New laws take effect in Washington this week

More than 200 new laws take effect in Washington state this week, including a package of bills meant to address sexual misconduct at the workplace.

Lawmakers ended their 60-day legislative session in March, and most of the more than 300 bills passed take effect Thursday. Among them, the workplace sexual misconduct laws, one of which prohibits nondisclosure agreements that prevent employees from disclosing sexual harassment or assault.

Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act seeks to reform representation of minorities in local elections by opening the possibility of court challenges to cities, counties, and school districts to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present.

Lawmakers also passed a bill this year that seeks to reduce the wage gap between men and women and provide equal growth opportunities and fair treatment in the workplace.

Other bills protect high school and college students’ rights to publish and speak freely in school-sponsored media; threaten sanctions for licensed health care providers should they perform conversion therapy on a patient under the age of 18, and provide that the Washington State Patrol will conduct a study on the number of missing Native American women in the state.

Meanwhile, Washington was the first state to enact its own net-neutrality requirements this year after U.S. regulators repealed Obama-era rules that banned internet providers from blocking content or interfering with online traffic. The new state law keeps those previous protections in place and is contingent on the federal rules ending.

Unlike the other laws taking effect Thursday, the net neutrality measure won’t be enacted until the rules expire on June 11th. (AP)

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