Massachusetts welcomes new laws in 2017

BOSTON (WHDH) - When the clock strikes midnight on Saturday to usher in a new year, Massachusetts will welcome several new laws for 2017.

New laws will introduce a higher minimum wage, checks on drivers for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, a temporary cap on MBTA fares and complex marijuana regulations.

The state’s minimum wage will start at $11 per hour, a one-dollar per hour increase from where it previously stood. The new rate will be one of the highest minimum wages in the country, beating California’s scheduled $10.50 minimum wage for establishments with at least 26 workers. The District of Columbia leads the country with a minimum wage of $11.50. That number, as is the case for minimum wage figures in other states, is set to increase by July 2017.

State law will now require Uber and Lyft drivers to submit to background checks in Massachusetts. The drivers will undergo full state criminal background checks to scan for registered sex offender status, though it will not require drivers’ fingerprints.

New laws also cap fare hikes for T  passengers – for this year, at least. The approved legislation allows the MBTA to increase fares every two years.

Since Dec. 15, 2016 Bay State residents could legally smoke recreational marijuana.

That legal status continues into the new year. However, while residents can legally smoke and possess small amounts of the substance, it will remain illegal to purchase or sell marijuana until July 2018.

SEE RELATED: Massachusetts approves recreational marijuana

Mass. legislators voted in an informal session on Dec. 28 to delay when recreational marijuana shops would open in the state, saying they needed more time to revise the bill. Charlie Baker signed the bill on Friday, Dec. 30, officially delaying when the shops could begin operations.

The originally-approved bill passed by voters on election day said shops could legally open in January 2018. Lawmakers now have an extra six months to create revisions.

SEE RELATED: Opening date for marijuana dispensaries is changing

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