them to keep a copy of the new hire's driver's license instead of using E-Verify.

A South Carolina law would allow officials to yank the operating licenses of businesses that don't check new hires' legal status through E-verify. A federal judge last week blocked parts of the law that would have required police to check the immigration status of criminal suspects or people stopped for traffic violations they think might be in the country illegally, and that would have made it a crime for illegal immigrants to transport or house themselves.

California is also addressing illegal immigration. The California Dream Act expands eligibility for private scholarships to students brought to the country illegally when they were infants.

The second part of the Dream Act, expanding eligibility for financial aid, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Additional legislation authorizes any student, including one without lawful immigration status, to serve in any capacity in student government.

Protecting the young
In Colorado, coaches will be required to bench players as young as 11 when they're believed to have suffered a head injury. The young athletes will also need medical clearance to return to play.

The law also requires coaches in public and private schools and even volunteer Little League and Pop Warner football coaches to take free annual online training to recognize the symptoms of a concussion. At least a dozen other states have enacted similar laws with the support of the National Football League.

People 18 and under in Illinois will have to wear seat belts while riding in taxis for school-related purposes, and Illinois school boards can suspend or expel students who make explicit threats on websites against other students or school employees.

Florida will take control of lunch and other school food programs from the federal government, allowing the state to put more Florida-grown fresh fruit and vegetables on school menus. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the change will help children eat healthier.

A California law will add gays and lesbians and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions must be taught in history lessons in public schools. The law also bans teaching materials that reflect poorly on gays or particular religions. click here to read more

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