More than 400 new laws take effect Tuesday

USA TODAY, December 29, 2012

By Yamiche Alcindor

In 2013 in Illinois, motorcyclists will be able to “proceed through a red light if the light fails to change.” In Kentucky, releasing feral or wild hogs into the wild will be prohibited. And in Florida, swamp buggies will not legally be considered motor vehicles.

On Jan. 1, as crowds of people toast to a new year, more than 400 news laws across the country will take effect — and possibly improve life for some.

“The laws that state governments deal with are really the laws that impact people on a daily basis,” said Jon Kuhl, a spokesman for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks the bills. “Whether amending or updating laws or enacting brand new legislation, it was an active year.”

In addition to the new laws of 2013, more than 29,000 laws were passed by state legislatures this year, Kuhl said. Many dealt with health care, education, gay rights, child safety and the Internet.

In several states, including Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware, lawmakers made it illegal for employers to either require or request social-media passwords from job applicants or employees. Some of those laws are already in effect. However, similar bills passed in Illinois and California become law Tuesday.

“My legislation protects workers’ privacy,” said Nora Campos, speaker pro tempore of the California State Assembly and lead author of her state’s social-media bill. “The legislation is necessary because there is a hole in existing law that prevents employers from intruding into an employee’s legal off-duty conduct.”

She added that California could potentially be the new model for how other states deal with social media and the workplace.

Meanwhile, Alaska became the 31st state to require health insurance companies to cover the diagnosis, testing and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for people up to the age of 21. The legislation’s passage continues a trend among states that began in 2007, Kuhl said.

Other states could follow with similar bills, and a higher number of laws could take effect when the clock strikes midnight in 2014 because four state legislatures — Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas — were out of session in 2012.

Some new laws in 2013:

  • Same-sex couples in Maryland will be able to marry.
  • California clergy members will not have to perform same-sex marriages if they object.
  • Partial birth abortion by physicians and non-physicians will not be performed in New Hampshire except to save the life of the mother.
  • Sex offenders in Illinois will not be able to dress up as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or give out candy during Halloween.
  • Employers in Oregon will not be allowed to advertise a job opening if they won’t consider applicants who are unemployed.