New year, new laws: a raft of changes in 2014
So what is changing? Well, if you are driving in Oregon with children in your car, do not light up. It’ll be illegal. And if you’re driving inSwitzerland, turn your headlights on. Even if it’s the middle of the day.
While we’re on the subject of lighting, if you live in Canada please remove those last incandescent lightbulbs – they won’t be allowed any more.
Other things that are no being banned: owning unregistered assault weapons in Connecticut; harassing celebrities and their children with long-lens cameras in California; hunting elephants in Botswana andinjudicious calls to the London Fire Brigade (if you’re a business you’ll be fined for false alarms). Oh, and if you’re an architect practising in Texas, you will have to get yourself fingerprinted. Don’t ask why.
On the other hand, there are moments of great liberalisation to salute. Colorado on Wednesday will become the first state in the US to allow thesale of marijuana for recreational purposes. Also in America, for the first time it will be OK to be a gay Boy Scout, while for their British counterparts, it’s OK to be an atheist. For Germans, liberalisation comes in more subtle ways, such as the new dispensation for universities and libraries, which will henceforth be allowed to upload “orphaned” works of art on to the internet without permission.
If you’re Bulgarian or Romanian, welcome. Work restrictions across the EU for citizens of two of the poorest EU countries are lifted. But despite the dire warnings from the right (er, people who are supposed to believe in free markets no less) the indications are that there will be no suddeninflux of Balkan builders.
In a less-observed border relaxation, it will become much easier for Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan as the Chinese authorities make a concerted effort to improve cross-strait ties.
And in the unlikely event that you are off to do some shopping in Latvia, leave your lats at home and take euros instead: the Baltic republic becomes the 18th country to join the single currency zone.
Indeed, institutional changes are a 1 January perennial. Russia will run the G8 for a year while Greece gets its turn to lead the EU. Democrat Bill de Blasio takes over as New York mayor. And Barack Obama’s system of healthcare coverage, known as Obamacare, is formally launched with hundreds of thousands of newly insured Americans presenting a formidable test to a system that has endured a difficult birth.
If you die in Hungary, fear not: from Wednesday the state will reportedly provide a free grave, coffin or urn – and even a free shovel for gravedigging – to poorer sections of society.
The other thing that 1 January signifies is the start of a year dedicated to an issue or theme. So prepare yourself, and make any necessary adjustments to your schedule, to accommodate the International Year of Family Farming, the International Year of Crystallography and the International Year of Small Island Developing States.
Happy new year.
• Work restrictions across the EU are lifted for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria.
• Greece takes over EU presidency.
• Latvia joins the eurozone.
• The European fiscal compact, which forces countries across the eurozone to deliver a balanced budget, becomes operational.
• The amount of time migrants have to wait before claiming benefits is lengthened to three months.
• London Fire Brigade becomes the first service in the country to introduce a charging scheme for callouts to false alarms at buildings such as hospitals, airports and student accommodation.
• Regulation of undercover police – new rules come into force requiring higher level of authorisation
• Average season ticket prices are due to rise by 4.1%
• Scout Association introduces pledge that removes the promise by Scouts to do their duty to God.
• The Defamation Act 2013 is set to change libel laws. Claimants will need to show they have suffered “serious harm” before suing.
• Individuals allowed to import 10 (200 cigarette) boxes of cigarettes.
• Minimum hourly wage rises by 10 cents an hour to €9.53 (£8).
• “Red Bull” tax comes into effect on energy drinks – €1 a litre.
• Minimum hours to be considered “part-time” worker – 24 hours a week• Anyone can demand their home be checked for electromagnetic waves. Same applies to public spaces.
• New code of conduct for police insisting they use the more respectful and formal “vous” when addressing the public and suspects and have a number on their uniform so they can be identified.
• The validity period for a French identity card rises from 10 to 15 years
• The points system for driving licences will be simplified. Minor offences are punished with fewer points, but Germans will only need eight instead of 18 points to lose their driving licence.
• The tax for bars of silver will jump from roughly €1 to €2 an ounce.
• From 1 January Germans will make less money from subletting their flats. Previously, citizens were able to offset the average local rent for a 60 sq metre flat against tax, in the future they will be able to claim back no more than €1,000 a month.
• Universities and libraries will be allowed to upload “orphaned” works of art – artworks, photographs or books whose creator can no longer be identified – on to the internet without getting permission.Previously, they were only able to do so with the explicit permission of a copyright holder.
• Competition for a new national anthem starts.
• Using car headlights in daylight hours becomes mandatory.
• Takes helm of the G8.
• Minimum wage rises in 14 states.
• Oregon: no smoking in a car with children.
• Colorado becomes the first state in the US to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.
• Affordable Care Act – individual mandate takes effect, requiring most Americans to buy health insurance.
• Guns that are considered assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines that have not been registered with Connecticut authorities will be considered illegal contraband.
• Photographers who harass celebrities and their children face tougher penalties under a law in California backed by actors Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner.
• Bill de Blasio becomes New York mayor.
• Texas requires all architects to be fingerprinted.
• The Boy Scouts of America lifts a ban on openly gay members after the organisation’s national council voted against the rule in late May.
• The visa process for mainland Chinese visitors to Taiwan will be streamlined in an effort to bolster cross-strait ties
• Botswana, home to a third of the global elephant population, bans commercial hunting amid growing concerns about the decline in wildlife species.
• Travel for Kenyans, Rwandans and Ugandans to each other’s countries will become easier with the use of national identity cards as travel documents and an east African tourist visa
Reporting team: Dan Roberts in Washington, Kim Willsher in Paris, Alex Hern, Dan Milmo, Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing, Philip Oltermann in Berlin, and Dan Nolan in Budapest