Get Started: Health care law, same-sex marriage

NEW YORK (AP) — NEW FISCAL YEAR, NEW LAWS

July 1 marks the start of new fiscal years in many states — the date recently passed legislation goes into effect. Here are some new laws and regulations that small business owners should know about:

— In Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington, businesses will be prevented from demanding passwords to social media sites as a condition of employment. The law in Washington state also stops employers from compelling workers to add managers as "friends" so their profiles can be viewed.

Arizona has prepared for the possible collection of sales tax on Internet sales. Businesses that previously had to file sales tax returns in each municipality where they did business now only need to file one return. And they face only one sales tax audit rather than multiple audits under the previous system. A one-return, one-audit requirement is part of legislation pending in Congress to force companies to collect out-of-state sales tax from their customers.

Owners of corporations in New Mexico will be getting a tax break. A recently enacted law phases in tax cuts for corporations, including lowering the state's corporate income tax rate from 7.6 percent to 5.9 percent over five years, beginning Jan. 1. Currently, New Mexico's top rate is the highest among neighboring states. The measure also sweetens incentives for attracting television and film projects to the state.

Tanning salons face new regulations in New Jersey and Nevada to prohibit minors from using tanning beds. Oregon has a similar law that takes effect in January. The New Jersey law also bans anyone younger than 14 from getting even a spray tan.

California has realigned its government. Businesses and professionals who are licensed by the state will be overseen by the new Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which consolidates two current agencies.

In Colorado, gun dealers will be required to make background checks for online customers. And they won't be able to sell high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In Idaho, microbreweries that produce most of their beer in five-gallon kegs will be allowed to sell them to the public. Before the change, dealers or wholesalers were forbidden from making sales of beer in kegs that were smaller than 7 ½ gallons.

Vermont has a new equal pay law that seeks to close the wage gap between male and female workers. Employers must consider in good faith requests for flexible schedules and may not retaliate against employees for asking how much co-workers are making. The law also bars most employers from making personnel decisions based on HIV test results.

And Vermont is chipping in $5 million out of its unemployment insurance trust fund to offset unemployment insurance rate increases faced by employers after flooding disasters in 2011 forced them to close and lay off workers.

Finally, officials in Vermont have new authority to inspect home-based breeders of dogs, cats and wolf-hybrids. A new law also gives consumers rights to return and get an exchange or refund when a recently purchased animal has health or other problems.

A BILL TO CHANGE THE HEALTH CARE LAW

A GOP lawmaker has introduced a bill that would let businesses out of the health care law's requirement to provide coverage for employees who work 30 to 40 hours per week.

Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., introduced the bill Friday, about six months before the health care overhaul becomes effective on Jan. 1. Under the law, employers with 50 or more workers must provide affordable insurance for employees who are on the clock for 30 or more hours each week. Young's bill, which has the support of more than 100 other House members, would raise that threshold to 40 hours.

The 30-hour threshold has been criticized by some small business owners who say they cannot afford to add part-time workers to the pool of employees they must cover. Some employers, including restaurant operators, have said they might cut back the number of hours their part-timers work.

The National Federation of Independent Business, which argued unsuccessfully before the Supreme Court to have the health care law overturned, issued a statement in support of Young's bill. So did the International Franchise Association, whose members include fast-food chains and other employers that have many employees working fewer than 40 hours per week.

Supporters of the law say that coverage for part-time workers will benefit employers because it will increase worker loyalty and in turn contribute to higher productivity.

EMPLOYERS AND THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE RULING

Last week's Supreme Court ruling striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act can mean some changes are in store for business owners, according to Paychex, a payroll services provider.

The ruling means that married same-sex couples cannot be denied federal benefits in states where gay marriage is legal. Paychex says that includes tax benefits such as deductions for health insurance premiums and participation in Flexible Spending Accounts. And it means that employers are likely to have some added paperwork as they amend benefit plan documents and recalculate their employees' tax withholding.

The decision also means that same-sex spouses will be eligible to take leaves under the Family Medical Leave Act, Paychex says. The law requires employers with 50 or more workers to give them up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care immediate family members.

ONLINE SEMINARS

SCORE, the organization that provides free advice to small businesses, is holding online seminars on getting loans and using social media.

"Position Your Business to Access Capital" is the theme of a seminar July 9 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can register at http://tinyurl.com/n9nkepu

"Building Word of Mouth Using Social Media" is the topic July 11 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Register at http://tinyurl.com/p5u8jxp

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg

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