New Year, New Laws

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Are you ready to greet 2014 with more government? Not surprisingly, the government is. From municipalities to States to the whole Nation, plenty of new laws and policy tweaks will be in effect by the time you read this. Will any of them affect you?

In the case of Obamacare’s fines for not signing up for insurance, it’s hard to say. Jan. 1 was supposed to have been the deadline to enroll for coverage, via Healthcare.gov, in order to have insurance that lasts the whole year. Penalties assessed by the Internal Revenue Service against eligible citizens’ tax refunds (there’s technically no provision to enforce the penalty against anyone who actually owes the government money) were not to be levied unless holdouts aren’t enrolled by April 1. Here’s how that penalty is supposed to be assessed.

But with President Barack Obama applying the King’s quill to one Obamacare change after another, it’s not clear whether anyone will even face a penalty — or, as the Supreme Court calls it, a “tax” — this election year.

Obamacare is easily the most far-ranging new law that (sort of) kicks in this year. But others are at least interesting, even when they aren’t controversial.

CNN compiled a sampler of other new laws rung in by the New Year: some quirky, some that vastly overreach the Constitutional powers of the state. Nearly all are completely unnecessary.

Connecticut, for example, is now forcing people who buy State-defined “assault weapons” and high-capacity mags onto a State registry.

California is expanding SNAP (food stamp) eligibility to “homeless youth,” striking down a standing minimum wage stipulation. And kids in California can now use whichever bathroom they want at school, regardless of their anatomy.

New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and California are all hiking the mandatory minimum wage.

There are a few positive signs at the State level, though.

Arkansas joins the ranks of States requiring voter ID. Oregon is prohibiting employers from forcing their workers to share personal passwords for their social media accounts. And Illinois has made it illegal for law enforcement to deploy search drones without obtaining a warrant. Also in Illinois, drones can’t be used to mess with outdoorsmen in the field — a reaction to a plan by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to monitor hunters through something it had dubbed the “Air Angels” program.

Are there any local laws, new or old, that drive you crazy? There are a lot of strange things on the books, especially at the State and municipal level, that seem absurd to people who live elsewhere. A few of them seem absurd to the people who have to live with them.

Share your dumb local laws with your fellow readers in the comments. If you really have a stinker, go ahead and drop us a line at newstips@personalliberty.com.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.