The new laws were passed in the last legislative session and became effective on July 1.

A slew of new laws are now in effect in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. New laws range from a family paid leave plan in D.C., a ban on foam in Maryland, and the legalization of happy hour in Virginia.

Washington, D.C.

Beginning on July 1, restaurants and businesses are no longer allowed to use plastic straws. The law actually went into effect on January 1 of this year but was restricted to giving warnings. Now the Department of Energy and Environment will be able to slap businesses with fans for non-compliance.

The minimum wage for employees in D.C. is now $14, up from $13.25. The minimum for tipped workers is $4.45. The increase applies to all workers, regardless of the size of the business. In July of 2020, it increases to $15, with an allowance for an increase every year thereafter based on the consumer price index.

In July, new taxes will start to be collected for the District’s new family paid leave plan. The plan gives new parents up to eight weeks of paid leave to bond with their child, six weeks to care for a family member with a serious illness, and two weeks of personal sick leave. Benefits will not start until July 1, 2020.

Maryland

Foam food containers are now banned in Maryland. The law is similar to the D.C. straw ban in that businesses will have a year to comply. Strict enforcement and fine go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Permanent executive branch state employees can now ride free on public transit. This includes college and university employees and independent workers. All kids enrolled in K-12 schools in Montgomery County can also ride free with a school ID or a Youth Cruiser SmarTrip card.

A new law to help protect student-athletes in the Maryland University system goes into effect on July 1. All universities must implement a policy that addresses concerns for students participating in student athletic programs. The policy is required to be posted online and on campus.

Private and public schools in Maryland will now be required to verify the backgrounds of applicants by contacting the candidates' past employers. Schools are also not allowed to use nondisclosure agreements in cases that involve sexual misconduct.

Workers in Montgomery County will now benefit from a higher minimum wage. Businesses with more than 51 employees must pay $13 per hour, and businesses with less than 50 employees must pay $12.50 per hour. The minimum will be raised each year until it reaches $15 in 2022. Employees 18  years old and under that work less than 20 hours per week are exempt from the new law.

Virginia

It’s time to get happy in Virginia! Bars and restaurants can now advertise happy hours and other alcohol-related specials. Happy hours can’t run past 9 p.m. and two-for-one drinks are not allowed.

Priests and other clergy are now required to be mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. Members of the clergy are only exempt in cases where confidentiality is required, e.g. confession.

Children under two years old must now ride in rear-facing child safety seats. The only exemption is if the child meets the weight limit detailed by the car seat’s manufacturer.

Virginians that lost their driving privileges for unpaid court fees will now get their license back. The suspensions were ruled a hardship and affected more than 700,000 people in the state.

If you want to buy cigarettes, tobacco, or e-cigarettes, you must be 21 years of age in Virginia. There is an exemption for members of the military that are 18 years or older.

A law from the Jim Crow era that allows exemptions to minimum wage jobs held by African Americans is being stripped away.

Tenants in Virginia are getting more protection from eviction. Several new laws will give tenants more time to get current on rent, cap late fees, and limit the number of filings by landlords.

Which one of these new laws was the most surprising? Tell us in the comments!