Capitol Alert

From plastic straws to pet CPR: How new California laws could change your life in 2019

The beginning of a new year is a time for tradition: Revelry late into the night. Resolutions for self-improvement. Hundreds of laws taking effect in California. Here are some of the new policies – the useful, the controversial, and the downright quirky – that could change your life starting Jan. 1, 2019.

Worker pay

As California’s minimum wage gradually climbs to $15 per hour, workers can expect another bump in their paychecks in the new year: The base hourly wage increases to $12 for companies with 26 or more employees and $11 for smaller businesses.

California will also begin phasing in Assembly Bill 1066, a controversial expansion of overtime pay rules for farms that brings them in line with other industries. Within four years, agricultural workers on large farms will eventually receive time-and-a-half wages for working more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. Small farms have three extra years to comply.

Sexual misconduct

The first year of the #MeToo movement against workplace sexual harassment brought enormous changes to the country and to the California Capitol, including some new protections at the office. Senate Bill 820 forbids companies from forcing employees who settle sexual harassment complaints to sign non-disclosure agreements that prevent them from speaking out about what happened. While a victim can still choose to keep his or her name private, the perpetrator’s name can no longer be confidential.

Senate Bill 1300 similarly bans the business practice of requiring workers to sign releases of liability as a condition of continued employment or in exchange for a bonus. Under Senate Bill 1343, nearly every California employee will now receive biannual sexual harassment training. The gains extend into the legal system.

Assembly Bill 1619 provides victims up to a decade to seek civil damages from a sexual assault, while Assembly Bill 3118 will require the state to complete an audit of untested rape kits, which likely number in the ten of thousands, by July. And women will be guaranteed a larger role in the state’s corporate leadership. Senate Bill 826 compels public companies in California to have at least one female director on their boards by the end of the year.

Gun control

California continues to tighten what are already among the strictest firearms regulations in the country. Senate Bill 1100 raises the age limit for the purchase of long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, from 18 to 21. The state already restricts handgun purchases to adults 21 and older. Assembly Bill 2103 requires applicants to undergo a minimum of eight hours of training and pass a live-fire shooting test to receive a concealed carry weapons permit.

Under Assembly Bill 3129, anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence going forward will lose his or her right to own a firearm.

Senate Bill 1200 adds magazines and ammunition to the list of items that can be temporarily confiscated with a gun violence restraining order. “Bump stocks,” the rapid-fire device used in the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas, are now explicitly banned in California because of Senate Bill 1346.

Elections

With Californians increasingly voting by mail, the state is taking steps to make the process easier and more accessible. Assembly Bill 216 requires elections officials to provide prepaid mail ballots, so you won’t have to supply your own stamp for the return envelope ever again.

Gender identification

Californians who don’t identify as either male or female will now have a third option for their driver’s licenses: Senate Bill 179 creates a “nonbinary” gender category, designated by the letter “X.” The law previously made it easier for individuals to change their gender, including to nonbinary, on official documents such as birth certificates by removing a requirement for a court order or proof of clinical treatment.

Restaurant orders

If you enjoy sipping from a plastic straw while dining out, you’ll have to make a special request to your waiter. Assembly Bill 1884 aims to raise awareness about the environmental impact of single-use plastic items by prohibiting full-service restaurants from providing straws unless a customer asks.

In an effort to combat childhood obesity and other diseases linked to sugar consumption, Senate Bill 1192 requires establishments that market kid’s meals to serve water or unflavored milk as the default drink. Customers can still specifically order an alternative like soda and juice. Selling homemade food is no longer illegal, thanks to a permit for small home cooking operations created by Assembly Bill 626. So feel free to buy that ceviche through Facebook.

Police shootings

Amid growing public outrcry and protest over police shootings, California has taken steps to increase transparency and accountability around officer killings of civilians. Senate Bill 1421 opens public access to internal investigations of incidents where police killed or seriously injured someone, as well to sustained findings of sexual assault and lying on the job. Starting in July, Assembly Bill 748 will require law enforcement agencies to release audio or video footage within 45 days of a shooting or other incidents involving serious use of force, unless it would interfere with an active investigation.

Criminal justice

With recreational marijuana now legal in California, individuals can petition to overturn or reduce old convictions for possession, cultivation and distribution. Assembly Bill 1793 simplifies that process by directing the state to identify by July all offenses eligible for expungement or resentencing, and if prosecutors do not object, clean up those criminal records. More than 200,000 cases could be affected.

A pair of laws to limit the prosecution of minors, and encourage rehabilitation over punishment, also takes effect: Senate Bill 439 establishes 12 years as the minimum age for prosecution in juvenile court, unless a minor younger than 12 has committed murder or rape. Senate Bill 1391 eliminates the ability to try a defendant under the age of 16 as an adult, thereby sending them to prison instead of a juvenile detention facility.

Under Senate Bill 1046, Californians found guilty of driving under the influence will have to temporarily install breathalyzers in their vehicles to get their driver’s licenses back.

Health insurance

California moved aggressively to expand health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and it is protecting those gains as the Trump administration works to undo the law.

Senate Bill 910 prohibits insurers from offering short-term health plans in the state. It blocks a recent federal rule that would reintroduce low-cost, bare-bones health insurance to the marketplace, allowing companies to offer temporary plans that may cap benefits, exclude prescription drugs and services like mental health care, and be denied to patients with pre-existing conditions.

Senate Bill 1375 prevents employers from joining forces to form their own “association health plans” that are exempt from many of the coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act.

As the federal government considers allowing insurance companies to set aside more money for profits and administrative costs, Assembly Bill 2499 will require health plans to spend at least 80 percent of each premium dollar on health care.

Electric scooters

The bane of some and a joy for others, electric scooter rentals are the latest craze sweeping California cities. Assembly Bill 2989 allows adults 18 or older to ride the scooters without a helmet, on city streets with a speed limit of up to 35 miles per hour.

Breastfeeding

Nursing mothers will receive more accommodation at work to pump breast milk. Though California already requires businesses to make a reasonable effort to provide a lactation space and breaks for pumping, Assembly Bill 1976 states that the space must now be a private area that is not a bathroom.

Graduation ceremonies

When an Elk Grove high school kicked a student out of his graduation ceremony two years ago for refusing to remove a kente cloth from atop his robe, it launched a debate over whether students should be allowed represent their heritage at a school event. Those expressions will be protected under Assembly Bill 1248, which affirms the right to wear religious and cultural adornments, such as tribal feathers and leis, during graduation ceremonies.

Pet emergency aid

You’ve heard of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But what about “mouth-to-snout”? First responders who encounter a distressed dog or cat can provide emergency medical assistance to those pets after Senate Bill 1305 legalized the practice, which was previously allowed only by licensed veterinarians.

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