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New laws in 2021: Ban on some sunscreens, more secure IDs, cash in a college account

States are putting measures in place affecting millions. Here are highlights.
A Transportation Security Administration worker helps travelers get through a security checkpoint at Miami International Airport on Monday.David Santiago / Miami Herald via AP

WASHINGTON — The new year brings a host of new state laws across the nation, from a ban on popular brands of sunscreen to further crackdowns on driving while holding a cellphone.

And one requirement to be imposed later in the year will affect millions of American travelers.

Beginning this fall, every airline passenger 18 or older must have a Real ID-compliant driver's license or other authorized form of identification, such as a passport. States are required to check an applicant's records to verify identity before issuing the new licenses, which incorporate features making them harder to counterfeit.

"We want to make sure that we get these IDs in the hands of all the traveling public. It raises security across the board," acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf told NBC News.

The requirement, delayed repeatedly over the past decade, was set to kick in during 2020. But the Department of Homeland Security postponed the effective date when the Covid-19 pandemic made it harder for drivers to get to local departments of motor vehicles.

Now, the law is set to take effect Oct. 1. Travelers wanting to board an airplane by using a driver's license for identification must have one that conforms with the Real ID Act, passed by Congress after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The new licenses have a star on the upper right hand corner.

Wolf said 114 million Americans already have a compliant license and that all 50 states are now issuing them. But while some states have issued Real IDs to 90 percent of their residents, others have got them to less than 25 percent of drivers, he said.

Among new state laws taking effect Jan. 1 is Hawaii's first-in-the-nation ban on the sale or distribution of sunscreens that contain two chemicals the state said can harm coral reefs and other forms of marine life.

"Our natural environment is fragile, and our own interaction with the earth can have lasting impacts. This new law is just one step toward protecting the health and resiliency of Hawaii's coral reefs," Gov. David Ige said while signing the law.

Cancer specialists have been warning residents and visitors to find brands that do not contain the banned chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate.

"We don't want to diminish our use of sunscreen, which has been proven to reduce risk for skin cancer," said Kevin Cassel, a researcher at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

A new environmental law in Delaware taking effect as the New Year begins bans single-use plastic carryout bags. Supporters of the restriction said it will cut down on litter and the amount of plastic in landfills. Plastic bags can also force recycling facilities to stop work when they get stuck in the machinery.

Starting New Year's Day, drivers in Arizona and Virginia can be pulled over and ticketed by police if they're holding a mobile phone while behind the wheel. It's a primary offense, meaning a driver can be pulled over even if no other traffic laws are being violated.

"That text message can wait. It's not worth your life," Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said.

A new Missouri law requires all law enforcement officers in the state to take training in recognizing implicit bias and de-escalating conflicts. Gov. Mike Parson said the requirements will help police "meet the challenges they face daily and facilitate better communication and interactions with the public."

As of Jan. 1, every child born or adopted in Illinois will have $50 deposited in a college savings account, intended to keep pace with rising tuition. Sponsors of the measure said children are more likely to attend college if an account is set up for them.

And residents of Mississippi can feel free to toast 2021, no matter where they live. Effective New Year's Day, the state has wiped out all remaining laws that made it illegal to possess alcohol, removing one of the last vestiges of prohibition.