New year, new laws: California student borrowers have protections; Virginia, Florida have significant minimum wage raises

USA World

With a new year comes several new laws across the nation, including a ban on some sunscreens in Hawaii, rules for delivery robots in North Carolina and a rise in the minimum wage for several states.

A few of the more notable changes:

California creates Student Loan Borrowers’ Bill of Rights, protection from loan service companies

Students in California now have a Student Borrower Bill of Rights that grants them protection from student loan companies. Under the new law, Assembly Bill 376, student loan companies must provide borrowers quality customer service, reliable information and access to affordable repayment and debt forgiveness programs.

California is the first state in the nation to provide basic consumer protections for student loan borrowers, said Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, who introduced the bill.

“This current federal administration has taken multiple measures to reduce protections for student loan borrowers,” Stone said in a statement. “California, once again, takes the lead in protecting consumers from predatory practices when the federal government refuses to do so, even when high profile lawsuits have continuously unveiled the student loan industry’s predatory lending practices.”

Delivery robots must obey traffic laws in North Carolina

Delivery robots are coming to North Carolina. The state’s legislature passed a bill that defines and regulates robots delivering packages without remote control or under the supervision of a human. The bill was created to keep the devices and residents safe, the News and Observer reported.

The new law requires delivery devices to obey traffic laws and yield to pedestrians. The devices can’t move at a speed higher than 10 miles per hour on sidewalks, weigh over 500 pounds and must be monitored by an operator over the age of 16 who can control the device with a remote control.

Virginia, Florida to see a significant minimum wage raise

Many states will raise their hourly minimum wage in 2021, but Virginia and Florida are poised for significant increases and are headed toward $15 by 2026.

The hourly minimum wage in Virginia will rise from $7.25 to $9.50 starting in May. In Florida, it will climb from $8.56 to $10 in September. 

About 15 cities and counties will reach $15 an hour sometime in 2021 – including Flagstaff and Chicago (for large employers), joining the 25 or so already at that benchmark. And while no state is currently at that standard, nine are headed there over the next few years – California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Virginia.

In Virginia and upstate New York, state officials eventually must make final decisions about whether, or how quickly, to move to $15.

Hawaii bans some sunscreens containing two ‘harmful’ chemicals

Three years ago, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to ban the sale of over-the-counter sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate to help protect the state’s marine environment, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The law now goes into effect starting Friday.

Hawaii’s legislature signed the bill into law in 2018, saying the two chemicals “have significant harmful impact” on the state’s marine environment and residing ecosystems, including coral reefs. Environmental groups supported the bill while the retail and health industry opposed it, the newspaper reported.

The new law allows visitors are allowed to bring sunscreens with the banned chemicals, the newspaper reported.

1.3M New Yorkers now have sick leave

Starting Friday, about 1.3 million New Yorkers will have access to paid sick leave. The paid leave can be used to recover from an illness, care for a sick family member or seek help for themselves or a family member who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human tracking. 

New York is one of 15 states that have a paid sick leave law, reports Democrat & Chronicle, part of the USA TODAY Network. Some workers were allowed to start accruing sick days in September. Unused sick leave will be carried over to the following year.

“No one should have to choose between going to work sick or caring for a sick loved one and not getting a paycheck, especially as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Contributing: Paul Davidson, USA TODAY

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