Saturday, January 13, 2018

New Laws Set To Take Effect in 2018: From The Serious To The Absurd

The last addition of Another Opinion was one of our usual retrospectives; A look back at some of the issues that we covered over the past year, which I hope you all enjoyed. Now, I would like to take a look at some of the laws which were passed in 2017 and go into effect this year (some already have taken effect as of January 1, 2018). Some of these new laws are practical and actually make sense while several are just downright bizarre. Overall, the trend seems to be more authoritarian; more power to the state and less from you and me, which I find deeply disturbing.

Then again, I guess that's to be expected since we are no longer the democratic or constitutional republic that our forefathers intended us to be. While we were busy with our "smart phones", video games, and so-called "reality" television shows, and worried about how to pay for the rising utility bills, making sense of the fake news, the artificial divisions manufactured for us by our corporate overlords, or keeping our jobs, we became a de facto Oligarchy; a plutocracy with a ever expanding police/surveillance state. Nevertheless, let's take a look at some of the new laws which legislatures around the country claim are designed to make our lives better.

In the Sunshine State of Florida, minimum wage will go up by 15 cents (it will increase in 17 other states too). Which is good in the short term since, as most people know, employers will offset the increase by raising prices which ultimately will put minimum wage earners back in the same boats. Also, some employers may be forced to lay off employees, which will then shift their work onto the remaining employees. So, like most things, it's a double edge sword. Under Florida House Bill 437, the Office of Financial Regulation is prohibited from releasing personal information of customers and shareholders (which is almost always a good thing in my opinion). However, this applies only to new entities known as "international trusts" or "qualified limited service affiliates" (something about this sounds like it's for people with deep pockets and not ordinary individuals).

In the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, the legislature has been quite busy. House Bill 195, which is a modification of the requirements for a GED, allows for the creation of college and/or career "readiness" tracks. While I think that great, the emphasis here should be on trade schools. The reason is multifold. Not everyone is "college material". While a two year associate degree will typically get you an entry level job, those seeking a four year bachelor degree can expect coming out with a substantial debt that may take decades to pay off, and still may not do better than a slightly better entry level job. However, most of the trades are facing shortages (in some cases, critical shortages) so there's nearly a guaranteed job waiting at the end of the line. The pay (and usually the benefits) are much better, the "school-to-job" turnaround is much shorter with a lot less debt (in some cases, little or none), plus it's a skill that applies anywhere.

Kentucky Senate Bill 129 allows for the designation of "lay caretakers" for the purpose of any post-hospital care for any designated individual 18 or older. However, this applies to only to any non-medical care and not to specific medical care such as certain injections, changing IV bags, or other treatment which may require a trained professional. On a related matter, House Bill 74 permits ordinary vehicles to have only "white" headlights (other than certain halogen lights which produces a slight bluish light). The reason is to help people distinguish between emergency vehicles and regular cars and trucks. I didn't know this was problem! You would expect people would know the difference between a truck or car and a ambulance, fire truck, or police car. Perhaps those people shouldn't be driving. What do you think?

Kentucky HB 277 allows individuals to serve on local school boards if they have a close relative such as aunt, uncle, a brother or sister-in-law, etc working for the same local school system. I guess that's a good bill. Apparently there has been a shortage in finding people to run for the school board (certainly qualified and competent individuals have been in short supply). On the other hand, Kentucky has a very powerful teacher's union which these same relatives likely belong. So, do you think there would be any chance of familial collusion or pressure on certain issues? Nah...this is Kentucky after all!

Speaking of schools and teaching, SB 117 will now allow all veterans with a four year or better degree to teach our every polite and respectful students in elementary and secondary school provided that their academic major is in the area they are applying to teach in. Personally, I think this is a great idea. I taught at the undergraduate and graduate level for several years and thoroughly enjoyed it (of course, I had some really inquisitive students). It was hard work, the hours long, and while the pay sucked, it was intellectually and emotionally rewarding.

However, I just don't have the patience or temperament to deal with undisciplined or smart mouthed kids or the little ones in grade school. But I can see where military trained and disciplined men and women can have a huge impact. There is also a severe shortage of teachers (especially good teachers). While the benefits are great, the pay has always been pretty bad---too much going to the infrastructure--and the hoops teachers have to jump through border on the insane. Nevertheless, hiring former military personnel is good thing for all concerned in the long run (personally, I think former Marines should get a preference in hiring. Semper Fi and Hooyah!).

Nevada joined several other states in creating a anti-opioid abuse program. Under the law, painkillers can't be prescribed for than 14 days even for acute and/or long term pain. Patients will have to return to either their doctor or hospital for additional medication. The bill also monitors who issues the pain medication and how often it's filled (this is similar to Kentucky HB 333 which also goes into effect in 2018). I understand the need to monitor and control the use and abuse of pain medication, however, legislators need to understand that not everyone who takes painkillers are wild eyed junkies. Most are people who suffer from chronic pain for one reason or another. This is not by their choice. By the time these individuals reach this point, they've gone through all the other alternative. This isn't the option of first or even second or third choice.

