A new set of state laws, including gun control, book bans, minimum wage, and gender transition care went into effect as the calendar flipped to 2024.  A growing number of states will require financial literacy courses in high schools, while a handful of others will add access to contraceptives by eliminating the need for physician prescriptions.  As state legislatures brace for another year of proposals broaching the country’s most divisive issues, here are some of the laws that will make it into reality in 2024.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Perhaps the most significant change bans programs that promote diversity, equity and inclusion at publicly funded colleges and universities in Texas.  Conservatives have targeted these diversity initiatives, known as D.E.I., because they say that the programs have used taxpayer money to stoke racial division and push a liberal agenda on campuses.  The new Texas law follows a similar one that Florida enacted in May to prohibit public colleges and universities from spending funds on D.E.I initiatives.

Illinois’ Anti-book Ban
Illinois will become the first state to enforce a law to outlaw book bans.  The law requires the state librarian and library staff members to adopt the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights statewide.  The document states that reading materials “should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or personal disapproval.”  Public libraries that don’t adopt the association’s language or develop similarly worded prohibitions will be ineligible for state grants.  An increasing number of books have been banned in several states, with Florida, Texas, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina as the states where the bans were most prevalent.  Book banning contradicts the essence of what our country stands for.  It also defies what education is all about: teaching people to think for themselves.

California’s Anti-Parenting
Governor Gavin Newsom and state Democrats passed AB 665, which makes it easier for children as young as 12 to be taken away from their parents.  Existing state law required that a child could only be removed and “emancipated” if a licensed therapist or health professional determined that abuse or neglect was occurring that posed a threat to the child in the parents’ home and the child was mature enough to govern their own affairs.  AB 665 removes any need to show abuse, neglect or a threat—and allows even an “intern” or “trainee” to make the decision.  Perhaps one of the most reckless and anti-parent bills ever conceived is now law.

A new law also mandates that foster families will be required to demonstrate their commitment to support gender-bending surgeries and therapies for minor children, or they will lose their ability to be a foster parent.  At a time when there is a severe shortage of foster homes, this new law will hurt foster kids.

Other California Laws
California is also taking LGBTQIA+++ to a whole new level, though, regarding children’s toys.  Major retailers will now be forced to have clearly labeled “gender-neutral” displays for children’s toys so you can make sure your two-spirit gender-fluid non-binary toddler isn’t confused by Barbies or Hot Wheels.

California will also be banning the sale of gas-powered lawn equipment, such as chainsaws and leaf blowers, because that will surely make up for China’s growing carbon emissions and save the planet from the seven different doomsdays climate change activists have put on the calendar.

Michigan Gun Restrictions
Michigan’s Legislature passed a package of legislation to reduce gun violence that's set to go into effect early this year.  The package, passed in the Democratic-controlled Legislature largely along party lines, includes red flag laws, stricter background checks, safe gun storage requirements, and a ban on those convicted of domestic violence from buying, owning, or transporting firearms for eight years.  The sense of urgency followed the mass shootings at Oxford High School in November 2021 and Michigan State University in February 2023.

Financial Literacy Coming to More High School Students
Four more states will begin requiring financial literacy courses in high schools in 2024—Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, and West Virginia.  They join a growing list of others that have already instituted such requirements or will begin mandating such courses in coming years.  Financial literacy courses, or personal finance courses, seek to educate students about how to earn, spend, save, borrow, and protect their money as adults.  In Georgia and West Virginia, all juniors and seniors will be required to take at least a half-credit financial literacy course to graduate.

Meanwhile, all students at public, charter, or state-accredited nonpublic schools in Indiana will be required to successfully complete a personal financial responsibility course before they graduate.  Minnesota students entering high school in 2024 or later will have to pass a personal finance course during grades 10, 11, or 12.  While legislators are joining the trend in putting more emphasis on personal finance education in high schools, advocates are still pushing for more involved requirements on the topic.  Vince Shorb, the CEO of the National Financial Educators Council, said financial literacy should be taught like the main courses, such as math or science, arguing that one semester of learning isn't enough.  Students "are all going to need to manage their money in some way," Shorb said.  "Financial literacy needs to be taken more seriously."

Over-the-Counter Contraceptives
The Food and Drug Administration’s decision in July to approve the first non-prescription oral contraceptive is expected to allow access to birth control to expand widely in 2024 once the new drug, Opill, hits shelves.  Meanwhile, states are also expanding access to prescription hormonal birth control by allowing pharmacists to prescribe such contraceptives, rather than doctors.  Since 2016, at least twenty-nine states have passed legislation to allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal birth control options without doctors, with measures in Rhode Island and New Jersey set to go into effect in 2024 allowing people to seek hormonal birth control without making doctor’s appointments.

New laws in Montana and Nevada will allow people to access an extended supply of contraceptives.  In Montana the law will ensure that insurance coverage allows people to receive 12-month prescriptions for contraceptives.  In Nevada, which has already made contraceptive prescriptions available through pharmacists and allows 12-month supplies, it will become illegal for the government to put limits or requirements in place that would block people's access to birth control or reproductive health services.  The new laws come amid heightened concerns over whether the most commonly used drug for medication abortions will continue to be easily available and whether access to abortion procedures will be more generally available in the wake of the Supreme Court's June 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade.  In December, the Supreme Court agreed to consider Biden administration and drug-maker appeals defending FDA decisions that made it easier to access the mifepristone pill.

It is more important than ever for Americans to keep up with the latest state and local laws.  The legal field in an increasingly complicated minefield where what you don’t know can hurt you.  Remember that our legislators love to pass new laws.....without removing old ones.  Also remember that prosecutors love to selectively enforce them in order to blindside you when you least expect it.  If you want to protect yourself and your loved ones fully, you need to have a copy of our book, Stack the Legal Odds in Your Favor, in your arsenal.