UNDERAGE-SMOKING

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New year, news laws in Massachusetts as the legal age to buy tobacco in the Commonwealth went up, as did the state's minimum wage as part of new laws starting Jan 1. State income tax rate will come down, and new prison inmate placement and treatment regulations are in effect.

About 662,000 workers will see an increase in their paychecks, as minimum wage climbs from $11 to $12 as part of an annual increase that will set the hourly wage at $15 in 2023. The Bay State joins California and Washington as the states with the highest minimum wage.

The sub-minimum wage for restaurant servers and other tipped workers will increase from $3.75 to $4.35 an hour, eventually reaching $6.75 by 2023. Time-and-a-half pay on Sundays will phase out as a result of the change.

Anyone who didn’t turn 18 by Dec. 31 will have to wait, as the legal age to purchase cigarettes, e-cigs and other tobacco products has been upped from 18 to 21 years old. The measure punishes retailers who sell to underage customers, but does not make it a crime for minors to smoke tobacco. 

 

The state income tax will drop from 5.1 percent to 5.05 percent, and the state tacked on a $2 surcharge for rented vehicles.

Proceeds from the fee will go into a fund for police officer training programs. If the surcharge exceeds $10 million in any year, the additional money go into the state’s General Fund.

Governor Charlie Baker and Beacon Hill lawmakers crafted stricter guidelines for “restrictive housing” and solitary confinement usage in order to minimize risk of serious mental health damaged caused by restrictive housing as part of a large scale overhaul of the Massachusetts criminal justice system.

Inmates will also be provided with clothing and other items consistent with their gender identities and may request that an officer performing a body search be of the same gender.

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