With the start of the new year, some new laws will begin to impact residents in Massachusetts.
After years trying to pass a distracted driving bill, this year Massachusetts lawmakers got it done. The hands-free driving law takes effect on Feb. 23. It bans motorists from using handheld electronic devices while driving, unless in hands-free mode. Some navigation devices are still permitted. First offenses will cost $100, second offenses $250 and third and subsequent offenses $500, as well as auto insurance surcharges.
Also taking effect in 2020 are a number of laws that will impact hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts workers. While the state's income tax will fall to 5%, the state's minimum wage will increase to $12.75 per hour, beginning Jan. 1. Tipped workers' wages will increase to $4.95 an hour.
For the first time, workers will begin paying into a system that funds the state's paid family and medical leave program. Under the law, Massachusetts workers will be eligible to take up to 26 weeks of paid leave for medical or family reasons. The actual benefits will not be available until 2021.
And in 2019, Gov. Charlie Baker approved a law that makes Massachusetts the first state in the country to ban flavored tobacco and vaping products. Flavored nicotine vaping products will be limited to smoking bars, where they must be smoked on-site.
There will also be a 75% excise tax on cigarettes and shops will be banned from selling flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. The law takes effect on June 1.