Residents of East County and the world over celebrated the shift from 2018 to 2019 this week, and with the new year came some new laws. 

Below is a sampling of changes California citizens can expect.

In the workplace

A schedule set into motion the gradual increase of California’s minimum wage for employers with 26 or more employees. Effective Jan. 1 this year, minimum wage earners will now receive $12 per hour. By 2022, they will receive $15.

A bill of interest to the agricultural core of East County will be Assembly Bill (AB) 1066, which will implement a schedule for farm laborers in regard to meals and overtime. Farm hands who work more than 12 hours in one day, for example, will receive no less than twice their regular rate of pay.

Sexual misconduct and implementing measures to prevent harassment in the workplace were addressed with Senate Bill (SB) 1300. This bill makes it unlawful for employers to require employees sign a nondisparagement agreement – preventing individuals the right to disclose information in regard to unlawful workplace activity, including but not limited to sexual harassment – as a condition of employment or a raise. SB 820 will eliminate confidentiality agreements in sexual harassment cases.

 “These perpetrators should not be allowed to endanger others or evade justice simply because they have a fat wallet at their disposal,” California State Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) said. “SB 820 will not prevent people from mutually agreeing to settle, but it will simply prevent the perpetrator from requiring the victim to remain silent about the harassment as a condition of settlement.” 

On guns

California has answered the call for stricter gun control, implementing bills such as SB 1100 that raises the legal age for an individual to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18. SB 2103 mandates applicants receive at least eight hours of training and pass a live-fire shooting test to receive a concealed carry permit. 

Effective Jan. 1, under AB 3129, those convicted for domestic violence will never be allowed to possess a firearm. Another bill, SB 1200, will strengthen California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order to get firearms away from those threatening harm to themselves or others.

“So often after a shooting or suicide we learn that the perpetrator was known to be at risk of committing violence,” said SB 1200 author Senator Nancy Skinner’s (D-Berkeley). “By easing the process to access a Gun Violence Restraining Order and ensuring that all firearm parts are removed, SB 1200 will save more lives.”

Bay Area bridge toll hikes

Seven Bay Area state-owned bridges will see a toll increase in 2019 per Regional Measure 3, which aims to alleviate growing congestion. The voter-approved measure will increase tolls by $1 effective Jan. 1. Tolls will rise again January 2022 by another $1 and again in 2025 by another $1. The funds will secure highway and transit improvements.  

Restaurant industry changes

Servers will need to break old habits under AB 1884, which now prohibits restaurants from offering plastic straws without customer request. 

“I am thankful to Gov. Brown for signing AB 1884,” said Majority Leader Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), the measure’s author, in a press release. “By removing the default behavior of providing straws with every drink, consumers have an opportunity to make a deliberate, small change that will minimize the harmful impacts of single-use plastic straws in the environment. It’s a small but significant step forward and will hopefully set the precedent for the rest of the nation to adopt similar policies that will ensure less plastic ends up harming the environment.”

Children’s meals will also change. Unless otherwise ordered by the customer, under SB 1192,  kids’ meals will no longer offer sugary drinks – only water or unflavored milk. 

While laws around waste and nutrition tighten, entrepreneurs interested in pursuing home-based cooking businesses will find more opportunity. Under AB 626, chefs who wish to prepare food for sale may do so from their private residence – as “microenterprise home kitchen operations” will now be included in the definition of a “food facility” per the state health department. The business owner must not have the equivalent of more than one full-time employee and gross annual sales must not exceed $50,000.

For the benefit of animals

Under SB 1305, first responders are authorized to perform basic first aid on animals, as the bill would place limitations on liability.

And through AB 485 this year, California is now the first state in the nation to officially ban the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits through a pet store unless the animal was obtained from a shelter or foster care program. The law aims to reduce the number of puppy mills and the millions of animals euthanized each year at taxpayer expense through county animal services.

Previous marijuana convictions

AB 1793 will require the Department of Justice, by July 1 this year, to review past cannabis convictions to determine which cases are eligible for a dismissal or redesignation of a conviction under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, enacted by voters in 2016. 

“AB 1793 will bring people closer to realizing their existing rights by creating a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page and make a fresh start,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda). “Long after paying their debt to society, people shouldn’t continue to face the collateral consequences, like being denied a job or housing, because they have an outdated conviction on their records. I thank Gov. Brown for signing this important bill.”

To view SB 820, visit https://bit.ly/2CCPb2H. To view SB 1300, visit https://bit.ly/2HvOR7V. To view AB 3129, visit https://bit.ly/2TiGXRw. To view a map of Regional Measure 3 projects, visit https://bit.ly/2R38CZX.

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