New California laws bump up minimum wage, tighten gun rules

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A higher minimum wage, a ban on using "Redskins" as the name of a school team or mascot, and new restrictions on assault weapons are among the latest California laws taking effect with the new year:

MINIMUM WAGE

California's minimum wage will increase from $10 an hour to $10.50 for businesses with 26 or more employees under SB3 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. It will eventually rise to $15 an hour in 2022. The law delays the increases by one year for smaller employers.

ASSAULT WEAPONS

Lawmakers passed a package of bills to strengthen California's already tough gun laws then voters reinforced them by passing even more measures. People who own magazines that hold more than 10 rounds will be required to give them up starting Jan. 1. Buyers must undergo a background check before purchasing ammunition and will be barred from buying new weapons that have a device known as a bullet button.

Gun makers developed bullet buttons to get around California's assault weapons ban, which prohibited new rifles with magazines that can be detached without the aid of tools. A bullet button allows a shooter to quickly dislodge the magazine using the tip of a bullet.

HANDGUN STORAGE

Law enforcement officers will be required to follow the same rules as civilians by securely storing handguns in a lockbox out of plain view or in the trunk if the weapons are left in an unattended vehicle. SB 869 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, closed a legal loophole that had exempted authorities and concealed weapons permit holders from those rules. The move came after stolen guns were used in high-profile crimes.

SEXUAL ASSAULT

Sexually assaulting an unconscious or severely intoxicated person will become a crime ineligible for probation — a change prompted when former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was given a six-month jail sentence for assaulting an unconscious woman. AB2888 clarifies that a victim cannot consent to sex while unconscious or incapacitated by drugs, alcohol or medication.

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING

Add using traffic apps or updating your Instagram account to the list of things you cannot do while driving. AB1785 by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, updates California's existing ban on texting while driving to make it clear that state law prohibits the use of any hand-held device in a way that distracts from driving — not just while texting. Motorists can still use devices that are mounted or voice-operated and hands-free.

SCHOOL MASCOTS

California public schools will be barred from using the name "Redskins" for sports teams and mascots under AB30 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville. American Indians regard the term as offensive.

CHILD SAFETY SEATS

Children younger than 2 must be in rear-facing child restraint systems unless they weigh 40 or more pounds or are 40 or more inches tall under AB53 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.

EPIPENS

Businesses can stock EpiPens — used to treat people undergoing life-threatening allergic reactions — under AB1386, which allows pharmacies to dispense the devices to colleges, private businesses and other venues that have a plan in place for using them. Gov. Jerry Brown said he signed the bill because the move has the potential to save lives. However, he called out EpiPen manufacturer Mylan for what he termed "rapacious corporate behavior" by rapidly raising prices.

BUILDING SAFETY

The state will attempt to better monitor potential safety issues in the wake of a fatal balcony collapse at a Berkeley apartment building that killed six young people in June 2015. SB465 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, requires better information-sharing between state and local agencies about contractors, convictions and legal settlements. A working group will have one year to decide whether changes are needed to state building codes after several structure failures.

RIGHT-TO-TRY

Terminally ill California patients will be allowed to use experimental drugs that do not yet have full regulatory approval under AB1668 by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier. It authorizes but does not require health plans to cover investigational drugs and protects physicians from disciplinary action if they recommend them when other treatment options have been exhausted.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Young people under 18 cannot be charged with prostitution and will instead be treated as victims under SB1322 by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles. It's one of several human trafficking-related bills that include raising the age kids can testify outside a courtroom from 13 to 15, protecting victims' names from disclosure and mandating that they have access to county services.


California’s new laws in 2017: Drivers can’t hold phones, barbers can serve free beer

© The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — On New Year’s Day, Californians will wake up to hundreds of new laws, governing everything from the size of our paychecks to the rights of beauty salons to serve booze as they cultivate our coiffure.

But some of the higher-profile laws among the 898 bills that Gov. Jerry Brown signed this year will symbolize what’s sure to be a recurring theme in the new year: just how different the Golden State is from most of the rest of incoming President Donald Trump’s America.

California’s Legislature embraced bills to more strictly regulate guns and ammunition and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — legislation that passed despite vigorous opposition from gun-rights activists and Big Oil, both of which are key Trump supporters.

The new gun-control regulations broaden the definition of illegal assault weapons, require background checks for the first time for ammunition purchases and limit the lending of guns to family members.

The state’s aggressive environmental legislation could also prove significant, given the president-elect’s expressed skepticism about climate change and threats to dismantle federal environmental regulations.

