9 Ways America Will Be Different in 2014: Minimum Wage, Obamacare and More
New year, new legislation. Across the United States tomorrow, many Americans will be waking up not to just hangovers — but to better paychecks, legal marijuana, and even different lightbulbs. Here's what tomorrow, in all its unforgiving light, will bring us in the glorious U.S. of A.:
You Might Have a Better Paycheck
Underpaid hourly workers rejoice. The minimum wage is going up in 13 states: Connecticut ($8.70/hour), New Jersey ($8.25/hour), New York ($8/hour), and New Jersey ($8/hour) will all be raising the minimum wage. Nine other states will see an increase as wages automatically rise with inflation. Meanwhile, Washington continues to have the highest wages at $9.32/hour, while Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana still don’t have a minimum wage law at all.(Image: 401(K) 2012/Flickr)
You Can Legally Light Up a Joint in Colorado and Washington
Recreational smokers and tokers and midnight jokers will be able to legally pass around a spliff in Colorado and Washington; the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. Colorado is already stocking its shelves for an impending surge of customers, while Washington has to wait a few months until their stores get approved by regulators.
No More Looking At Adorable Hollywood Children
Suri’s Burn Book is going to be so much less entertaining: California lawmakers, encouraged by Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, voted in an anti-paparazzi bill in September that bars intrusive photogs from snapping pics of Hollywood’s mini-royalty. We applaud it … in theory anyway.
You Can Return Your Pet in Illinois
In Illinois, your pet is now like your car. A new state law says that you can return your pet or get your money back for vet trips if the pet has an illness you didn’t know about when you bought it. Like, um, motor vehicles, these are known as “lemon pets.” 21 other states, including much of the northeast and the east coast, have similar opt-out programs.
You'll (Probably) Get to Use New Lightbulbs
Well, this is an exciting one. Starting tomorrow, good ol’, environmentally-damaging, expensive incandescent lightbulbs will be a dim thing of the past. Stores will stop stocking them in accordance with an energy law passed in 2007, meaning consumers will be switching over to CFLs or LEDs. (Or candles, for those DIY Pinterest-resolutioners.)
You'll No Longer Be Able to Buy or Own a Shark Fin in Delaware
Just FYI, in case that’s what you’re into. Apparently, they’re a delicacy in some Asian cuisines. They’re also really quite bad in terms of animal rights.
“Delaware may be tiny in terms of its size, but in terms of its bold action for ocean conservation and the protection of the apex predators that sustain our marine resources Delaware is a giant,” NRDC Director of Campaigns Francesca Koe wrote.
You Won't Be Seeing Many Drones in Illinois
One of the first frontiers against drones is in Illinois, where the Freedom From Drone Surveillance Act will prevent law enforcement from using drones to gather information without a warrant. Another new law signed into effect prohibits drones that interfere with hunters and fishermen engaging in sport. Seems a bit random — until PETA said they were launching an ‘air angels’ initiative to monitor sportsmen to make sure they were being ethical.
Your Twitter's Safe in Oregon
New legislation will mean that as of tomorrow, employers in Oregon can’t demand passwords to social media or email accounts from their employees. Schools have also caught on, and teachers now won’t be able to get passwords from their students either.
You Will Now Have Healthcare (Hopefully)
On Jan. 1, the rest of the Affordable Care Act kicks in — if the website continues to work as it should. With penalties fast approaching for those who are currently uninsured, it’s a good time to get on and (try) to sign up if you haven’t already and need to.
Obamacare’s implementation means no more discrimination because of gender or pre-existing conditions, tax credits for the middle class, and contraception and mental health coverage for each plan sold.