New Jersey

Package Robots, Plastic Bags, the End of ‘Freeholder': Here Are Our New Laws for 2021

Plus, minimum wage is going up in New Jersey, and the Move Over law is coming to Pennsylvania

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2021 is a new year – and with it come new laws in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The new laws will change everything from what you put your groceries in (Delaware) to what you call your local elected official (New Jersey) to – and we aren’t making this up – how fast delivery robots can go on your sidewalk (Pennsylvania).

And yes, New Jersey voters approved the use of recreational marijuana in a referendum last year. But don’t get excited yet; the actual legislation that paves the way for use has not yet been passed, so marijuana is still illegal in the Garden State.

Here are some of the new laws taking effect:

Delaware's New Laws

Delaware has banned single-use grocery bags for most retailers, including large stores and chain stores with more than three locations.

The exceptions include bags used to wrap meat, unwrapped food or flowers; dry-cleaner bags and bags that contain live animals, such as fish.

New Jersey's New Laws

New Jersey is retiring the term "freeholder," which was used for county leaders who oversee county finances and other affairs.

Freeholder is a Jersey anachronism that has long been debated. It's offensive to many, since it originally referred only to white men who owned land free of debt and therefore could hold office.

Now, county leaders will be called the more commonly used title "county commissioner." Counties will have to update letterhead and stationery over the next year.

More important, New Jersey’s minimum wage is going up. Starting Friday, it will rise to $12 an hour.

The increase is part of the state’s plan to gradually reach a $15 minimum wage for most industries through increases of $1 a year from now until 2024.

“It’s good news for the working people of New Jersey, especially the working poor,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska of New Jersey Citizen Action. “It will not help people who lost work in the pandemic or even hours, but it will help families struggling to buy food or pay utility bills.”

The minimum wage in Delaware is $9.25 an hour. In Pennsylvania, it's $7.25 an hour.

“The majority of states are still at $7.25, which is really a poverty wage," Mottola Jaborska said.

Pennsylvania's New Laws

Later this year, the “Move Over” law is coming to the Keystone State. That law requires drivers to move over one lane for emergency crews and law enforcement on a road or its shoulder.

If you can’t move over, you must slow to at least 20 mph less than the posted speed limit.

After the law – which is also used in several other states – takes effect Apr. 27, failing to move over could lead to a $500 fine and two points on your license. Fines go up for subsequent offenses.

Also, drivers could be fined $10,000, in addition to other charges, for injuring or killing an emergency service responder or a person in or near a disabled vehicle.

In a much more pedestrian new law, Pennsylvania has allowed package delivery robots to roll on streets and sidewalks.

The robots must be less than 550 pounds can go up to 12 miles per hour.

Package delivery robots have been spotted on several Pennsylvania sidewalks during trials. They can deliver food or small packages without a human driver.

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