Laws taking effect at the start of the new year show states diverging on some hot-button issues. Restrictions on carrying guns will ease in Texas, for example, but will get tighter in California. It will be easier to register to vote in Oregon, but there will be another step to take at the polls in North Carolina. The opposing directions in the states reflect a nation with increasingly polarized politics. In the debate over gun control, both sides say their arguments are strengthened by a string of mass shootings this year. That includes the December attack at a county health department gathering in San Bernardino, Calif., when a couple who investigators say pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant killed 14 people. Everytown for Gun Safety, a group backed by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is seeking to be a counterweight to the National Rifle Association’s lobbying of state lawmakers. Whether to raise the minimum wage has become another hot topic in states and cities, with the issue getting no traction in the Republican-led Congress. New voting laws, meanwhile, could help shape the outcomes in state and federal elections in the coming year. Here’s a look at some of the more notable laws taking effect in January:
Texas is joining 44 other states in allowing some firearm owners to carry handguns openly in public places. Under the Texas law, guns can be carried by those with licenses and only in holsters.
California is tightening a ban on firearms in and around schools, and will allow people to ask a judge to take weapons away from relatives who could pose a threat.
California and Oregon will become the first states that automatically register eligible voters when they obtain or renew driver’s licenses. In both states, people will be able to opt out of being registered.
In North Carolina, a voter identification law passed in 2013 that requires people to show a photo ID takes effect.
Hawaii will be the first state to raise its minimum age, from 18 to 21, to buy or use cigarettes or e-cigarettes.
California is joining West Virginia and Mississippi as the only states without a personal-belief exemption for parents who do not want to vaccinate their children. Children whose parents refuse to have them immunized against several diseases will not be allowed to enroll in public or private school.
In California, a new law lets female employees allege pay discrimination based on the wages a company pays other employees who do substantially similar work.
Oregon will become the fifth state with a paid sick leave mandate.
Employers with at least 20 workers in Washington, D.C., and New York City will be required to offer commuter benefits such as tax-free mass transit subsidies.
In Missouri, a new law will link the duration of jobless benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. When fewer people are out of work, benefits will be cut off sooner.
The minimum wage will rise in many cities and states. Some are automatic increases tied to the cost of living.
Fast-food workers in New York state will receive their first pay bump under a new law that eventually will push their minimum wage to $15.
The wages are rising in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.
Income tax rates will drop slightly in Oklahoma, where state revenue has fallen sharply, and Massachusetts.
In North Carolina, the tax on gasoline will drop by a penny a gallon to 35 cents. The sales tax on boats will drop in New Jersey as of Feb. 1.
Taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products will rise in Minnesota, as will hotel taxes in Hawaii.
North Carolina doctors will be required to give the state ultrasound images of fetuses and other data related to abortions performed after the 16th week of pregnancy.
For pregnancies terminated after the 20th week, doctors must explain how continuing the pregnancy would have threatened the life and health of the mother.
Illinois is making it a misdemeanor to leave pets outside during extreme weather. Missouri is requiring dog breeders to provide more space for their animals and is barring them from using wire-strand flooring in dog kennels.