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Jun 16, 2024  |  
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GEOFF MULVIHILL and DAVID A. LIEB


NextImg:New state laws target contentious topics of gender, guns and abortion

New state laws taking effect Saturday target some of the most divisive topics in America including abortion, gender and guns. Meanwhile, some motorists heading out for an extended Independence Day vacation may face higher taxes at the fuel pump.

The start of July marks the start of the budget year in most states and also is a common date for new laws to take effect.

This year, state legislatures continued a partisan push in opposite directions on contentious issues. As a result, people in some Republican-led states will face new restrictions on abortion and gender-affirming treatments while residents in some Democratic-led states will see stricter gun laws.

Here’s a look at some of the new laws:

GENDER

Over the last few years, Republican-controlled states have been adopting laws to limit gender-affirming care for transgender minors, restrict school curriculums on human sexuality and specify which school bathrooms transgender people may use. Several of these laws take effect Saturday.

A ban on care including puberty blockers, gender-affirming hormone therapy and surgery for minors in South Dakota kicks in Saturday, as does as narrower one in Georgia allowing puberty blockers and for ongoing hormone treatment to continue.

For now, courts have blocked the enforcement of other broader bans, including new laws on hormone blockers that were scheduled to begin Thursday in Kentucky and Saturday in Tennessee and Indiana.

At least 17 other states have adopted similar laws.

A law that is to take effect in Indiana requires schools to notify a parent if a student requests a name or pronoun change at school. An Idaho law requires schools to tell parents when there are known changes in the student’s mental, emotional or physical well-being but does not mention gender identity as a specific reason.

Florida, Idaho and Kansas all have new laws barring transgender people from using the school restrooms associated with their gender identity, something at least 10 states have passed, including Arkansas, where the policy is to take effect on Aug. 1.

The Kansas law goes further, applying also to prisons, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers. The Kansas attorney general says the law also prevents the state from changing gender markers on birth certificates and driver’s licenses and requires it to undo any previous changes, though that opinion has been disputed.

Another Kansas law taking effect bars transgender girls and women from participating in sports competitions for girls and women. At least 20 other states also have adopted similar bans, including three where courts are blocking enforcement.

ABORTION

Abortion will be barred after 12 weeks of gestation in most cases in North Carolina. The state, with a Republican-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor, became one of the last in the South to impose deeper abortion restrictions after last year’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that had protected the right to abortion nationally for nearly 50 years.

There are some exceptions to the law in cases of medical emergencies, pregnancy caused by rape or incest, or when a physician finds a life-limiting anomaly in the fetus.

The changes leave Virginia, which has not adopted any new restrictions, as an outlier in the South. A ban in Florida hasn’t taken effect yet and those in South Carolina have been put on hold by a court.

A law banning abortion pills was to take effect in Wyoming, but a judge in June blocked enforcement of the measure.

DRUGS

Several states are taking steps to expand the legal use of marijuana.

Recreational marijuana will become legal for adults ages 21 and older in Maryland, as a result of a constitutional amendment approved by voters last fall. About 100 stores that already have been licensed to sell medical marijuana will be the first to sell for recreational purposes, and people also can grow their own at home.

In Connecticut, where recreational cannabis has been available at licensed retail stores for about six months, it now will become legal for people to grow it, too.

In Minnesota, a new law allowing adults to possess and grow marijuana won’t take effect until Aug. 1. But the law’s budgetary provisions take effect Saturday, allowing the state to begin filling regulatory jobs and collecting taxes on certain already-legal products such as seltzers and gummies that contain hemp-derived THC.

GUNS

Florida will become the latest state to allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit. The new law comes five years after then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, signed legislation restricting guns following a deadly school shooting in Parkland. Under current GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, momentum has swung back toward expanding gun rights. Another new Florida law will prohibit credit card companies from tracking gun sales.

A law allowing concealed guns without a permit for those 21 and older also passed in Nebraska but doesn’t take effect until Sept. 10.

Vermont is tightening gun restrictions. A new law requires a 72-hour waiting period to buy firearms. It also creates a crime of negligent firearm storage and expands the state’s “red flag” law to allow prosecutors, family and household members to ask a court to bar guns for particular people.

In California, a new standard of conduct takes effect for the firearms industry under a law that also makes it easier to bring lawsuits against gun makers and dealers.

BABIES

Beginning Saturday, Connecticut babies born into financial need will benefit from a state “baby bonds” program. Children whose birth is covered by a Medicaid program will have $3,200 invested automatically on their behalf that could be used later to buy a house in Connecticut, pay for education or job training, invest in a Connecticut business or save for retirement.

Connecticut was the first state to pass baby bonds legislation in 2021, but its launch was delayed because of a funding dispute. A legislative compromise passed this session funds 12 years worth of investments up front, using about $390 million of surplus from restructuring the state teachers’ retirement fund.

Similar programs have been enacted in Washington, D.C., and California, but they aren’t operational.

IMMIGRATION

A new Massachusetts law will allow people in the country illegally to apply for a state driver’s license. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now have such laws laws.

By contrast, a new Florida law voids driver’s licenses issued by other states to people in the country illegally. The Florida law also requires hospitals participating in Medicaid to ask patients if they are citizens and requires companies with 25 or more employees to check work eligibility or else face the loss of business licenses and fines of $1,000 per day per employee.

PORN

Mississippi and Virginia will begin requiring pornography websites to verify that users are 18 or older in a move that supporters say will help protect children from sexually explicit material.

Similar laws are already in effect in Louisiana and Utah but face legal challenges in both states.

TAXES

Taxes will be rising in some states and falling in others.

The sales tax rate will drop in South Dakota and New Mexico. But a temporary exemption from a 1% grocery sales tax will end in Illinois.

Motorists will face higher gas taxes in more than a half-dozen states, including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri and Virginia. Taxes for electric vehicle charging stations take effect in Montana and Utah, though Montana’s tax will initially apply only to new stations.

Following years of litigation and changes, Washington will become the first state to deduct a tax from workers’ paychecks to fund a mandatory long-term care insurance program for residents who can’t live independently due to illness, injury or aging-related conditions.


Associated Press reporters across the U.S. contributed to this article.