statutes

sunset law

A law that automatically terminates the agency or program it establishes unless the legislature expressly renews it. For example, a state law creating and funding a new drug rehabilitation program within state prisons may provide that the program will shut down in two years unless it is reviewed and approved by the state legislature.

Social Security tax

A portion of the FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) tax that is 12.4% of an individual's net earned income. The employee's share of the Medicare tax is 6.2% of wages up to a certain limit (called the Social Security Wage Base) that increases each year. The employer's share of the Medicare tax is 6.2% of an employee's wages up to that limit.

shield laws

Statutes in some states that make communications between news reporters and informants confidential and privileged, freeing journalists of the obligation to testify about them in court. This is similar to the doctor-patient, lawyer-client, or priest-parishioner privilege. The goal is to let journalists gather news without being ordered to reveal sources and notes of conversations. In states that have no shield law, many judges have found reporters in contempt of court (and given them jail terms) for refusing to name informants or reveal information gathered on the promise of confidentiality.

serious health condition

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees may take leave for their own serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves (1) inpatient care; (2) incapacity for more than three full days with continuing treatment by a health care provider; (3) incapacity due to pregnancy or prenatal care; (4) incapacity due to, or treatment for, a chronic serious health condition; (5) permanent or long-term incapacity for a condition for which treatment may not be effective, such as a terminal illness; or (6) absence for multiple treatments for either restorative surgery following an injury or accident, or a condition that would require an absence of more than three days if not treated.

Section 8

The name of a federally financed housing assistance program, in which the government helps low-income tenants with rent payments. Typically, the government pays about one-third of the rent, and the tenant pays the balance. Landlords who choose to participate in the Section 8 program must have their properties inspected, and must agree to use the lease addendum issued by HUD, which obligates the landlord to a rental term of no less than one year, and specifies allowable reasons for termination.

Section 1981

A shorthand reference to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which declares African Americans to be citizens entitled to a series of rights previously reserved to white men. Among the rights conferred by Section 1981 are the right to sue or be sued in court, to give evidence in a lawsuit, to purchase property, and to make and enforce contracts, which courts have interpreted to prohibit racial discrimination in employment.

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