A raft of new federal and local laws ring in the new year, governing a span of topics from health care and finance to texting, guns and smoking.
Among the most far-reaching pieces of legislation is the new federal health-care law which this year includes new taxes on drug makers, as well as lower prescription-drug costs for many seniors and restrictions on tax-free medical spending. The provisions come amid heated debate, with many lawmakers saying they hope to overturn the health-care law.
Another new federal law gives borrowers more specific information on the interest rates they pay on credit cards and other loans. Beginning this year, consumers have the right to find out why they didn't get the best possible terms on a credit-card or non-business loan. Credit-card companies and other lenders must provide a risk-based pricing notice or a credit score to explain the reasoning behind interest rates.
Federal regulations will begin requiring new and upgraded power plants, oil refiners and other large facilities to hold permits to release greenhouse gases.
State legislators passed about 31,000 news laws in 2010, down slightly from the previous year. Many of those laws took effect at the start of this year, and many reflect the potential misuse of computers.
Illinois lawmakers, for example, enacted a law aimed at catching people who use webcams to engage in virtual sex acts with children. California made it illegal to intimidate, threaten or defraud someone using a website.