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Some 40,000 new laws across the country go into effect today.
In Colorado, it is now legal for those who are 21-years-old and older to buy marijuana for recreational use from retail stores.
In Delaware, it is now illegal to possess or sell shark fins.
And in many Wisconsin towns, so called “pedal pubs” are now legal — basically a pub crawl on wheels.
Jane Carroll Andrade, a spokesperson for the National Conference of State Legislatures joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss some of the new state laws.
Missouri and Montana
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW, and we just took a look at the health care law, new coverage going into effect today for millions who signed up before the first deadline. But there are some 40,000 other laws going into effect today across the country. Earlier they were lining up in Colorado to be the first to buy recreational marijuana legally. Careful, you have to be over 21.
Movie stars in California woke up with a little better protection against paparazzi, and when kids go back to school in Illinois, buses can now be armed with cameras to catch cars that illegally pass them. Jane Carroll Andrade is with the National Conference of State Legislatures, and she's at the studios of Colorado Public Radio to help us look at some of the new laws in the New Year. And Jane, happy New Year.
JANE CARROLL ANDRADE: Well, happy new year to you, Robin.
YOUNG: Thank you. And the New Year brings these new laws. What kinds of trends are you seeing, if you do, in the laws going into effect?
ANDRADE: Well, I think that some of the most interesting new laws going into effect in 2014 are the ones that were prompted by technology, more specifically technology's effects on privacy. For example, Illinois passed two laws regulating the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones.
YOUNG: Yeah, which is doubly interesting because we know that the government, the FAA, has just pumped up research into drones?
ANDRADE: Exactly. The FAA has chosen some test sites to see how drones can interact in American airspace. And meanwhile states are grappling with how to protect people's privacy but also engage the very useful functions that drones can perform. In Illinois, one of their laws prohibits using drones to interfere with hunters and fishermen, and another allows the use of drones by law enforcement but only with a warrant and then only in certain circumstances.
YOUNG: Interesting. You know, staying with this idea of technology prompting law, California is going to become the first state to require websites that collect personal information to specify in privacy policies how they're going to track users. You also write about in Illinois there's a new law that toughens the penalty, six years in prison for inciting violent flash mobs or riots via Facebook or Twitter or any other social media. Really interesting that they seem to be getting ahead of something.
ANDRADE: Yes, exactly. Technology is moving very quickly, and state lawmakers find themselves having to be adept and respond to it. They've had some incidents in Chicago, particularly in the high-end shopping areas along Michigan Avenue, where word has gotten out through social media, and crowds have gathered, resulting in robberies and traffic jams and frightening people.
And so they're toughening the penalties there.
YOUNG: Well, and you also note that there are new laws in Missouri and Montana that require private insurance plans to cover telehealth, that's when a health care provider offers care, but it's over, you know, audio or video or some form of communication, not just telephone.
ANDRADE: Exactly, and as we see more and more services needed in rural areas and less and less providers able to fulfill those needs, we're seeing the emergence of telehealth. So, lawmakers are responding by passing laws like the ones in Missouri and Montana that require private insurers to cover those remotely provided services.
YOUNG: Yesterday, we spoke about the Boy Scouts of America. Today is the first day that openly gay young scouts will be allowed to become members. There's also California's new transgender law in schools. What does that do?
ANDRADE: Well, students must be participating in school athletic programs, and also use school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, regardless of their birth gender.
YOUNG: Well, and also in California, starting today age has nothing to do with eligibility for their food stamp benefits, and welfare departments have to accept applications from unaccompanied homeless youth.
ANDRADE: There is another law in California that allows inmates who committed crimes when they were teenagers to be either released or resentenced, depending on the circumstances. And this is kind of part of a trend that we're seeing in the criminal justice system in which juveniles are being treated differently from adults.
There was a way for a while there when juveniles were being treated as adults, and now the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way.
YOUNG: What about elections?
ANDRADE: Yes, elections again we go back to our theme of technology. Virginia, starting today, is allowing voters to register online. It becomes the third state to do so after Illinois and West Virginia. And our elections analysts at NCSL tell me that technology is just playing a bigger and bigger role. We may even be looking at electronic transmission of ballots in the near future.
YOUNG: Right, in California there's going to be a new free system that allows people who vote by mail still to learn whether their ballot was counted, and if not why not. Colorado, a new law allows 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote.
ANDRADE: That's correct, and we're seeing more of those types of laws across the nation, as well.
YOUNG: What about guns? There was so much talk post the Newtown shooting that there would be so many laws. As we've reported, there weren't as many as people expected. But certainly some in Connecticut.
ANDRADE: Yes, there were. Gun reform was heavily debated across state legislatures, and as often happens in states, issues are debate sometimes for years before laws are actually passed. But as we know, Connecticut did pass a fairly sweeping gun reform series of laws. And the last piece of that kicks in today, and that is mandatory registration of all assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines and also the creation of a statewide registry that will track parolees who used weapons in their crimes.
YOUNG: Well, from the very serious to the - well, it probably is serious when you think about the problems caused by drinking. But this law in Wisconsin that legalizes pedal pubs.
ANDRADE: Yes, pedal pubs that we see, which are four-wheeled vehicles powered by multiple people that tend to go through, oh, college towns or touristy areas are now legal in Wisconsin or rather the law allows municipalities to legalize them. It also allows municipalities to prohibit them if they so choose.
YOUNG: OK, so you might see these - what are they, they're like big bikes with...
ANDRADE: They're sort of a cross between trolleys and bicycles, bicycles built for several.
YOUNG: Yeah, so that there's many people on it, but everybody pedals.
ANDRADE: Everybody pedals.
YOUNG: Oh, I don't know if I want to...
ANDRADE: And enjoys a beer as they're pedaling down the street.
YOUNG: A couple laws that just caught us because again you sometimes wonder was there a call for this, and there obviously was in Delaware. The new law there today forbids the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins. Of course there are people worried about a lot of different species being used for fins or tusks or such, but there you have that in Delaware. In Illinois, victims of human trafficking who were tattooed by their captors can have their tattoo removed with funds from the Crime Victims Compensation Act.
Leave us with a couple other laws, new laws that somewhere in America you might be confronted with today that you'd like us to know about.
ANDRADE: So one of the laws that people find sort of amusing but maybe not so much for the owners, is the lemon pet law in Illinois, which allows people to return pets they have purchased if that pet is a lemon, and it's defined in the law as a pet having a certain illness.
YOUNG: Yeah, that wasn't disclosed.
ANDRADE: Certain illnesses that were not disclosed when they purchased the pet, correct.
YOUNG: We should just say in case there are any four-footed creatures listening, there are no lemon pets in our eyes. Jane Carroll Andrade with the National Conference of State Legislatures helping us look at new laws that are being enacted across the country today. Jane, thanks so much.
ANDRADE: Thank you, Robin, and Happy New Year.
YOUNG: Oh, same to you, and we'll post the list. We can't do all 40,000 new laws, but we'll post as many as we can at hereandnow.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.