The Most Controversial Laws in Each State
Laws, in theory, are put in place to protect citizens. But the laws on this list are a bit outdated.
Laws are there to keep us safe and prevent bad things from happening. Of course, this doesn’t always work out because laws can be badly written, badly interpreted, or ignored altogether. Even if the federal government makes a law, the state’s governments are allowed to make their own. It can seem like an endless fight between different lawmakers, a fight that doesn’t always end in everyone’s best interests.
There will always be laws that not everyone agrees with. Some laws just don't keep up with the times and need to be changed. We’ve created a list of every state and their most controversial law. Some laws are serious issues that deserve attention and others just seem silly to get mad over—like the residents of one state who got mad over a new holiday. Does your state’s controversial law make you mad?
As we learned from West Virginia, even hunting laws can make people mad. In 2019, Wyoming passed a law that would establish strict rules on collecting and displaying antlers. You would no longer be allowed to collect antlers you find outside of the hunting season. Naturally, this law made collectors mad because they weren’t even hunting!
We, quite literally, owe our lives to doctors and nurses. We should want them to be taken care of too, right? Wrong! When Washington state passed a law that requires hospitals to give nurses uninterrupted food and rest breaks, many people were really mad. Senator Maureen Walsh even went so far as to say that nurses in small hospitals have nothing better to do than play cards all day.
Anthem, the health insurance company, was subject to heavy criticism in the past few years when it enacted a controversial emergency room policy in Missouri. This policy would allow Anthem to deny coverage on claims that are not considered to be an emergency. As you can guess, many people were really mad about the idea of an impersonal company deciding not to cover their ER visit because it was deemed “not an emergency.”
The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070) is a 2010 legislative act that became the most feared and strict anti-illegal immigration law passed in the United States. It allowed cops to demand papers from people they had “reasonable suspicion” of being illegal, which lead to horrible racial profiling.
Assembly Bill No. 1069 (AB 1069) was passed on October 13, 2017, much to the disappointment of local taxpayers. This law allows for large Hollywood tax breaks. The reason? Governor Brown said the entertainment industry must be saved at all costs to keep California relevant.
Governor Matt Bevin signed controversial legislation back in January of 2017, which would allow workers to refuse to pay union dues. The “Right to Work” law separates workers from the union. Situations like that inevitably end up with reduced wages, harsher working environments, and a silenced workforce. No wonder so many people were mad about it.
Health insurance is yet another hot-button issue we have to deal with. New Jersey passed a law that requires residents to sign up for health care, otherwise, they face a hefty fine during tax season. Of course, many people are angry about being forced into buying something—even if it’s health care.
In April of 2015, Arkansas passed a religious freedom bill that faced national backlash for allowing discrimination from business owners against members of the LGBT community, people of color, religious minorities, and others. This was largely regarded as a bad move and was harshly criticized by Arkansans and the rest of the country.
You wouldn’t think that establishing a new holiday or commemorative date would be controversial, but people will never fail to surprise you. In 2018, Illinois established August 4 as Barack Obama Day. It makes sense because he was the Senator of Illinois before he was president, but many people who are dedicated Obama-haters absolutely despise this new holiday.
Since 2013, Maryland has been using a controversial and powerful facial recognition software to catch criminals. The state-exclusive software combs through Maryland’s mugshots, driver’s licenses, and the FBI mugshot database using some of the most powerful facial recognition software around. It’s not exactly a law, but the controversy stems from the fact that privacy laws don’t protect anyone in this system.
In 2019, Governor Jared Polis signed the controversial “red flag” bill. Also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order, this law allows a family member, roommate, or police officer to seize someone’s personal firearms if that person is believed to be a risk to themselves or others. Many people view this law as unconstitutional.
In July of 2018, Idaho citizens had a whole new set of laws to follow. One of those laws was the controversial “Stand Your Ground” bill, which allows one to defend their home, place of work, or occupied vehicle with deadly force. This justifiable homicide law made many citizens angry because they believed it would encourage racial discriminations and “shoot first, ask questions later” logic.
Getting a job after serving time can be really difficult. New Mexico tried to make the applying process easier by making it illegal for employers to ask about your criminal history unless you bring it up first. This was very controversial because most people feel like they deserve to know if their potential employee is a criminal.
Iowa made steps to protect farmers and other property owners from people who lie to gain access to their property and intend to do harm in some way to the property, the people there, or a business. This seems great, except when you look closer you can plainly see this 2018 law as a bad attempt to protect the slaughterhouse and meatpacking industry from undercover reporters while covering up horrible animal abuse.
