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Paid family leave, stricter car seat rules among new laws taking effect Jan. 1

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WASHINGTON – With a new year comes new laws across Washington state.

Beginning on January 1, 2020, the following news laws will take effect statewide:


The legal age to purchase cigarettes will jump to 21 next year in the state of Washington, but days before the law was to take effect, the same law took effect nationwide.

Smoke shops on tribal reservations are exempt from the new law.


Another change involves car seat laws. Starting Jan. 1, children who are shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches will need to sit in the back with a seat belt on top of a booster, regardless of their age.

This means that middle school children who are smaller than average could have to sit in a booster seat.

House Bill 1012 says a child must remain in a booster "until the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly, typically when the child is between the ages of eight and twelve years of age, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or must be properly secured with the motor vehicle's safety belt properly adjusted and fastened around the child's body."

Children under 13 years old must sit in the back seat of the vehicle.

For children under 2 years old, they must remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the height and weight specifications set by the seat manufacturer. Children aged 2 to 4 can be forward-facing in a car seat until they reach the specifications for a booster seat.


The minimum wage is also going up to $13.50 statewide in 2020, with exceptions based on city laws and how many people a company employs.

According to the state Department of Labor and Industry, employers can also pay some workers less than the state minimum wage, including:

  • Minors 14 to 15 years old (no less than 85% of minimum wage).
  • Workers who meet certain criteria (see below).
  • Jobs that are exempt from the Minimum Wage Act.

Employers can apply for a sub-minimum wage certificate in the following areas:

  • Certificated on-the-job learners (no less than 85% of minimum wage).
  • Certificated student workers and student learners (no less than 75% of minimum wage).
  • Certificated workers with disabilities.
  • Certain apprentices.


People will also now have the right to take up to 12 to 18 weeks of paid family leave, so long as they’ve worked a minimum of 820 hours in a year.

This can be for reasons including a serious illness of a qualifying family member, or a birth of a child.

When you take paid leave, you could receive up to 90 percent of your weekly pay — up to a maximum of $1,000 a week.

According to the state website, certain workers are not automatically eligible for paid leave, including:

  • Federal employees
  • People employed by businesses located on tribal land (see below)
  • Self-employed people who choose not to opt in to the state program

Learn more here.

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