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January 09, 2015

New laws for 2015: gas tax rise, no tiger selfies

A new year often means new laws at the federal, state and local levels. Across the country, hundreds of laws went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Here’s a look at some of the changes being made locally:

1. Gas taxes, vehicle fees rise in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanians will see a 9.8-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Other states raising their gas taxes in 2015 include Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Florida. According to the American Petroleum Institute, Pennsylvania is already ranked as one of the states with the highest gas taxes.

On Jan. 4, toll rates on the Pennsylvania Turnpike increased by 5 percent for both cash and E-ZPass customers. Later this year, on July 1, locals also will see the annual fee for passenger car registration rise by $1 to $37. For motorcycles, the current fee of $18 will rise to $19. Registration for pickup trucks will increase by $1.50 to $60. Vehicle inspection and driver’s license expenses also will see changes later this year, reports. 

2. Pennsylvania Power of Attorney law changes

Changes have been made to the Power of Attorney form for Pennsylvania. The Power of Attorney (POA) document is used to authorize a person of your choosing to make decisions on your behalf. Effective this year, the POA now requires two witnesses and a notary public to sign. Read more about changes made to the form here

3. Pennsylvania introduces stricter child abuse laws

According to the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED), several significant changes have been made to the state's Child Protective Services Law (CPSL). Some key changes include an expansion of the state’s definition of child abuse, a clarification of who is a mandatory reporter or an alleged offender of the abuse, and an alteration to the process for reporting abuse. Penalties for failing to file a mandatory report have increased. Read more here.

4. New Jersey modifies several labor laws

The minimum wage in New Jersey increased to $8.38 from $8.25 on Jan. 1, 2015. Furthermore, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that on March 1, 2015, covered employers will be restricted “from asking about or using an applicant's criminal history record when making employment decisions." According to SHRM, local paid sick leave laws in various jurisdictions statewide will increase.

Here are some bizarre laws that went into effect this year around the country, according to ABC News.

1. New Yorkers may no longer pose for photos, or “tiger selfies,” with a lion, tiger or other big cat.

2. Egg-laying hens raised in California must be housed in bigger cages that allow them room to stretch their wings and move around freely.

3. In Illinois, the definition of milk will expand to include the “milk of cows, or goats, sheep, water buffalo, or other hooved mammals."