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New Year, New (State) Rules

Change is in the air, but unlike New Year’s resolutions, Americans will have to abide by new laws in 2023 that were passed by state legislatures and approved by governors, or ballot measures passed by voters.

There are bigger paychecks coming for minimum wage workers in almost half the states. Other states enacted law enforcement reforms, including the erasure of criminal records in some cases. One state loosened regulations on jaywalking.

Here are some of the new and noteworthy state laws:

Leisure

Sports betting becomes legal in Massachusetts at the end of January, and is now legal in Ohio, where it is subject to a 10 percent state tax, with the money going to public schools. Ohio is rolling out legal betting on college and pro sports, both online and at brick-and-mortar businesses, like casinos, bars and grocery stores.

Massachusetts will ease into sports betting at the state’s three casinos by the end of the month, just ahead of the Super Bowl on Feb. 12. Officials are finalizing the list of which businesses will get licenses to offer digital-only wagering, but they plan to open online betting in time for March Madness, college basketball’s monthlong tournaments.

Those two states join around 30 states that already have some form of legalized sports betting.

In Tennessee, bar bouncers must be trained in de-escalation and safe-restraint techniques, along with emergency first aid and CPR.

In California, a state known more for hiking than walking, it’s still best to look both ways before crossing the street, but jaywalking is no longer a crime.

Pandemic

Heading into Year 4 of the coronavirus pandemic, North Carolina says its governors cannot declare an extended state of emergency without the approval of other high-ranking state officials.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, issued a coronavirus emergency declaration in March 2020, and extended it for 29 months, until August 2022. Now a majority of statewide elected executive positions must agree in order to extend the declaration beyond 30 days; the state legislature must pass a law for the declaration to go beyond 60 days.

In North Carolina, governors cannot declare an extended state of emergency without the approval of other high-ranking state officials.Credit…Veasey Conway for The New York Times

Workplace

At least 8 million workers in almost two dozen states are getting raises of $0.23 to $1.50 an hour beginning this week, according to the Economic Policy Institute. More than two dozen other cities and counties are increasing their minimum wages. Many states have automatic inflation-linked adjustments. California, Washington State and Massachusetts are at, or above the $15 an hour level, as are Washington D.C. and the New York metropolitan area.

Rhode Island-based businesses must provide pay ranges for a job to applicants who request the data. That’s a version of a new New York City requirement on disclosure of salary ranges in job postings, but some companies there have posted ranges as wide as $100,000, or more, circumventing the law’s goal of narrowing pay disparities.

Salary transparency laws in California and Washington State take effect this week.

Rhode Island’s new pay-equity law also bans employers from requiring a wage history from job applicants and requires equal pay for equal or at least comparable work.

Criminal justice

Connecticut is wiping out criminal convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana. It’s also erasing convictions for misdemeanors if the person is not convicted of another crime for seven years. But the state had already warned that it might take several months for the state’s computer system to expunge the records.

In Rhode Island, people can now have their arrest records sealed in cases where they have been acquitted or exonerated. Some Californians with criminal convictions are now eligible to have those records sealed if they completed their sentence and have not had a new felony offense in four years.

Officials in Colorado and Pennsylvania are taking aim at the overdose crisis caused by fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is deadly in small amounts. Drug overdose deaths reached 100,000, a record high, during the first year of the pandemic.

The possession of fentanyl test strips — which detect fentanyl in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, in powder and injectable forms — has been decriminalized in Pennsylvania. Officials hope that the change will help prevent fatal overdoses for people who aren’t aware that they might be taking fentanyl.

Colorado is creating a real-time map of overdoses and fentanyl poisonings and mandating more treatment for fentanyl users. It’s also expanding treatment options for people convicted of some drug offenses.

Georgia is offering tax credits for donations to law enforcement foundations that support local police agencies.

Some states are loosening weapons restrictions. Alabama residents can begin carrying a concealed gun without a permit. Pennsylvania legalized the possession of switchblade knives, which had been prohibited in some situations.

Education

School libraries will face greater scrutiny. Anyone involved in the selection of school library materials in Florida must take part in a training program for reviewing and selecting “age-appropriate materials.”

In Georgia, principals are required to quickly investigate complaints about books, websites and other materials that parents believe are obscene or harmful to minors and decide whether to restrict access.

To help address a shortage of substitute teachers in public school classrooms, Illinois is allowing college students in good standing in approved teacher training programs to obtain a substitute teaching license.

Abortion

The constitutional right to an abortion, which lasted nearly 50 years, was eliminated by the Supreme Court in June. Laws in 13 states — dominated by Republicans — ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with few exceptions. But Democratic-controlled states like California and New York are among the states making abortion more accessible starting this week.

California is allowing trained nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants to provide abortions without supervision from a doctor. It is also prohibiting state law enforcement agencies from assisting out-of-state abortion investigations. In New York, all private insurance plans with maternity care coverage must cover abortions.

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