From soda tax to paid sick leave to discount booze: Here's what took effect Jan. 1

Some big changes came to states across the country with the start of the new year. Here’s what went into effect Monday. 

Seattle's new tax on soda, sugary drinks

The Seattle City Council in June approved a tax on the distribution of sweetened beverages such as Pepsi and Coke, sports drinks, energy drinks and other drinks. The tax excludes diet drinks.

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Distributors would pay the tax of 1.75 cents per fluid ounce, but consumers are expected to see price increases.

Supporters said the tax would cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks that have little nutritional value and are linked to obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

Businesses and labor groups that opposed the tax said it would hurt small businesses and cost jobs. Other critics called it regressive, saying it would affect low-income consumers the most.

Seattle is among a handful of cities nationwide that have a soda tax.

Minimum-wage increase for workers

The increase is part of 2016's Initiative 1433, and it will ultimately raise Washington state’s rate to $13.50 an hour by 2020. 

For employers in cities that already have higher minimum wages, including Seattle, the local minimum wage rate will apply as long as it is higher than the state minimum. The statewide minimum wage will increase to $12 in 2019 and will hit $13.50 the following year.

The initiative does not change overtime pay requirements.

A University of Washington public policy professor told The Seattle Times that the increase will likely mean hiring will slow down a bit. 

Paid sick leave required 

The law that raised Washington’s minimum wage also requires employers to provide paid sick leave as of Monday. 

Employees will earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. According to the state Department of Labor and Industries, employees can use paid sick leave for themselves or family members. 

Unused paid sick leave of 40 hours or less must be carried over to the following year. Read more about accrual and usage here. 

Implementing paid sick leave law is expected to be a bigger challenge for employers. The Department of Labor and Industries is developing rules to explain and enforce the new requirements. 

Ohio liquor stores offering deep discounts on 700 types of booze

Starting Monday, retailers across Ohio that sell high-powered spirits will offer closeout prices on nearly 700 products, ranging from cheap vodka to $100-plus single-malt scotch. The discounts will amount to 25-to-40 percent off the regular retail price.

Officials at the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control have dubbed the discounts the “Last Call” campaign.

It does have its caveats, however.

Not every product that is being discounted will be available at every liquor store. Customers won’t be able to order any of these closeout items because the state says those products will not be restocked. 

Click here for a complete list of discontinued spirits.

Voter ID laws

Voters in both Iowa and West Virginia will require identification at the polls, CNN reported

Workplace laws

California employers can’t ask job seekers their prior salaries, but applicants can share the information without being asked.

Nevada now requires employers to grant up to 160 hours of leave a year for victims of domestic violence or who have family members who are victims.

And in Vermont, employers can not request or require employees to give them social media accounts, allowing social media to be private for employees, CNN reported.

Family laws

Illinois will treat pets like children, making them the subject of divorce and custody decisions, the Chicago Tribune reported

Marijuana laws

California has legalized recreational use of marijuana under Proposition 64. Users can buy pot if they’re older than 21. Businesses who want to sell marijuana must apply for a state license, CNN reported.

In Colorado, it is legal to grow up to 12 plants at home, unless the grower has a medical condition. Then the amount is increased to 24 plants, CNN reported.

Click here for more on the new laws in 2018. and contributed to this report.

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