photo courtesy of Hakan Dahlstrom @ flickr.com

With the New Year… comes new laws, and here in California, there are some pretty big changes! There were actually hundreds of new laws put into effect on January 1st; however, I have listed the ones that may be of interest to you.

 

 

 

WORK

  • At companies with 26 or more employees, the minimum wage will increase from $10 an hour to $10.50.
  • Employers are prohibited from compensating women less than their male colleagues based on prior salary. And, of course, workers in “substantially similar” jobs, but of different race or ethnicity, will also need to be paid equal wages.
  • Applicants will not be obligated to disclose information about an arrest, detention, or court case to an employer if it happened while the person was younger than 18 years old.

COMMUTE

  • Children younger than 2 years old must sit in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Those convicted of driving under the influence must install a device in their cars that would ensure they are sober before they can start the ignition. (I especially like this one!)
  • The state’s ban on texting while driving expands to include other distractions, such as searching for “Pokemon Go” characters.
  • Once a gray area for motorcyclists, new rules will be established by the California Highway Patrol for how fast they can drive when riding between cars along the lane line.
  • Companies including Uber and Lyft can no longer hire drivers who are registered sex offenders, have been convicted of violent felonies or have had a DUI conviction within the last seven years.
  • Drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft can’t have a blood alcohol content of 0.04 or more.
  • Charter bus drivers must provide written or video instructions to passengers on how to use the vehicle’s safety equipment and emergency exits.
  • School districts must improve bus driver training to avoid students being left alone on buses and must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles if students are left behind.

FINANCES

  • There will be new protections against foreclosure for surviving spouses who own their home but are not listed on the mortgage.
  • A program providing electric car rebates will now only be available to those making $150,000 a year or less.
  • To help the state’s housing crises, it will be easier for California homeowners to construct additional small units on their properties, whether in their garages or as freestanding second structures.
  • The cost for lead-acid batteries like those used to start cars and trucks will increase to help pay for cleaning up contaminated sites like the former Exide battery plant in Los Angeles County. Consumers will see the new $1 fee starting in April.

CRIME

  • Inspired by the allegations against Bill Cosby, California eliminated statutes of limitations for rape and other sex crimes.
  • In response to the outrage over the six-month sentence for sexual assault given to former Stanford student Brock Turner, prison time will be mandatory or those convicted of assault in which the victim was unconscious or not capable of giving consent because of intoxication.
  • County prosecutors can pursue felony charges against people caught with the most common date-rape drugs and who also have demonstrated the intent to commit a sexual assault.
  • It will be harder for law enforcement to seize someone’s cash, cars or property. A criminal conviction is now required before the policy can permanently take any assets valued at under $40,000 from a suspect.
  • A ban is imposed on publishing the addresses of domestic violence victims.
  • Possession of a synthetic drug called “spice” is banned. The first offense would be an infraction; the second or third offense would be a misdemeanor.
  • Children can no longer be charged with prostitution, given the high incidence of human trafficking of people younger than 18. Adults who perform or solicit prostitution would not face mandatory minimum sentences.
  • It is now a crime to use ransomware, malware or intrusive software put into a computer or network to hold data hostage until money is paid.
  • Public schools can now expel students for bullying through video or sexting.

WEAPONS

  • No one will be able to buy semi-automatic rifles that have a bullet button allowing removal of the ammunition magazine, commonly used in mass shootings. If you choose to keep ahold of this weapon, you will have to register them with the state.
  • People who falsely report a firearm is lost or stolen would face a misdemeanor charge, and would face a 10 year ban on owning a firearm upon conviction.
  • Licenses to carry a concealed weapon will no longer vary from country to county. State justice department officials will create a uniform license.
  • Law enforcement officers and concealed weapon permit holders who leave firearms in cars are now required to lock them in a safe box or in the trunk.

LIFE

  • Bathrooms in public buildings with a single toilet must be designated as all-gender, open to anyone. The law will take effect March 1.
  • The state can’t fund or require public employees to travel to states believed to discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexual or transgender people.
  • Smoke or use of electronic cigarettes within 250 feet of any Little League baseball game or other youth sports event is now illegal.
  • Beauty salons and barbershops can now offer patrons a free beer or glass of wine. (score!)
  • The state’s official fabric is now denim to recognize its role in California history.
  • This bill is backed by a famed Star Wars actor, Mark Hamill. Each autographed collectible sold in California must come with a certificate that verifies it’s not a forgery.

HEALTHCARE

  • Patients who go to their insurance’s in-network hospital, lab or other health facility will not face surprise, larger charges if the doctor or health worker treating them is not in the network.
  • California businesses and public agencies are authorized to have on hand medicine designed to combat severe, emergency allergic reactions.
  • Women can pick up an entire year’s worth of birth control pills at once, and health plans must cover the cost.
  • Prescribers of opioids must check a state database to see whether their patients also have received drugs from other physicians, to combat a spike in opioid overdose deaths.
  • Terminally ill Californians will have the “right to try” experimental drugs that do not yet have full federal approval for clinical trials.
  • If you see an animal trapped in a hot or cold car, as long as you call the authorities first you will not be held legally liable for breaking into the car.
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