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New laws on guns, privacy, electric cars go into effect across US


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Guns, privacy, pot – even electric cars – are at center of new legislation that begins today

Data Privacy

The California Consumer Privacy Act is one of the most far-reaching privacy laws and will have repercussions nationwide.

The law means that consumers will be able to see more clearly what personal data companies are keeping on them and what they are doing with it. It also allows consumers to refuse to let companies sell that data or even have them delete it. Companies will also be barred from selling data from children younger than 16 without consent.

While it is aimed at the big social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook, it will affect any large company that has customers in California and collects data. The Associated Press reports that roughly one in ten Americans will gain the power to review their personal information collected by companies -- from purchase histories and location tracking to compiled "profiles" that put people into categories such as religion and sexual orientation.

“If we do this right in California," California attorney general Xavier Becerra said, the state will "put the capital P back into privacy for all Americans.”

Colorado’s Red Flag law

In Colorado, a new “red flag law” will allow family members and law enforcement to request guns be seized from people who are ultimately deemed to be a threat to themselves or to others. The seizure can last up to a year, and the burden of proof is on the gun owner to have it revoked.

The law is called the Zackari Parrish Violence Prevention Act, and is named after a Douglas County sheriff deputy. According to CBS Denver, Parrish was killed in the line of duty by a heavily armed and mentally unstable man.

But the law has proved controversial, with some law enforcement officials saying it violates the Second Amendment and that not only will they will not request an order, they will not enforce it if given one.

Electric vehicles

A number of states are ushering in new registration fees for electric vehicles, in a move to capitalize on the shift to electric that is leading to lower gas taxes.

Alabama and Ohio will charge $200, while Kansas will charge $100 and Hawaii will charge $50. Iowa, Oregon and Utah are also raising fees on the vehicles. While the vehicles make up only a small percentage of vehicle sales, that number is expected to rise throughout the new decade.

Most of the revenue from Alabama’s new fee will go to funding roads and bridges, while the remainder will fund grants for electric charging infrastructure.

Illinois legalizes recreational pot

Illinois is one of a number of states to legalize recreational marijuana, allowing pot-puffers 21 or older to buy and use marijuana in limited amounts and from certain vendors. The Illinois law goes into effect Wednesday.

According to the Chicago Tribune, 43 marijuana stores around the state have all received the approval to sell recreational marijuana. And in Chicago, the outlet reports that people lined up before 6 a.m. to pick up their pot -- including Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.

However, sales will still be restricted to certain areas, and it will still be illegal to use pot in public, at schools, in parks in vehicles and near children.

Legal sales of the drug began in Michigan on Dec. 1.

Oregon bans plastic bags

The state of Oregon has implemented a statewide ban on plastic bags as part of an environmentally-friendly push to reduce the state's use of unnecessary plastic. Oregon's state government website says that it addresses the problem of plastic bags contaminating the recycling stream and endangering the safety of workers who have to untangle them. It also moves to address the threat to Oregon's marine wildlife from plastic in the ocean.

According to KPTV, stores and restaurants will no longer be allowed to provide single-use bags at checkout, and stores will have to charge residents at least 5 cents if a reusable bag is requested. Restaurants may still provide paper bags at no cost. Any store that violates the provision can be subjected to a fine of up to $250 for each day they violate the law.

New York bail reform

New York implements its controversial bail law Wednesday, which eliminates pretrial detention and money bail for the vast majority of misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases -- as well as certain violent felonies such as second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has estimated that around 90 percent of defendants will be kept out of jail until cases are resolved. The New York Times notes that the law is different from the approach of other states such as California and New Jersey in that it does not give judges the discretion to consider if the person poses a threat to public safety.

It has led to warnings from law enforcement officials that it will lead to cases where someone who is a danger to the public will be released, instead hand-cuffing judges from making common sense calls.

The New York Post reports that critics of the law in Albany have been unnerved by the case of Tiffany Harris — who allegedly assaulted three Jewish women on Friday and was released without bail on Saturday before allegedly punching another woman on Sunday. Harris was then conditionally released on Monday, before being arrested against Tuesday after allegedly skipping an appointment.

The Post reports that Harris, who pleaded not guilty, benefited from the new laws because city courts have largely been abiding by them through December to ease the transition in the New Year.

California’s ‘gig economy’ law

One law that was due to go into effect, but was blocked via a last-minute judge’s remporary restraining order, was a California labor law that would have made it harder for gig economy companies to label workers independent contractors rather than employees with the full set of employee rights such a minimum wage and health benefits.

The law saw fierce opposition from trucking groups, as well as Uber and Postmates, who have argued it is harmful and unconstitutional.

While intended to give a leg-up to workers and stop them from being exploited by being labeled a contractor rather than a full employee, freelance writers and photographers also sought the restraining order, arguing that it could put them out of business.

Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego said the plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their argument that it violates federal law and affected contractors would suffer irreparable harm.


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