New Year, New Laws


Environmental reforms, more affordable health care, and expanded rights for transgender and gender non-conforming people will be going into effect in 2019. Here’s a look at a few of the changes residents can expect in New York City, New York state, and New Jersey. 

New York City

After a maze of legal challenges, New York City finally got the green light to ban Styrofoam containers. Under direction from the City Council in 2013, the Department of Sanitation determined that foam materials, such as packing peanuts and to-go food containers, could not be efficiently recycled. Manhattan Civil Court Judge Margaret Chan upheld that finding this summer, when she dismissed a final legal challenge from industry representatives.

Since the ruling, the city says it has been working with restaurants and food service providers to prepare for the ban, which goes into effect on Jan. 1. There will be a six-month grace period before the city starts handing out fines to business owners, however.

Another law going into effect on the first day of the New Year expands self-determination for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. The City Council bill allows residents to change their gender marker on their birth certificates without a  doctor’s permission. Individuals who don’t identify as female or male will also now be allowed to choose an “X” on their birth certificates to mark their gender identity.

New York State

Eligible employees will see an increase in their parental leave benefitsstarting on New Year’s Day. The New York Paid Family Leave Law was enacted in 2018, giving certain parents eight weeks with their new children. This year, that will increase to 10 weeks and 55 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage, up from 50 percent this year.

New congestion pricing rules were scheduled to go into effect in 2019, but have been temporarily blocked by a judge after advocates for taxi and ride-hail app drivers filed for an injunction. The surcharge would have added $2.50 to rides that go below 96th Street in Manhattan, a cost that driver advocates say would be devastating for the already struggling industry.

New Jersey

Next year, New Jersey residents will have to get health insurance or pay a fine. Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act earlier this year, intending to help stabilize the state’s market after Congress voted to strike the federal individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Proponents of New Jersey’s bill are hoping it will cause premiums to drop throughout 2019.

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