Montana used to truly be the land of the free because they had very lax speed limit laws. When the state government finally introduced an official speed limit there was also a $5 fine for anyone who was caught speeding for harming the environment. Residents started carrying bills in their car to give to officers who bothered to fine them, angering many locals.
In 2018, a new law was passed in Kansas regarding adoption laws that made many people very angry. The new law ensured that faith-based adoption agencies are allowed to turn away gay and lesbian couples based on religious beliefs. Who wouldn’t be mad over denying children a loving home because of someone else’s bigoted beliefs?
Legislation surrounding guns has been a hot-button issue for many years now, and that’s not likely to change soon. Florida passed Senate Bill 7030 (SB 7030) in early May of 2019, which would allow trained teachers to volunteer to carry weapons. As you can imagine, not many parents were too thrilled with this idea.
Recently, the Nevada governor signed the controversial “red flag” bill. This law allows a family member, roommate, or police officer to seize someone’s personal firearms if that person is believed to be a risk to themselves or others. As you can imagine, many people felt like their gun rights were being threatened.
You might not think voter laws should be confusing or controversial, but you’d be wrong. With all the rumors of corruption at the polls, North Dakota took it upon themselves to try and fix the problem. Voters must now bring a current, valid ID with a current address to vote. This can be very inconvenient for many reasons, and citizens voiced their anger on the new policy.
In June of 2019, Maine became the eighth state to legalize medically assisted suicide. Governor Janet Mills was unsure of the bill but believes it will be a good thing, as long as it’s used sparingly and only for those who truly need it. Many people oppose this law because it’s a natural reaction to want to extend life rather than end it early.
Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed Senate Bill 91 (SB 91) on July 11, 2016, which brought about major changes to the justice system. This was met with resistance because it took jail time off the table (or reduced the time) for most common crimes except homicides or sex crimes. It also required Alaska to hire for a new unit known as “Pretrial Services” to monitor inmates who might be out of jail before a court date.
While this law hasn’t been enacted yet, Regulation 225 was subject to a social media firestorm in 2017 because of its controversial aspects. The law would allow for discrimination against LBGT, particularly transgendered, youth in schools. It would force students to self-identify their gender and out those students to their parents. The revised proposal for 2018 is just as hated.
The right to protest is one of America’s cherished rights, especially in recent years. However, Minnesota lawmakers passed a controversial bill in 2017 that would give local governments the power to sue protestors to recover law enforcement costs. During a session on January 24, 2017, citizens showed up to publicly shame and criticize the representatives for the new law.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a law in 2015 that was very similar to Arkansas’s controversial law. Essentially, this new law allows for discrimination against religious minorities, people of color, and members of the LGBT community. Way to reverse the progress accomplished in the civil rights movement, Indiana.
There aren’t a whole lot of laws that relate to returning to the workforce after retirement, but New Hampshire just added one. This new law prevents retired police officers from “double-dipping” and working more than part-time at their old police department while collecting the extra hours and pay.
Fracking is bad for the environment, that’s just a fact. Knowing that, should states still allow it to happen? Pennsylvania thinks so. Lawmakers just allowed new fracking companies to come in and even signed an agreement that lets those companies off the hook for future water impurities.
“Ethan’s Law” was passed in May of 2019 and it angered many gun owners. The law states that guns, loaded or not, must be locked away in a home and out of reach from children. If an incident occurs with unlocked guns that result in the injury or death of a child in the home, the gun owner faces a felony charge. Of course, gun owners view this law as unconstitutional and impractical.
No matter what your stance is, you have to recognize that the topic of legalizing marijuana on any level is controversial. Ohio legalized medical marijuana, which angered a lot of residents who view the plant as a gateway drug to worse habits and activities.
This is an example of a good law that makes people mad. Vermont now requires a new process for deciding if a building project meets environmental safety standards. It’s controversial because of how much money it costs for businesses to do this. Apparently, people would rather have their new bank a few months quicker than wait and see if it’ll pollute the drinking water.
The topic of abortion has been popular in the news for a long time now, too. Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill that would ban abortions if a heartbeat could be detected. This can happen as early as five and a half to six weeks of gestation. This legislation challenges the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade case and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood plan to challenge this new legislation to court.
Like Colorado, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the “Red Flag” gun bill, which allows a relative or officer to remove the person’s firearms if they’re considered a danger. The idea is to prevent murders and suicides, but the law is ultimately seen as banning due process only for licensed gun owners.
