New Year, New Decade, New Laws
Jan 8, 2020


On the New Year, Illinois became the 11th state in the nation to legalize recreational cannabis.  However with nearly $11 million in sales in less than a week, the demand caused several dispensaries to close due to shortages and employee exhaustion.  On the eve of legal cannabis sales, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued pardons for more than 11,000 low-level marijuana convictions.  Illinois State Police identified more than 150,000 convictions that could be legible for pardons or expungement.  Keep watching 2020 as 18 more states look in to legalizing cannabis – especially New York, Vermont, New Mexico, and Arizona



The new year began with a record number of states, cities, and counties increasing their minimum wage.  The minimum wage increased in 21 states, while another 26 cities and counties also increased their baseline pay.  Later in the year, four additional states and 23 cities and counties will increase their minimum wage.  The pay hikes will benefit nearly 7 million workers.  However, the federal minimum wage has not changed for a decade and remain at $7.25 an hour.  Don’t forget – the new federal overtime rule is now in effect.  The rule changed the minimum salary threshold and the Department of Labor estimates this rule will make 1.3 million workers eligible for overtime pay under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA).



At least six states will begin requiring electronic prescriptions for controlled substances such as opioids.  The new laws taking effect in Arizona, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island mean that a least a dozen states will now have such laws.  Virginia will join the group in July, and 14 additional states have passed electronic prescription laws that are to kick in during 2021.  Major drug store chains filed suit on Monday against doctors across northeast Ohio, claiming physicians are the real culprits in the nation’s deadly drug epidemic.  These drug store companies were sued by Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio in 2018.  Big pharmacy chains have not been held liable so far.



The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) became effective and is described as the nations’ most sweeping data privacy law, which allows consumers to request what personal data a company has collected, why it’s collected, and what other entities receive it.  It also allows consumers to ask companies to delete their personal information and not sell it.  The state attorney general estimated that compliance with the law will cost companies $55 billion.  California also enacted another law that bars police from using facial recognition software in body-worn cameras, which follows New Hampshire and Oregon.  In Illinois, employers who ask applicants to self-record video interviews and submit them for consideration will have to notify applicants and obtain consent if they intend to use artificial intelligence to analyze the person’s facial expression or fitness for the position.  The decade is off and running.




The Eurasia Group says the top risk in 2020 threating global economic and political stability is likely to be America’s politics.  At the heart of the issue is the November presidential election, with the Group predicting that Americans will view the results as illegitimate no matter the outcome.  With the likely acquittal of President Trump of impeachment in the Senate, the group says it will only heighten political tensions in an already polarized nation.  We’re also watching the trade wars/tariffs, tensions in the Middle East, and the continuing saga of Brexit. 



Time magazine named Greta Thunberg, a teenager who led a worldwide climate change movement, its 2019 person of the year.  This year climate change will continue to be top of mind with The Risk Institute of The Ohio State identifying climate change and the downstream impact on business as one of the most important emerging risks for companies to consider in 2020.  Climate change litigation continues to rise with approximately 1,200 cases in the U.S. and most visibly is the increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.  Our thoughts are with the firefighters and people affected by the Australian Bushfires.


Making Our Way Around the Country


Just hours before California’s new gig-work law took effect, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order exempting truck drivers.  California’s new law, AB5, makes it harder for companies to claim workers as independent contractors.  However, the California Trucking Association contends that AB5 is preempted by a 1994 federal statute that prohibits states from making laws that affect the price, route, or service of freight-hauling motor carriers.  A hearing is set for Jan. 13.  On the flip side, another federal judge would not temporarily exempt freelance journalists and photographers from the law stating they waited too long to challenge the restrictions.  That hearing is set for March.



Last month, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued its National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2018.  There was a 2% increase in work place fatalities, going from 5,147 in 2017 to 5,250 in 2018.  Unfortunately, transportation incidents remains the most frequent kind of fatal event at 2,080, accounting for 40% of all work-related fatalities.  Among this group, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the most fatalities at 831.  Businesses should check their safety procedures around running equipment or machinery – fatalities increased 39% in workers caught in running equipment or machinery.  In better news, fatal falls, slips, and trips decreased 11% to 791 after reaching an all-time high in 2017.



Happy New Year!  This new year brings a new decade – and a new warning.  For this year, don’t abbreviate the year “2020” on checks (yes, some people still write checks) and documents.  Fraudsters can easily change the abbreviated year “20” to another year.  Hope everyone had a good holiday season, and we’re looking forward to what 2020 will bring!


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