A number of new laws going into effect on January 1, 2020 may help Winchendon residents out financially, but create challenges for small businesses.

The state minimum wage increases 75 cents to $12.75 per hour. This is the second in a planned series of increases toward a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2023. At $15 per hour, Massachusetts will have the highest state minimum wage in the country (unless other states increase their minimum wage before that). California's minimum wage is now $13 per hour.

Minimum pay for tipped employees has gone up 60 cents to $4.95 per hour. This represents an additional $21 per week in base pay for a tipped employee working a 35-hour week. By 2023, this minimum wage will rise to $6.75 per hour.

Workers will be giving back less of their raises in taxes; the state income tax has dropped to 5 percent from 5.05 percent.

It is now illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving, with fines of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for subsequent offenses. Texting while driving remains strictly against the law.

Parents who open a 529 account for their new baby (including adopted babies) are eligible to receive $50 seed money to help save for their baby's college education. This program is funded through private donations, not taxes. Bob Hildreth has donated $300,000 to the program through his Hildreth Stewart Charitable Foundation.

Automatic voter registration is now in effect. If you get a driver's license or get health insurance through the MA Health Connector, you are eligible to vote and you're not registered, you will be registered automatically. If you don't want to be enrolled, you will have to opt out.

The Massachusetts electric car rebate program, MOR-EV, has been revived as of January 1. Purchasers of an electric vehicle costing less than $50,000 are eligible for a rebate of $2500 for an all-electric vehicle or $1500 for a plug-in hybrid that can travel at least 25 miles per battery charge. The very popular program was cancelled last September 30 when it ran out of money, but the Legislature has budgeted $27 million for rebates over the next two years.