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Five of The Most Impactful State Legislature Changes In The 21st Century

Some law changes are imperceptible; others result from changes in public perception, while some come about through commercial lobbying. There are also law changes that are done because the existing laws need replacing. It could be that they are out-moded or because a federal ban on something is considered unconstitutional.

Which law changes are the most impactful is debatable. However, it cannot be argued that the five below have had a massive impact on lives across the USA.

Same-Sex Marriage

In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. This single act has gone a long way to bring about a more inclusive society. Efforts to bring about change began in the 1990s with challenges at state and national levels. Civil unions were legal in many states, creating a separate but equal standard. At a federal level, couples were denied access to over one thousand marriage-related rights. In 1996 The Defense of Marriage Act came into existence. It defined marriage as being between a man and a woman and allowed states to deny marriage equality. On June 26th, 2015, the US Supreme Court struck down all same-sex marriage bans and legalized it in fifty states. In addition, all states had to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses.

Changes to Gambling Laws

For a long time, the US had a conflicted approach to gambling. On the one hand, it is home to the self-professed gambling capital of the world – Las Vegas. On the other, with the exception of a handful of riverboats and the resort of Atlantic City in New Jersey, casino gambling was prohibited. In addition, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which had been passed in 1992, banned state-sponsored sports betting almost everywhere other than Nevada.

New Jersey led the fight to have PASPA overturned. After a prolonged legal battle, they succeeded. The US Supreme Court deemed the law unconstitutional as it interfered with individual states’ rights to self-determination. However, before this challenge succeeded, New Jersey had already spearheaded change. In 2013 it became the first state to legalize online casino gambling. The action has led to other states legalizing sports betting and online casino gambling, as a list of the best on offer demonstrates.

Legalization of marijuana

Back in 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington voted to approve the recreational use and sale of cannabis. The laws passed by these state legislatures made Colorado and Washington the first US states to legalize the use of these recreational drugs. Over the next ten years, nineteen other states, plus Washington DC and Guam, acted to legalize the drug. Public support for legalization rose rapidly. The irony is that marijuana remains illegal at a federal level.

Support for marijuana legalization is now mainstream with most Democrat politicians and some Republicans. Bills aimed at decriminalization at a federal level have been introduced and passed through Congress. However, As recently as October 2022, President Joe Biden said he would issue pardons to everyone convicted of federal possession.

Maryland and Missouri are the latest states set to roll out rules and regulations making recreational marijuana legal for adults over twenty-one.

Minimum wage increases

When it comes to things that matter to millions of Americans, take-home pay is right up there with the most important things. Therefore, any legislation affecting income levels has an enormous impact on people’s everyday lives. From January 1st, twenty-seven states saw an increase in minimum wage rates. The new salary floor is thanks to demands from workers’ rights groups, elected officials, and other people lobbying for wage increases for low-income workers.

Each state sets its own minimum wage, and there are enormous variances. Montana has the lowest rate at $9.95 an hour, and Washington has the highest at $15.74 an hour. New York and its surrounding counties will have a rate of $15 per hour, which is eighty cents higher than the rest of the state.

Access to affordable healthcare

The Affordable Healthcare Act affected everyone across the United States. The law, which is also known as Obamacare, came into existence in 2010. The act aimed to provide affordable health insurance for all Americans and to protect consumers from insurance companies whose tactics drive up patient costs and restrict care.

Millions of Americans have benefitted and received insurance cover through ACA. People who were unemployed or had low-paying jobs could afford insurance. In addition, those with pre-existing medical conditions could no longer be denied insurance if they had a chronic disease. Thanks to the ACA, more than 16 million Americans were able to access healthcare.

Despite all its positive outcomes, the ACA was, and is, highly controversial. Some people object to the tax increases; others say they are having to pay higher insurance premiums. As a result, there are ongoing calls for the ACA to be repealed or overhauled. This looks like an argument set to run and run

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