New laws for the new year: Good news, Illinois, water buffalo milk is legal

California has 931 new laws; Florida has three. Around the country, thousands of new measures take effect Thursday governing everything from gun control laws to when police can use drones to observe private citizens.

Stephen Lam/Reuters
Frida, a Chihuahua, was "Mayor of San Francisco for a Day" on Nov. 18, 2014, as part of a campaign to support the city's animal shelter. California passed a law that allows dogs on patios of the state's restaurants.

Hey, Illinois, it’s OK to drink water buffalo milk now!

That new law is one of thousands being implemented as of Jan. 1, as states are getting ready to implement thousands of new laws tackling everything from new minimum wage laws to gun rights, to canine companionship while dining al fresco.

The new laws govern a host of American concerns, ranging from the food we eat, privacy rights when it comes to both drones and candid “selfies,” and the wisdom of giving huge tax breaks to Hollywood to make movies locally. (Yes, we’re looking at you, North Carolina.)

Illinois, as noted, just approved water buffalo milk for sale. Florida made it a $60 fine and three points on your driving record if any kids under 6 aren’t strapped into a proper car seat, and a cop sees it.

And California, per the usual, led the way in telling its citizens new things they can and can’t do, with 931 new laws taking effect on Jan. 1. (Florida, by contrast, will see only three new laws take effect.)

In the Golden State, it’s now a misdemeanor to take Scarlett Johansson’s or anyone else’s candid “selfie” and disseminate it on the Internet without their permission.

And California dog owners will for the first time be able to legally hang out with their canine friends on restaurant patios, although California dogs remain banned from inside dining rooms.

And the progressive beacon on the West Coast continues to wade into the culture wars, as a much-debated California law takes effect. Under the first-ever “yes means yes” law, colleges must enact sexual assault policies that will require students to verbally consent before having sex.

But legislatures around the country also tried to ease off on red tape and recreational restrictions. In Illinois, for example, employers can no longer ask job applicants about their criminal history, at least not on the initial application.

And a year after recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado, households in Oregon will be able to legally have up to 8 ounces of marijuana in their possession.

Oregon also tipped its hat to the conservative gun lobby. As of Jan. 1, Oregonians with minor marijuana possession convictions in other states will be able to obtain concealed-carry gun permits in their home state.

Neighboring Washington, on the other hand, will be enacting tougher gun restrictions closing the so-called gun show loophole. Background checks are now required for any private sale in the state.

Protecting Americans’ privacy in the face of fast-developing technological advances remained a legislative concern. Illinois made it illegal for police to use third-party drones to gather information about citizens, unless there’s evidence that public safety is at risk.

Lawmakers also looked Hollywood in the eye to see who’d blink first. Effective Jan. 1, North Carolina cut its annual tax break for film and TV productions from $80 million to $10 million, even as California increased its offer from $100 million to $330 million, in large part to try to lure back studios filming in the easier tax climes of states like Louisiana and Georgia – and, at least prior to New Year’s Day, North Carolina.

On Jan. 1, Amish in Illinois will get a new religious waiver, exempting them from the driver license camera. Amish and Mennonite sects say the Bible prevents them from making “graven images,” including photographs.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, unauthorized immigrants in California will be able to get their faces on an official driver license for the first time.

No state, however, has a plan to guarantee a flattering driver license photo. Maybe next Jan. 1.

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