From farm workers to minimum wage hikes: The new laws rolling out in California

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Criminal Justice Reform Minors accused of crimes will have to be at least 12 years old for a case to be heard in juvenile court (unless the case involves an allegation of rape or murder); anyone under that age will be referred instead to local services like mental health treatment or dependency court. Senate Bill (SB) 1391 prohibits prosecutors from seeking to try anyone under the age of 16 as an adult, preventing some minors from being sent directly to state prison instead of juvenile hall. Cannabis legalization efforts in California has left a disparity between people on the right and wrong side of the law with respect to marijuana. Assembly Bill (AB) 1793 helps eliminate some of that disparity by allowing people convicted of certain pot-related offenses before legalization to seek a reduction or elimination of their sentence in an expeditious manner. In Yolo County, a similar program has been in place since the start of 2018; the assembly bill mandates much of the same to take place statewide. AB 3118 requires state officials to conduct an audit of untested rape kits throughout California; some analysts say tens of thousands of kits could turn up untested as a result of the audit. AB 1619 allows victims of sexual assault to seek damages up to a decade from the incident, increasing the statute of limitation for that offense in civil court. Driving and Cycling California drivers who are convicted of an alcohol-related DUI offense will have to install temporary ignition-based breathalyzers in their cars for a short time. The move, which rolls out statewide at the start of the year, comes after a similar pilot program in a handful of counties. Car owners will not be able to avoid a fine for installing a loud muffler or otherwise having a noisy exhaust system; previously, owners could avoid a fine if they fixed the issue, but AB 1824 now requires offenders to pay off the ticket. People who purchase certain low- and zero-emissions vehicles will be allowed to apply for a special decal that grants access to carpool lanes on California highways. The privilege ends in 2025 unless it is renewed by a new legislative action and applies mainly to cars purchased after the start of the new year ; hybrid and zero-emission vehicles purchased before 2017 will lose access to the carpool lane after the first of the year, while cars purchased between 2017 and 2018 are eligible for a special decal that grants carpool access until 2022. Dealerships will be required to affix temporary license plates when a car is purchased before it is driven off the lot. Previously, dealers were not required to install temporary license plates, and drivers were given a grace period of six months to obtain a permanent plate from the DMV — an issue that frustrated those tasked with collecting tolls from bridges. The temporary plates are seen as a way of closing this loophole. Lawmakers raised the threshold for requiring a vehicle to undergo a smog check as a requirement for registration renewal. Vehicles will now have to get a smog check eight years from the model year, granting drivers an additional two years from the previous law. Drivers will have to pay a $25 smog abatement fee during the seventh and eighth year of a vehicle, and a $12 abatement fee is still mandated for cars newer than 6 years old. Under AB 1755, cyclists involved in a crash will be required to stop at the scene of the incident. Those who flee could be subject to felony hit-and-run charges. Police will be able to issue fix-it tickets to juveniles who ride a bike without a helmet, while adults who operate electric scooters can do so at speeds up to 35 miles per hour without wearing a helmet. Elections Elections officials will be required to issue postage-paid ballot envelopes for vote-by-mail ballots cast thanks to AB 216. Supporters say it is one more step toward easing voting access in the Golden State and could help speed up ballot processing and vote counting. Employment The #MeToo movement had an impact on a handful of incoming laws at the state level. SB 820 prohibits private companies from forcing employees to sign non-disclosure agreements when workers come forward with sexual misconduct claim, while SB 1300 prevents companies from forcing those same workers to sign waivers of liability in order to stay employed with a business. Mothers who are nursing will also have added protections in the workplace, with AB 1976 requiring businesses provide space for nursing moms to breastfeed. Previously, businesses were allowed to relegate mothers to the restroom when they needed to breastfeed, but AB 1976 requires employers offer space for moms that is not a bathroom. The state’s gradual minimum wage increase will see another bump in base pay to $12 an hour for businesses with more than 26 employees at the start of the year. For smaller businesses, employers will be required to pay staffers $11 an hour, up from $10.50 last year. California also becomes the first state in the country to require overtime pay for farm workers who are on the job for more than 9.5 hours a day or 55 hours a week. The mandate applies only to farms with 26 or more people, with smaller farms exempt from the provision for the next three years. Food Services If you want a straw with your drink at a sit-down restaurant, you’ll now need to ask for one: AB 1884 prohibits servers from automatically handing out plastic straws with drink orders unless a customer specifically requests it (fast food restaurants are exempt, and some sit-down restaurants have been getting around this ban by asking customers if they want a straw). Kids meals will no longer come with soda by default, with SB 1192 requiring restaurants serve water or unflavored milk instead (parents can still request soda for their kids). Local governments are now blocked from prohibiting small businesses from selling food out of homes, while sidewalk vendors are allowed to set up shop anywhere in public with limited restrictions. Gender Identification Under SB 169, California residents will be allowed to “self-certify their chosen gender category” when applying for state identification cards and driver’s licenses. The three options available are male, female and non-binary, with the third choice appearing as an “X” in the spot for gender on an ID card. Gun Control California already requires prospective handgun purchasers to be at least 21 years of age, and SB 1100 will increase the age to 21 for shotgun and long gun purchases as well. “Bump stocks” will become illegal at the state level, matching a move by the Trump administration at the federal level, though the matter is subject to a federal lawsuit over the constitutionality of the ban.  Police will also be able to confiscate firearms and ammunition from those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, and offenders will lose their right to own a firearm after their conviction. Pets First responders who encounter a distressed animal are now allowed to provide mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and other medical assistance, where previously that kind of aid could only be rendered by a licensed vet. Meanwhile, AB 485 bans pet stores that sell cats, dogs and rabbits from obtaining those animals from a place other than a rescue group or animal shelter in an attempt to curb private animal breeding businesses like puppy mills from operating in the state. Police Accountability Law enforcement agencies must disclose images and videos captured from body cameras and other recordings within 45 days of a police shooting or excessive force cases that result in death or bodily injury under a new law passed by state legislators. The public will also gain access to certain law enforcement personnel records that were previously exempt under California’s open records law, including documents related to use of force, sexual misconduct claims and other workplace matters. Safety A law that flew under the radar when it passed last year demands residential care facilities create emergency preparedness plans that, among other things, requires those facilities to sustain itself for 72 hours after an emergency and provide alternatives to certain resources — including water and electricity — if those services become unavailable because of an outage. It also requires employees of residential care facilities to undergo certain emergency preparedness and response training when those employees are hired and at least once a year after their employment. Schools AB 1248 protects students who want to wear religious and cultural garments during graduation ceremonies, prohibiting school officials from banning such material. The law comes after a student in Elk Grove was kicked out of a ceremony for wearing a kente cloth, which officials said violated their graduation policy (the school district has since rolled back their policy on the matter).]]>

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