On Sunday, January 1, 2012, a number of new state laws took effect ranging from abortion, gay rights, immigration and more. California became the first state to require public schools to teach the positive contributions of gays and lesbians [AP report], and added individuals with disabilities to the list of people whose contributions are to be included in California and US history lessons. In addition, the first part of the California Dream Act took effect on Sunday which allows students who entered the country illegally as children to obtain private financial aid to attend public colleges in California. The second part of the act, set to take effect on January 1, 2013, will allow illegal immigrants to obtain state funded aid to attend state universities. In contrast, a new South Carolina law [AP report] will require employers to first consult a federal database before hiring employees to ensure that workers are in the country legally. Laws allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions [Baltimore Sun report] also took effect in Delaware and Hawaii.
In Alabama, a tough immigration law [AP report] requires all employees doing business with a government entity to use the E-Verify federal system to check the eligibility of all employees in the country. A similar law in Georgia took effect to require business with 500 or more employees to use E-Verify to ensure all employees are legally in the country. In New Hampshire, a law took effect requiring girls to tell their parents or a judge before getting an abortion. A new Oregon law eliminated the employment related exemption for the ban on cell phones [AP report] while driving. The exemption in place permitted the use of cell phones if the device was necessary for employment purposes. Also, a new Oregon law increases the penalty for driving under the influence, making even first time offenses more costly. Washington has a new campaign finance law [AP report] that makes it more difficult to obscure the source of funding for political campaigns.