Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Laws

Traditionally, the new year brings much reflection on the previous 365 days— last week’s media focused heavily on the top events, people, and films of 2009. But some folks are looking forward—at the new laws which took effect at the stroke of midnight on January 1.

From the nearly 41,000 new state laws passed in 2009, CNN rounded up a selection of notable legislation which took effect after Jan. 1. Unsurprisingly, North Carolina’s smoking ban is featured on this list. On January 2, the country’s leading tobacco producer became the 29th state to prohibit smoking in most establishments, including restaurants and bars. (Tobacco shops, cigar bars, and country clubs are among the exempted entities in the Tar Heel State.)

Not everyone is breathing easy about the new smoking regulations, particularly the owner of a hookah bar in Chapel Hill. The Independent Weekly details the owner’s plan to ignore the ban in order to trigger a legal challenge in the courts. This story should prove an interesting case study in civil procedure, and will undoubtedly be watched by the local media. Will a legal challenge successfully overturn the ban? Or, perhaps, will the defiance of citizens make enforcement nearly impossible, as detailed in this recent New York Times story of New York City’s post-prohibition night life?

What other legal developments might you notice in 2010? The North Carolina General Assembly’s Legislative Library has compiled a helpful list of 2009 session laws, organized by “effective date”. The 2010 effective dates begin on page 21 of the 27-page PDF, and links to each session law’s bill tracking page, which provides more information on sponsorship, vote tallies, and amendment history. For example, here’s session law 2009-27, the smoking ban.

Other notable NC laws which took effect after the 1st of January include measures to prevent abuse of handicapped parking placards and an amendment to the probate laws which invalidates most bequests made to the drafting attorney. There’s also a potentially lifesaving 2008 session law which finally became effective on January 1—requiring landlords of all rental properties to install at least one carbon monoxide detector per floor of the unit.

North Carolina isn't the only place making news with its latest laws. Check out the new legislation in other areas:
  • Texas, where teenagers who want to use a tanning salon must have a parent or guardian's permission (those under 16.5 years old may not use tanning beds at all).
  • California, where the LA Times provides an A to Z list of interesting new laws, including tougher penalties for harassment by paparazzi and a ban on trans fats in restaurants.
  • Ireland, where atheist groups have organized an online protest against a new blasphemy law and its $35,000 penalties.
Have you heard about other interesting new laws? Point them out in our comments section.