Everyone's getting ready for (at least a few weeks of post-hangover) self improvement in 2014, including our judicial system. At the stroke of midnight tonight, some 40,000 new local, state, and federal laws will go into effect. Some (most, really) are minor tweaks and frankly kind of boring. Some are routine but troubling, like the yearly expiration of tax cuts that has businesses scrambling until the rebates are reinstated. And some are genuinely upsetting, like strict new voting laws that will likely disenfranchise American citizens.
In the spirit of a better tomorrow, however, we're going to focus on the new laws that actually make us feel kind of good about things. Here's our seven favorite new laws, and why we love 'em.
Voter pre-registration for Colorado teens
The law: Sixteen-year-olds in Colorado will be able to pre-register to vote when they get their drivers licenses. The registration will become official once those who have pre-registered turn 18, making them eligible to vote.
Why we like it: Colorado is making it easier for young people to exercise their civil rights, and is actively encouraging them to get politically involved. This is especially significant as a number of states make it more difficult for people — mostly people who vote as Democrats — to vote. Plus, we really like this 1960s civic-minded pot-smoking youth throwback thing Colorado is doing. (Yet another January 1 development. See below.)
Delaware curbs the shark fin market
The law: It will be illegal to sell and distribute shark fins within Delaware.
Why we like it: The new law has been touted by environmentalists for taking steps towards eliminating the inhumane practice of shark finning. (Basically, poachers capture sharks, cut off their fins, and throw the rest of the fish overboard to bleed to death or drown.) Shark fins are harvested for use in expensive shark fin soups, which are considered to be a delicacy. You don't catch a ton of shark fins off the coast of Delaware, but it's a start.
Lights out on light bulbs in 2014
The law: Manufacturers will be required to stop making 40- and 60-watt light bulbs, which happen to be the most popular in the country.
Why we like it: From here on in, light bulbs will be more expensive up front, but save energy in the long-run. We are notoriously bad at actively making any changes that will make us better off in the long-run if it makes us worse-off in the short run. So a government-mandated nudge towards becoming more aware of how much energy we waste makes a lot of sense to us. Plus, it makes Tea Partiers really mad.
Recreational pot-smoking in Colorado is allllll rightttt
The law: Colorado residents who are at least 21 years old will be legally allowed to purchase marijuana for recreational use.
Why we like it: Legal marijuana is expected to be a growth industry, and retailers are gearing up for tourism especially. The government could also benefit from taxes on marijuana, which is no more dangerous an intoxicant than alcohol, and from having to lock up fewer non-violent criminals. And now Colorado will be even cooler.
New cyber security laws in California
The law: Under the new provision online retailers will have to prominently disclose how they use consumers' personal information.
Why we like it: Though some argue that the law will actually hurt consumers, because it increases transparency without demanding action, we are pro any law that forces commercial sites to be more open about what they do with user data. We are used to signing verbose contracts with a click, and appreciate any legislative effort to shift the onus of responsibility onto commercial bodies. Even a small step towards reclaiming a right to privacy online is a good one.
Obamacare coverage starts
The law: Barring any more glitches, millions who signed up for insurance or Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act will finally gain health care coverage on January 1.
Why we (might) like it: Obamacare is an imperfect universal health care system, but it is a universal healthcare system nonetheless. The plan, which Obama fought through the courts, a government shutdown, and a disastrous launch, is a step towards securing Americans at least one useful safety net as some others, like pensions, are quickly disappearing. We hope it works.
Victims of human trafficking get funds to remove captor tattoos
The Law: In Illinois, human trafficking victims who have been tattooed or branded will be able to use money from the Crime Victim's Compensation Act to remove tattoos.
Why we like it: Humans helping humans.