Lauren Moye, FISM News
A new year means new laws taking effect in many states. The year 2022 ushered in legislation in many areas that are at the center of national debates, including abortion, minimum wage increases, police reform, and the decriminalization of marijuana.
As the abortion debate revs up in anticipation of upcoming Supreme Court decisions, one state imposed a new gestational limit to when a woman can receive an abortion. In a law that began Jan. 1, New Hampshire will no longer allow abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy unless there is a medical necessity.
While pro-life advocates celebrate further protection of the unborn, abortion advocates have called the ban “unacceptable,” including Senator Maggie Hassan:
Today, New Hampshire's abortion ban takes effect. This ban is an unacceptable attack on reproductive freedom—and further underscores the work ahead in 2022.
We must elect pro-choice leaders at all level of government.https://t.co/DQhRdvuXFl
— Maggie Hassan (@Maggie_Hassan) January 1, 2022
Last year, a new record was set by a premature baby who survived birth at 21 weeks and 1 day, showing that life is sustainable outside the womb much earlier than previously thought.
In other updated laws, a total of 22 states raised their minimum wages on New Year’s Day. The most notable of these include the new $15 per hour minimum instituted in California and New York, the latter of which actually began on Dec. 31. The majority of these states have set their minimums significantly lower, most around $10 per hour.
A few other states will also increase their minimum wage rate throughout the upcoming year. These moves mark a significant shift away from the federal limit of $7.25 that was set in 2009.
“These minimum wage increases indicate moves toward ensuring a living wage for people across the country,” said Deirdre Kennedy, the senior payroll analyst at Wolters Kluwer, in a Dec. 15 statement.
Some towns and counties throughout the U.S. also elected to begin new minimum wages beginning Jan. 1 separate from their state’s rates. The highest rate, according to Wolters Kluwer, comes from West Hollywood, California which will now have a $17.64 per hour minimum for hotel workers.
Democrats made moves twice last year to initiate a $15 national minimum that were both voted down. One of these came through the Raise the Wage Act and the other through an amendment to a COVID-19 relief bill.
Liberal Senator Bernie Sanders seized the opportunity to make a new plea for an increase to the national minimum wage:
21 states and 35 cities and counties raised their minimum wage today. The overwhelming majority of the American people understand that we must end starvation wages in America. Congress must act and raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 1, 2022
Several notable federal tax law changes went into effect after the ball dropped as well. Individuals are now able to save more through their employer-sponsored retirement plan, up to $20,500 or $27,000 for employees over the age of 50.
The standard deduction rate for federal taxes also increased by $800 for couples filing jointly to $25,900. Individuals who file as single or as married but filing separately saw this deduction jump $400 to a total of $12,950.
Changes to the child tax credit, such as if it will continue as a monthly payment, have not yet been settled in the legislative branches.
Saturday’s updated laws also saw some changes in the area of police reform in several states. Illinois began a standardized process of certifying police officers. Law enforcement personnel who repeatedly violate ethics can also be stripped of their certification. Previously, only state officers convicted of a crime lost their certification.
North Carolina now requires a licensed psychologist to provide a psychological screening before an individual can begin work as an officer. North Carolina law enforcement officers must also receive regular training in mental health and wellness strategies, according to this law.
Oregon tightened their mandated reporting system for errant officers. Now, officers must report peer misconduct or violations of the state’s minimum moral fitness standards within three days. Agencies are required to complete an investigation on these violations within three months.
A loosening on marijuana restrictions is also a trend across several states, with Montana, New York, and the nation’s capital now allowing recreational use of cannabis. Pennsylvania is also shifting towards decriminalization of the drug by prohibiting employers from pre-employment testing for marijuana.
One feel-good new law for the New Year comes from Illinois, that voted to allow kids under the age of 16 to operate lemonade stands without a permit. The law is in response to Hayli Martenez, who had her stand shut down by her local health department.
“If she’s got the initiative to run a lemonade stand, she should be able to make a little money running a lemonade stand,” said State Senator Patrick Joyce.