States plan to pass new laws on guns, pornography, taxes and even vague dice

(Jake May/Associated Press)

States plan to pass new laws on guns, pornography, taxes and even vague dice


Dec. 31, 2023

Fuzzy dice will finally be free to dangle in Illinois.

From Monday, the police will no longer be allowed to stop motorists there just because they hang something on the rear-view mirror of the windscreen. That means air fresheners, parking signs and, yes, even those dice are a good game to hang up.

Illinois’ revised windshield rule is one of hundreds of new laws taking effect in states across the US in the new year. Some may seem a bit banal, but others have real practical effects or touch on controversial issues such as restrictions on guns and medical treatments for transgender people.

Although Illinois’ original windshield law was intended to improve road safety, it was seen by some as an excuse to stop motorists. The new law still prohibits objects that obstruct a driver’s view, but prohibits law enforcement officers from conducting arrests or searches solely for suspected violations.

This new law sends a strong message that the state will not tolerate racial profiling or other forms of discrimination, said Democratic state Sen. Christopher Belt, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Another new Illinois law seeks to introduce a more modern form of distracted driving by banning people from participating in video conferences or scanning social media while behind the wheel.

Several states have new laws regulating guns and online activities.

A Minnesota law will allow authorities to ask courts for extreme risk protection orders to temporarily take away guns from people considered an immediate threat to others or themselves. Minnesota will be at least the 20th state with such a red flag law.

Colorado will become one of dozens of states to ban so-called ghost guns. The new law bans firearms that are assembled or 3D printed at home without serial numbers, practices that allowed owners to bypass background checks.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to block the enactment of an Illinois law banning high-powered semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. But a federal judge recently blocked a California law that would ban the carrying of concealed weapons in many public places.

Several state laws delve into acceptable online activities. A new law in Connecticut requires online dating operators to adopt policies for handling reports of harassment by or between users.

A North Carolina law requires operators of pornographic websites to confirm that viewers are at least 18 years old using a commercially available database. The law allows parents to sue companies if their children access pornography. Another new law in Illinois will allow lawsuits against victims of deepfake pornography, which involves manipulating videos or images without their consent.

In recent years, conservatives have made a big push to limit access to gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors. Bans are pending in 22 states, including some where judges have suspended enforcement as they consider problems with the policy.

New bans on minors’ access to puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery, which are rare, are expected to take effect Jan. 1 in Idaho, Louisiana and West Virginia. West Virginia law includes an exception: Teens can still access treatment with parental consent and a diagnosis of severe gender dysphoria from two doctors.

While many Republican-led legislatures have imposed restrictions, many Democratic-dominated states have responded with transgender protections. A law taking effect Monday in Hawaii will require new marriage certificates to be issued to people who request to change the way their gender is listed. The state also replaces gender-specific terms in state law; mother is replaced by birthing parents and father by non-birthing parents.

In Colorado, new buildings owned in whole or in part by public entities will be required to have at least one restroom on each floor where public restrooms are located that does not specify the gender of users.

The conservative push for LGBTQ+ policies also comes with efforts to ban certain books from school or public libraries. An Indiana law taking effect will make it easier for parents and others to challenge books in school libraries. In contrast, a new Illinois law would block state funding for public libraries that ban or restrict books.

The new year brings a variety of new laws on taxes and wages, perennial issues for state governments.

More than two dozen states will raise minimum wages for workers, widening the gap between state requirements and the federal minimum, which has been stable at $7.25 per hour since July 2009. In several states, the new minimum wage will be more than double. .

The minimum wage in Maryland is set at fifteen dollars per hour. In New Jersey it will be $15.13 per hour for most workers. In Connecticut, $15.69 per hour. In New York City, $16 per hour, although it will be $15 in most of the rest of the state. California’s minimum wage will also increase to $16 per hour. And in Washington, the minimum rate will be $16.28.

Residents of some states will make money by paying fewer taxes, continuing a three-year trend in which nearly every state has cut, reduced or suspended some broad tax.

In Kansas, the sales tax on groceries will drop from 4% to 2% as the next step toward eventual elimination, saving $208 per year for a family that spends an average of $200 on groceries every week.

About 1 million tax filers are expected to benefit from Connecticut’s first income tax cut since the mid-1990s. Lower-income workers and retirees can also benefit from extensive tax benefits.

Missouri will also lower its income tax rate while expanding tax exemptions for Social Security benefits and military education benefits. Companies can claim tax benefits for hiring interns or apprentices.

Alabama will exempt overtime pay from the state’s income tax, although that will only last until June 2025 unless the Legislature extends it.


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