Updated Jan 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Gender-neutral toy aisles, blackout license plates, anti-book bans: New laws for 2024

 Confetti fills the sky as the countdown to the new year is marked by the Ball Drop and fireworks during the Times Square New Year's Eve 2024 Celebration on December 31, 2023 in New York City.

Confetti fills the sky as the countdown to the new year is marked by the Ball Drop and fireworks during the Times Square New Year's Eve 2024 Celebration in New York City on Sunday. Photo: Roy Rochlin/WireImage

A new year brings new laws in several U.S. states, as 2024 gets underway.

Why it matters: From an anti-book ban law in Illinois to wider access to birth control, states legislatures across the country will reconvene for another year of policy-making on the nation's most contentious, often cultural, issues.

  • Among the notable state laws taking effect in early 2024:

DEI ban

Texas' public colleges must comply with a newly signed state law banning diversity, equity and inclusion offices on their campuses.

  • The move comes as Republican-driven backlash over DEI is sharpening in politics, business and academics.

Gender-neutral toy aisles

California will officially mandate gender-neutral toy aisles for large retailers.

The law states that retail stores with 500 or more workers must sell toys and child care products (excluding clothes) in a gender-neutral section that's "labeled at the discretion of the retailer ... regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys."

  • Retailers can continue to offer other toys and child care goods that are traditionally marketed specifically toward girls or boys.

Wider access to birth control

HRA Pharma's Opill will become available at drug stores, convenience after the Food and Drug Administration last year approved it as first daily birth control pill to be sold without a prescription.

  • The increased availability, which is expected to reduce barriers to accessing contraceptives, was seen as a post-Roe "game changer," Dr. Julia Cron, chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, previously Axios.

Yes, but: A number of states, including Montana and Nevada, are allowing people to access an extended supply of birth control.

  • New Jersey will join dozens of states in allowing pharmacists to administer self-administered hormonal contraceptives without a prescription.

Unintended pregnancies are linked to an unmet need for contraception, the CDC has said.

  • Experts have hoped the FDA move helps lower this rate.

No book bans

Illinois became the first state to pass a law penalizing libraries that ban books last year, as conservative efforts have mounted to restrict access to texts that often address race or LGBTQ+ issues.

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a bill now in effect that makes public libraries ineligible for state funding if they ban materials because of "partisan or doctrinal" disapproval.

Of the more than 1,400 reported book ban cases last year, 74% were connected to organized efforts of advocacy groups, elected officials, or enacted legislation, per PEN America.

  • The organization recommended that policymakers, school boards and district administrators consider the many reasons for including and celebrating books rather than restricting them.

Increased minimum wage

The minimum wage increased in 22 states as of Jan. 1.

  • For Americans making minimum wage, it's an automatic raise — but it also ripples out, Axios' Emily Peck writes.
  • Typically, increasing the wage floor for the lowest earners pushes up pay for those who make a bit more than the minimum, as employers have to adjust pay scales upwards.
  • Three more states and Washington, D.C., are set to raise the wage later in the year.

See the full map of state-by-state minimum wage.

Stricter gun legislation

In Michigan, the Democratic-led Senate approved a package last year to increase regulations on gun ownership for residents in an effort to reduce gun violence.

  • Among the gun safety proposals were safe storage laws, more expansive background checks and so-called red flag laws.

In California, a law banning concealed guns in most public places was allowed to take effect on Jan. 1 after a federal appeals court stayed a lower-court ruling that had blocked it.

  • The law will be in effect as legal challenges against it continue through the courts.

Blackout license plates

In Minnesota, drivers can now opt for popular "blackout" license plates. Other new designs celebrate professional sports teams and recognize missing and murdered indigenous relatives.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments.

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