TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — 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, California, when a couple who investigators say pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group 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. Both groups are expected to be active in legislatures in the coming year.
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. Democrats and others who want to boost voter participation have been pushing to expand access to the polls, while conservatives have pushed for measures aimed at preventing election fraud. Each side says the other is using legislation to help their favored party in elections.
A look at some of the more notable laws taking effect in January:
Texas, the second-most populous state, is joining 44 other states in allowing at least 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.
Meanwhile, California, the most populous state, has multiple new laws on gun control. One tightens a ban on firearms in and around schools. Under the new law, the prohibition will apply even to most people who are allowed to carry concealed weapons generally. Another will allow people to request that a judge order weapons be taken away from relatives who are believed to pose a threat.
California and Oregon will become the first states that automatically register eligible voters when they obtain or renew their driver’s licenses. Critics of the measures — mostly Republicans — say that could lead to voter fraud and is part of a plan to register more voters who are likely to be Democrats. They say voters should register voluntarily. In both states, people will be able to opt out of being registered. read more