Smoking ban at beaches highlights new laws for 2019

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A new year also means the start of some new laws for New Jersey residents.

Among the new laws is a ban on smoking at public beaches. Violators caught smoking on the beach will be subject to a $250 fine on the first offense, a $500 fine on the second offense, and a $1000 fine on future violations. The law doesn't specify who will enforce the ban.

There is also a push to go green in 2019 as many towns in the Garden State are starting the year without plastic. Plastic straw and bag bans will go into effect in Belmar, Jersey City, Teaneck and Stafford.

Also, at least 19 states will increase their minimum wages according to the National Employment Law Project. In New Jersey, the wage is going up just a quarter, but it is higher than the federal minimum wage.  The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has remained the same since 2009.

Gov. Phil Murphy also signed a package of laws regarding school bus safety. The six new laws were proposed in the wake of a deadly school bus crash on Interstate-80 in May. Among those laws: All school bus drivers must submit proof of physical fitness. They also have to complete safety education training twice a year.

Murphy also signed a package of laws regarding gun reform. Some have already gone into effect, such as limiting the amount of ammunition that can go into a magazine from 15 to 10. A new law going into effect for 2019 grants courts the ability to take away guns from people who pose a danger.

Another new law will make it easier for transgender residents to amend their birth certificates.

A new tax will reinstate the individual mandate in New Jersey to encourage residents to sign up for health insurance. The Affordable Care Act created a federal tax that will not be levied after the 2018 tax year. The state tax is designed to prevent erosion of health insurance markets once the federal tax expires, according to lawmakers.

Changes coming to education as well as the PARCC test will no longer be a requirement for New Jersey high school students to graduate. A state appellate court, delivering that ruling Monday. The judges said the state Education Department requirement is not authorized under state law. The standardized test will still be used to mark student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

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