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New laws, 2019: Vermont pays people $10K to move there, internet taxes, pet protection, more

In states across the country, new measures are kicking in that affect virtually every area of residents' lives — and your furry friends, too.
Image: Leaves begin turning color on Big Pond near Woodford, Vermont, in 2007.
Leaves begin turning color on Big Pond near Woodford, Vermont, in 2007.Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The new year brings a host of state laws that took effect Tuesday — including Vermont paying people to move there.

The state is giving people up to $10,000 over two years for those employed by out-of-state companies who are willing to work remotely from Vermont in a home office or cooperative work space.

"We have a demographic problem in the state. We need more people," Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, said in supporting the measure.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Vermont has the nation’s third-highest median age, 42.7 years, and the state's population of just over 600,000 (in 2017) is flat or slightly shrinking, The Associated Press reported.

Anyone interested should hurry, however, because the money for the program is limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Lawmakers have set aside $500,000 for the program.

Elsewhere, Connecticut and Hawaii are making it illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their pay history. That brings to 10 the number of states with similar bans, which are intended to stop the cycle of pay discrimination against women and minorities.

Derek Slap, a Connecticut state representative, said the law is also intended to maintain competitiveness in hiring qualified workers.

"We don't want to be known as the state where women can be lowballed," he said.

In New York City, it is now illegal to sell anything in foam food containers made from expanded polystyrene, a material the city says cannot be recycled.

"There's no reason to continue allowing this environmentally unfriendly substance to flood our streets, landfills and waterways," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. That ban covers foam clamshell containers, trays and cups as well as foam packing peanuts.

In Washington state, 2019 brings a crackdown on people who misrepresent companion or emotional support pets as trained service animals. The legislature determined that people with disabilities were finding it harder to get acceptance of their essential animal help.

Two new measures in California are intended to make life better for pets.

The state becomes the first to require that pet shops sell only animals from shelters and rescue centers. Residents can still buy from private breeders, but pet stores cannot. Nearly 300 cities in half the states already have similar restrictions, but this is the first to apply statewide.

Under a separate new law, pets in California are now legally considered part of the family in divorces. Judges can assign sole or joint custody, based on what they determine is in the best interest of the pet.

For human beings nationwide, the cost of getting divorced shifted from one spouse to another as of Jan. 1. It becomes more expensive for those making alimony payments, because Congress eliminated alimony tax deductions, a break that had been in effect for 75 years. But the same change also provides that those receiving alimony payments no longer have to pay taxes on the income.

In addition, Internet shoppers in six more states — Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Utah, and West Virginia — will have to pay sales taxes on what they buy from out-of-state retailers. More states are imposing the same requirement, the result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2018 that opened the door to taxing web sales.

And in Colorado, all kinds of beer are now available in grocery and convenience stores, which under a law dating from prohibition had been allowed to sell only low-alcohol brews. That restriction ended in the final hours of 2018.