BUFFALO, N.Y. — Wednesday starts a new year and 2020 will bring some new laws in New York State.
A new law that will be on a lot of people's minds is the raising of the state minimum wage. The minimum wage has increased every year since 2016. For 2020, it will be bumped up to $11.80/hour from $11.10/hour.
"It lifted the wages of over 2.3-million individuals, and that's important to lift people out of poverty. In a state like New York, you should not work 40 hours a week and still live below the poverty line, and that was the case until we raised the minimum wage," says Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Starting on Jan. 15, people who have been adopted will have access to their birth certificates. Under the current law, adoptees who want their birth certificates have to request them from a judge and they aren't always given to them.
Starting New Year's Day, farm work will be more regulated throughout the state. The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Act eliminate a provision that prohibits farm workers from unionizing, creates a standard eight-hour work day and allows one off-day per week. They'll also now be available for overtime pay over 60 hours per week and unemployment insurance. The new law also forces farmers to improve conditions in housing for their workers.
Another law starting on Jan. 1 is the elimination of cash bail for misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses, making it illegal to keep some offenders in jail just because they can't afford to get out. The law includes provisions for domestic violence, so many lawmakers say those victims will be just as safe under the new law.
However, the law has some critics like Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.
"The statute did provide some exceptions for (domestic violence) cases, but the exceptions don't cover everything that I believe should be covered," Flynn said. "I am definitely concerned that individuals in (domestic violence) cases are more frequently gonna be out on bail come January 1."
People in Erie County impacted by this have already been released from custody.
Another new law taking effect in 2020 will be trying to keep the water safer for everybody. Under "Brianna's Law" all motorized water vehicle operators will have to pass a state mandated boating safety course. The law is named after Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old who was killed in a boating accident 15 years ago.
The law starts by making every boater born in 1993 or later pass the course, but by 2025, all operators will have to pass the course, regardless of age.
Starting in 2020, New York will join the growing number of states allowing 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote.
On Jan. 1, all 16-year-olds will be allowed to pre-register to vote, making them automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthday.
Last but not least, plastic bags will no longer be offered by stores in New York starting March 1. Paper bags will still be available in some places, though.
There are several plastic bag exemptions including plastic bags sold as trash bags, sandwich bags, plastic bags used for bulk items like candy, and plastic bags for uncooked meats.