What bills like this do is make it more difficult for people who have a legitimate need for the medication to control or at least manage the pain which can, for some, be almost unbearable. What these legislators will ultimately succeed in doing is driving people to drink and/or do hard drugs. The fault, and the consequences, will be theirs and theirs alone. If they insist on punishing the good with the bad, then they have a civic and moral obligation to provide a realistic alternative such as legalizing marijuana, which has been shown to alleviate pain (even chronic pain). Anything less is simply morally criminal.

Another new law in Nevada is one that gives all non-violent offenders an opportunity to apply for local and state government jobs (of course, they need to be careful of corrupting influences. I also presume the new law also exempts these individuals from associating with known criminals). Another new law requires insurance companies to provide women with access to contraceptives without having a co-pay. Insurance company now must cover up to one year's worth of birth control. The new laws requires insurance companies to cover mammograms and HPV vaccinations. Employers will be required to provided workers up to 160 hours leave to any employee or immediate family member who has been the victim of domestic abuse.

Lastly, under the category of "WTH?", a new Nevada laws prohibits forced "conversions" of individuals who are gay or lesbian by mental health officials. According to the law, these so-called "professionals" could attempt to change the sexual orientation of anyone who identifies as other than heterosexual-- I'm not sure I want to know how. I do wonder though, if these same individuals claim to be bi-sexual, did these mental health professionals charge half price?

In Pennsylvania, residents will now be allowed to purchase "consumer" grade fireworks. No more C4 or dynamite for them! Apparently "consumer" grade fireworks includes handheld sparklers, caps, and display type fireworks, which I presume include Roman candles, Starbursts, etc. residents will also have to pay a hefty 12% sales tax too. Now that should cause a fireworks all its own! The law also says that the fireworks can only be used on private property with permission of the owner. It goes on to prohibit fireworks being shot in or from a vehicle, shot at a car or individual (seriously? They shouldn't even be allowed to play with matches or lighters).

In California, individuals now only be allowed to purchase ammunition from a licensed vendor. No more purchases of 9mm, .45, .38, .22 caliber or 12 gauge ammo from your friendly neighborhood drug dealer on the corner. So much for entrepreneurism! On the plus, school officials will now to get to decide whether or not school staff may be armed while on school grounds. No word about the students. Those convicted of "hate crimes" (which includes calling someone by the wrong gender pronoun), includes loss of 2nd Amendment rights for up to ten years (Assembly Bill 725). Another new law set to take effect will make legal to sell pot, up to one ounce, to anyone 21 years old and older. No more doctor's prescription! Also, residents will no longer have make a gender decision on any ID type documentation, which I'm sure comes as big relief for some.

A new law in Colorado requires "authorities" to report any teen texting of students exchanging sexually explicit photos, even if they're doing so consensually (presumably this includes photos sent to or from teachers as well). There's a pretty big fine for doing so, which I imagine that only the students could afford to pay. In Washington DC and Rhode Island, employers will be require to provide paid sick leave to employees. New Yorkers will now be eligible for paid family leave; eventually receiving up to 12 weeks of paid family leave.

Iowa and West Virginia join a growing number of states in requiring a photo ID in order to vote ( after all, you have to show a photo ID for just about everything else right? But don't worry, microchipping is on its way and so soon you and your pet can have matching chips). After having a similar law tossed out in 2014, Texas has modified their law to require anyone wanting to vote without an ID to swear under oath that they were unable to obtain a photo ID in time (and we know that no one ever lies under oath right?). In South Carolina it's now illegal to own a exotic pet (unless you are a zoo; working in one doesn't count), so kiss that boa constrictor for your mother-in-law goodbye. Those who already own an exotic pet with be grandfathered in...with additional restrictions.

That brings us to Illinois, which has made Barack Obama's birthday, August 4th, a state holiday. Officials weren't able to determine if the gunfire following the announcement was in celebration or another gang fight. As an aside, the holiday is "commemorative" only, so unlike Obama, no one is getting off. Finally, the Volunteer State, Tennessee, has now made it legal for barbers (and presumably other stylists) to make house calls. I honestly did not realize this was a serious issue in Tennessee. I have to wonder if Dolly Parton or those Elvis impersonators in Memphis lobbied for this?

New Florida Laws To Take Effect in 2018

New Laws Go Into Effect Thursday in Kentucky

New laws take effect in Nevada in 2018

New Laws set to take effect in 2018? Here's A Brief Tour of State Laws Now In Effect

What's New In 2018

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