This week in wins: Equal pay is now the law in New Jersey


In other good news, the House passes a law to end discrimination in the tax code, and Maine takes a compassionate stance toward asylum-seekers.

Special counsel Robert Mueller dominated the news both before and after his congressional testimony, but that wasn't all that happened this week.

From coast to coast, lawmakers work every day to make a positive impact, even if those efforts don't make national headlines. Here is some good news for the week.

New Jersey helps ensure pay equity with new state law

Employers in New Jersey can no longer ask workers about their wage and salary history, thanks to a new bill signed into law on Thursday.

The law addresses the wage gap and gender equity, because asking about salary histories "perpetuat[ed] the wage gap by allowing prospective employers to offer lower salaries to women and minorities than they otherwise would," according to InsiderNJ.

"I am proud to sign this bill today for our women, children and families, which will institute this policy as state law, and put an end to this discriminatory workplace practice once and for all," Acting Gov. Sheila Oliver said when she signed the bill into law. (New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is on a family vacation, which is why Oliver signed the bill.)

"Salary offers to new hires based primarily on their previous salaries only perpetuate the wage gap in our workforce," Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt said. "Working women deserve better."

House passes PRIDE Act to end anti-LGBTQ discrimination in tax code

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the PRIDE Act. This bill would remove gendered language from the U.S. tax code in order to make the language welcoming for same-sex couples. For example, phrases like "husband and wife" would be replaced with gender-neutral terms like "spouse" and "married couple," according to a press release from Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), one of the lead sponsors of the bill.

"Legalizing same-sex marriage has meant greater equality for families across our country," Chu said. "It's time our tax code reflect that."

The bill would also allow same-sex couples to go back and refile some federal tax returns as married couples if they were previously prevented from doing so.

"The PRIDE Act moves our country closer to true equality and equity for the LGBTQ community and I am proud that the House today passed this important bill," Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA), another of the bill's lead sponsors, said.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it's fate depends upon the whims of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Maine will make life a little easier for asylum-seekers

Maine's governor announced new regulations on July 18 to make it easier for asylum-seekers to receive state aid, the Associated Press reported. Under the new regulations, asylum-seekers can qualify for assistance vouchers by proving they are taking "reasonable good faith steps" to apply for immigration relief.

"This amended rule assists cash-strapped municipalities dealing with an unexpected influx of people, and it motivates all families who are lawfully present in our state to complete every step on the path to asylum and, hopefully, on the path to citizenship,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills said.

Mills' actions roll back more draconian restrictions on state aid for asylum-seekers put in place by her predecessor, Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Oregon prevents stalkers and abusers from keeping guns

The Oregon governor signed a new law on Tuesday to prevent stalkers and domestic abusers from getting their hands on guns, according to the Associated Press.

The new law adds new penalties to stalkers or domestic abusers who refuse to relinquish their guns despite a court order.

"The deadly combination of guns and domestic violence is well documented," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said before signing the bill. "While mass shootings make headlines, it is all too common that gun violence occurs behind closed doors and away from TV cameras."

"This legislation represents another step forward in improving Oregon's commonsense gun laws, ensuring that no one else lives in fear from firearms in the wrong hands," she added.

House passes bill to ensure better conditions at border facilities

After weeks of news about the horrific conditions migrants face at border detention centers, the House of Representatives passed a bill to ensure minimum health and safety standards. If it becomes law, the bill passed on Wednesday would require health screenings and basic needs such as enough food and water for detainees held at border patrol facilities.

"Today's vote brings us closer than ever to preventing the deaths of children and restoring humanity to our treatment of children and families seeking asylum," Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), a former emergency room doctor, said on Wednesday.

The bill passed with unanimous support from Democrats, who were joined by a lone Republican, Rep. Don Young of Alaska.

California law to provide better access to safe drinking water

One million Californians don't have access to safe drinking water, but a new law seeks to rectify that. On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law to spend up to $130 million to improve local water systems, HuffPost reported.

Wildfires in the state, along with years of drought, threaten the safety of some tap water, according to HuffPost.

"The fact that more than a million Californians can't rely on clean water to drink or bathe in is a moral disgrace," Newsom said in a statement about the new law. "Parents shouldn't have to worry about their kids drinking from the water fountain at school, and families shouldn't have to dump water over their heads to shower every day."

Come back next week for more good news.