POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

What new laws take effect in 2019, and do they impact you?

BY Andrew Schmertz, Correspondent |

Bleary-eyed New Jerseyans awoke to the annual New Years day ritual of grabbing coffee, going for a walk with the dog, and maybe brushing up on new laws — though that last part probably wasn’t at the top of the list.

While it’s unlikely that many people head to the shore at this time of year, this summer when folks do, they won’t be allowed to smoke. A new law banning smoking at the beach goes into effect, though local communities will be allowed to set aside smoking areas.

“Today, New Jersey is taking action to get butts off the beach, cigarette butts that is,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in July.

“I think it’s a good law promoting better health. And just like smoking in restaurants has been outlawed, I think it’s a good thing,” said Clifton resident Edwin Figueroa.

“Might be a bit much. I’m not a smoker. I don’t condone it, but at the beach,” said Hoboken resident Joe Brennan.

The state has reimposed the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act. While Congress did away with it, New Jersey lawmakers put it back into effect, meaning all residents will have to have health insurance, or pay a penalty.

“I think it’s great. I think health care is something everyone should have,” said Hoboken resident Ty Barnes.

After the school bus accident on Interstate 80 last year, Murphy signed a slew of new bills aimed at improving safety. Some of it went into effect immediately, and others will be implemented this year. Those laws range from new seat belts to mandatory safety courses for drivers.

Under a bill that takes effect next month, it will now be easier to change gender identity on birth certificates. The new law allows changes on birth certificates based on how a person identifies themselves. A transgender person will no longer need a doctor to confirm that they surgically changed their sex.

“Trans people, for a variety of reasons, don’t have this surgeries. I think our society, our culture, the way we talk about this in the public sphere, is often around an assumption that that is what makes you transgender — to have that surgery,” said Aaron Potenza, director of programs at Garden State Equality.

And it will be the first full year of a tax that went into effect this past fall on ride-hailing companies, such as Uber and Lyft. A 50-cent tax has been added for solo rides.

Visitors who ride the PATH didn’t think it will deter them from using ride-hailing companies, much to the chagrin of taxi drivers who told us so far, despite the tax, their business is still down.

“I didn’t even know that, but honestly I feel like I’ll still probably do it just because it’s so much easier,” said New York resident Martin Bentsen.

Also going into effect Tuesday is a higher minimum wage, increasing to $8.85 an hour. That’s not enough for Murphy who is calling for a $15 minimum wage. He and the Legislature are sparring over just how to phase that in. It will be one of the top priorities for the Legislature this month.