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5 New Laws to Be Thankful For

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

When making your mental list of the things you're thankful for this Thanksgiving, laws might not necessarily be among the first things that come to mind.

But 2014 saw the passage or implementation of a veritable cornucopia of significant laws which may be worthy of appreciation -- or at the very least notable for their importance. From laws affecting marriage equality, to others impacting marijuana enjoyment, 2014 provided a number of changes to state and local laws across the country.

What new laws are people around the U.S. likely to be thankful for in 2014? Here are five:

  1. Marijuana legalization. Following in the footsteps of Washington and Colorado, both of which legalized marijuana in 2012, two more states passed laws making recreation use of marijuana legal in 2014: Oregon and Alaska. In addition, Washington D.C. passed an initiative legalizing the possession, purchase, and growing of marijuana, although members of Congress have vowed to repeal the law.
  2. Marriage equality. As court battles continue over same-sex marriage in a number of states, in others such as Illinois and Hawaii, laws passed in 2013 legalizing gay marriage took effect in 2014. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court passed on hearing appeals in five states' gay marriage cases and subsequent federal court ruling have resulted in gay marriage now being legal in more than two-thirds of the states.
  3. Minimum wage increase. Workers earning minimum wage got good news in 2014 as a number of states and cities raised their minimum wage. Alaska, Nebraska, Arkansas, and South Dakota all voted to raise the state minimum wage in November. Earlier in 2014, a number of cities also moved to raise their minimum wage, including Seattle, which passed an ordinance making that city's minimum wage $15, but giving businesses three years to phase in the increase.
  4. Paid sick time. Workers in California will also be getting paid sick leave starting next year. Governor Jerry Brown signed the Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families Act of 2014 into law in September, which requires employers to give employers who don't already have sick leave three paid sick days a year.
  5. Festivus vacation. Public employees in Washington may be getting time off this year for the fictional holiday of Festivus. A new law that took effect in June provides Washington public employees two unpaid days off from work for religious observances, but failed to define what constitutes "religion," reports KING-TV. City leaders have speculated that under the law, they will now be forced to give employees time off for an endless number of possible holidays including Festivus, the December 23 holiday popularized by the television show "Seinfeld" as an alternative to Christmas .

Find out more about new laws that may be in effect in your state at FindLaw's Learn About the Law section on State Laws.

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