New Washington Laws that took effect Jan 1

SEATTLE (AP) — Starting Tuesday, no one under the age of 21 in Washington state will be allowed to purchase a “semi-automatic assault rifle.”

The new law goes into effect after Washington voters passed Initiative 1639 in the November general election.

Initiative 1639 was a sweeping measure that sought to curb gun violence by toughening background checks for people buying assault rifles, increasing the age limit to buy those firearms and requiring the safe storage of all guns.

Only the age-limit portion of the measure goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. The rest of the initiative becomes law on July 1, 2019.

Supporters of the measure say it will prevent gun violence by setting limits on the sale of the type of rifles most commonly used in mass shootings.

But opponents say it violates the constitutional rights of young adults. They’ve file a federal lawsuit to block the measure.

Contraceptive coverage
Any health plan in Washington issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1 will be required to provide coverage for contraceptive drugs or devices and consultations, exams, procedures, and medical services for prescribing or administering contraceptive services. The law also requires coverage for “voluntary sterilizations” such as tubal ligations and vasectomies.

Service animals
Restrictions on the definition of a service animal are tightened, to include only dogs and miniature horses, and they must be trained to perform a specific task related to an owner’s disability. It also mandates that “Emotional support animals” are not to be considered service animals, and creates a $500 fine for misrepresenting a pet as a service animal.

Hospital disclosures
Hospitals not just in Washington state but the whole country are required by law to publish the cost of medical procedures online. They are also be required to update their prices on a yearly basis. Hospitals are already required to have a public list of their standard charges, but the latest change would make hospitals put that information online in machine-readable format that can be easily processed by computers. It may still prove to be confusing to consumers, since standard rates are like list prices and don’t reflect what insurers and government programs pay.

Minimum wage
Minimum wage changes, depending on where people live. Those in Seattle will have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state. For the state at large, the hourly minimum wage increases from $11.50 to $12. In Seattle, employers with over 500 employees have to pay $16 an hour. Seattle companies with under that 500 employee baseline are required to pay $12 an hour if they pay $3 an hour toward medical benefits, and/or employees earn $3 an hour in tips. Companies under 500 employees that don’t offer either of those will have to pay $15 an hour.

Paid medical leave
Both employers and employees will start paying into a statewide paid family leave program.

A total premium of 0.4 percent — up to the Social Security cap — will be assessed for each employee. The employer is responsible for approximately 37 percent of that premium. Employers will be responsible for remitting all premiums collected for Paid Family and Medical Leave to the state. Employers are also required to report hours and wages.

The law allows some employees to take as many as 12 weeks paid leave every year for the birth of a child, adoption of a child, or for a serious medical condition involving a worker of a family member. An extra two weeks can also be added for pregnancy complications.