“What it means is there is a major piece of America that really does care about these climate change issues, and is going to move forward on them no matter what,” said Henry Brady, dean of UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

Here is a sampling of other new laws that Californians will wake up to in January:

Gender-neutral bathrooms: While North Carolina waged a proxy war in its restrooms over gender identity, California quietly went in the opposite direction. Assembly Bill 1732 requires all single-toilet bathrooms in businesses and public agencies to be gender neutral.

Minimum wage, equal pay and paid parental leave: The statewide minimum wage goes from $10 to $10.50 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees — a rate that will rise to $15 by 2022. Under another law, Assembly Bill 1676, an employer can’t pay a woman less than her male colleagues because of her prior salary. Assembly Bill 2393 gives up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all K-12 and community college employees, including classified workers and community college faculty.

On the road: California became one of the first states to define “lane-splitting,” formalizing a long-standing practice of motorcycle riders to squeeze through stacked up traffic. Assembly Bill 51 authorizes the California Highway Patrol to develop educational guidelines for weaving between lanes of stopped or moving vehicles. And a new distracted-driving law might keep us safer too. Texting is already forbidden, but Assembly Bill 1785 prohibits drivers from using smartphones for other purposes while behind the wheel — unless they’re in hands-free mode.

Hunger and homelessness: Assembly Bill 1995 requires community colleges with shower facilities to make them available to homeless students, while Assembly Bill 1747 requires public and private colleges that offer food service to apply to participate in a state-funded program that provides meals to the homeless. Advocates for homeless students note that those without permanent housing often don’t have a reliable way to store or prepare food.

Docs and prescription drugs: Inspired by this news organization’s Drugging Our Kids investigation, which revealed the state’s dependence on psychotropic medications to control troubled children, lawmakers passed legislation to hold physicians accountable. Senate Bill 1174 puts doctors who recklessly prescribe psychiatric drugs at risk of losing their medical license. Senate Bill 1291 will require more transparency and tracking of mental health services for foster kids.

Booze: Powdered alcohol — yes, that is a thing — is now illegal to possess, sell or make. But beauty salons and barber shops can serve small amounts of wine and beer as long as it’s free and it’s before 10 p.m. — a privilege previously enjoyed by patrons of hot air balloon rides and limos.

Earthquake warnings: California advances its goal of creating a statewide early warning system — which Mexico, China and Japan have — by establishing the California Earthquake Early Warning Program in the governor’s Office of Emergency Services. This year, the governor directed $10 million to the expansion of the existing prototype, ShakeAlert.

Consumer protection: Landlords will be prohibited from showing, renting or leasing a vacant unit that they know has a bedbug infestation. Rental car companies won’t be able to rent out cars subject to a manufacturer’s recall until the vehicle has been fixed.

Sex crimes: Assembly Bill 701 broadens the definition of rape to include “all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.” And after the worldwide outcry over the six-month jail sentence given to former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, Assembly Bill 2888 makes sexually assaulting an unconscious person a crime with a mandatory prison sentence. Rape, sexual assault and other sex offenses committed in 2017 will no longer be subject to a statute of limitations, under Senate Bill 813.

Children’s safety: Schools already have strict rules for athletes who may have suffered head injuries — such as removing the athlete for the rest of the day and keeping them sidelined until they have been cleared by a licensed health care provider. Assembly Bill 2007 extends those rules to youth sports organizations, along with training for coaches on concussions. A bill to protect babies and toddlers, signed back in 2015, goes into effect this year, requiring parents to put children younger than 2 in a rear-facing car seat unless they are 40 inches tall or weigh 40 pounds. State law already requires children under 8 to ride in a car seat or booster seat, but it doesn’t specify which direction babies should face.


New California Law Bans Drivers Handholding Cellphones

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Come Sunday, California drivers will be prohibited from checking maps, adjusting playlists, taking selfies or live-streaming with their phones unless the device is mounted on the dashboard or windshield or is in voice-activation mode.

AB-1785 attempts to address advancements in technology since the original hands-free law was enacted a decade ago.

Gov. Brown signed the bill in September and the new law goes into effect in January. Violators will be subject to a $20 fine for the first offense, with fines going up for additional offenses.

For lovers of detail, here’s the relevant text of the bill:

23123.5

(a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.

(b) This section shall not apply to manufacturer-installed systems that are embedded in the vehicle.

(c) A handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device may be operated in a manner requiring the use of the driver’s hand while the driver is operating the vehicle only if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

(1) The handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield in the same manner a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) is mounted pursuant to paragraph (12) of subdivision (b) of Section 26708 or is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road.

(2) The driver’s hand is used to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the handheld wireless telephone or wireless communications device with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger.

(d) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.

(e) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.

(f) For the purposes of this section, “electronic wireless communications device” includes, but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, a specialized mobile radio device, a handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, a pager, or a two-way messaging device.

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