On January 1, 2019, Hawaii’s highly controversial law went into effect. This new legislation legalizes assisted suicide for patients with a terminal illness. Hospitals and pharmacies in Hawaii say they won’t allow these medications to be filled or patients to do this procedure in their facility. Right-to-die laws are famous for being so intensely argued from both sides, and this one is no different.
Mississippi isn’t known for its groundbreaking laws, and in 2016, state legislators proved that once again. In reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, Mississippi wrote it’s own law, “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523). This law bans gay marriage on the state level, which made a lot of people really mad.
Currently, immigration topics are the biggest firestorms you can talk about. Everyone has an opinion and most people are passionate about it. Tennessee enacted a law that bans sanctuary cities and forces them to hold illegal immigrants for deportation. How do you feel about laws like that?
Michigan was the subject of controversy when Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate and deny services to prospective parents on religious grounds (basically exactly like Kansas’s law). This bill also requires the agency denying service to provide the would-be parents with references to other agencies and a written list of options.
Louisiana is one of the growing numbers of states that have signed strict anti-abortion laws. Like the “Heartbeat” Bill, this one bans abortion once a heart rate is detected and does not allow for any exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Naturally, half of the nation is incredibly upset by this decision.
Look twice and save a life! Motorcyclists are always in danger from drivers who aren’t paying attention. A new Utah law allows them to drive in between stopped cars to get ahead, but at what cost? It just seems dangerous and many Utah residents agreed.
In today’s political climate, you can expect any policy on immigration to be met with controversy, no matter what it says. Nebraska allowed children who were brought to America illegally to get a driver's license when they are of age. This lenient law made a lot of Nebraskans angry.
Transgender rights are another hotly debated subject in America, with many public figures taking a stance. North Carolina took a stance of their own and allowed transgender people to choose which bathroom they used based on self-identity. This is a great law, but unfortunately, there are a lot of hateful people out there who were mad about it.
Surely we’re all fans of non-discrimination laws, right? Wrong. Oklahoma’s new law ensured that faith-based adoption agencies are allowed to turn away gay and lesbian couples based on religious beliefs. Because turning away a loving home based on sexual orientation makes sense.
Abortion is a big issue right now and has been for a long time. While many states are making their abortion laws stricter, New York has made theirs more forgiving. Doctors no longer have to be the sole abortion providers, and abortions are allowed after 24 weeks under certain circumstances. Many people were really mad about these new allowances.
Oregon has joined the ranks of other states that signed the controversial “red flag” bill. This law allows a family member, roommate, or police officer to seize someone’s personal firearms if that person is believed to be a risk to themselves or others. Of course, many people view this as infringing on the right to bear arms.
In a shocking and scary new policy, the South Carolina governor chose to let the citizens have a lot of freedom with their guns. Residents no longer have to have a permit for a concealed or open-carry weapon. Pretty terrifying.
Like New York, Rhode Island decided to protect women and their right to an abortion. Even though many people disagree with the pro-choice movement, surely we can all agree that we don’t want women getting unsafe medical procedures done.
Discrimination is alive and well in the Lone Star State. Texas recently passed a law that allows faith-based adoption agencies to turn away gay and lesbian couples based on religious beliefs. Yeah, deny loving homes to children because of who they're married to.
Virginia took a controversial stance on abortion and removed some limitations, allowing for third-trimester procedures. Many people from both sides of the argument were shocked and appalled since third-trimester abortions have always been taboo.
Transphobia is not new, and it seems to be getting more intense all the time. South Dakota decided to ban the teaching of gender dysphoria in schools because they fear it would influence students into developing the condition. Obviously, this is controversial, because it denies the existence of transgender people and hides the concept from kids who might be going through something similar.
Hunting laws are rarely very controversial, but there was bound to be one that made people mad. Senate Bill 590 allowed for commercially guided bear hunting, and bear hunters and advocates from around the state showed up in protest. This law would put a price on bear heads and end up with illegal hunting all over just to satisfy a paying customer.
Wisconsin didn’t make waves in 2017 for abortion or immigration laws. No, the law that angered Wisconsin residents involved experimental drugs. Senate Bill 84 would allow patients to try out drugs not approved by the FDA if they were eligible. Citizens were enraged because they felt like it was a sort of legalized human medical experimentation.
On May 15, 2019, Governor Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act which brought about a near-total ban on abortion in the Southern state. This law undoes more than 40 years of protection that was afforded to women after the famous Roe v. Wade case. Get ready to see the horrifying effects of illegal abortion because this bill won’t stop abortions; it will only prevent safe abortions.