Child Vaccine Mandate, Minimum Wage Hikes and More Taking Effect in New Year

New sex ed and child vaccine mandates, higher minimum wages and relaxed pot penalties are among the new state and local laws sweeping into effect next week when the new year arrives.

Even pets will be affected, at least in Illinois, where a new law will make it a Class A misdemeanor to leave dogs and cats exposed to harsh weather conditions, leading to a hefty fine and up to a year in jail if convicted.

The most immediate and noticeable changes on Jan. 1 will be in wages. Some 12 states alone are expected to increase their minimum wages — including California and Massachusetts, which are going up to $10 an hour. The District of Columbia was the first to exceed the $10 minimum, but several states have incremental plans to raise their wages even further by 2018.

Bill Scher, an activist and analyst for the Campaign for America’s Future, noted that despite unsuccessful attempts to raise the wage at the federal level, many states have acted. He claimed 2 million jobs have been created since the start of this year due to wage increases.

“With more proof that gradual wage increases won’t shock the economy, more states are going to follow suit,” he told

Not everyone agrees. “Any discussion about raising the minimum wage needs to recognize that small employers often have to operate under very slim profit margins and will have the hardest time absorbing these higher labor costs,” Randel Johnson, senior vice president of labor, immigration, and employee benefits at the Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.