During 2018, the state Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed 1,016 new laws. While some were effective immediately, some will not go into effect until 2020 or 2021. Most were effective Jan. 1, 2019.
Below is a sampling of some of the more important or more interesting laws the state Legislature and governor felt would improve life in California.
On Jan. 1, California’s minimum wage will increase to $12 per hour for companies with 26 or more employees and to $11 an hour for businesses with 25 or fewer employees. An employee must make at least $45,760 a year to be exempt from the minimum wage increase. Please note that this law actually was enacted in 2016.
Vehicle and traffic laws
Bicycle helmets: Assembly Bill 3077 allows persons under age 18 and not wearing a helmet on a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or skates to receive a “fix-it” ticket. A “fix-it” ticket is considered non-punitive and is correctable with proof the minor has completed a bicycle safety course and has a helmet that meets safety standards. These items must be presented within 120 days to the issuing law enforcement agency to be considered corrected.
Motor scooters (AB2989): In contrast with AB 3077, this bill allows adults to ride motor scooters without wearing a helmet. It also permits people to ride motor scooters on roads with speed limits higher than 25 mph, as long as they remain in the bicycle lane and do not exceed 15 mph.
Smog checks (AB 1274): Owners of vehicles up to eight years old are now exempt from the annual smog check. In 2018, the limit was vehicles up to six years old. The exemption is not free; owners of vehicles between seven or eight years old will pay an annual $25 smog abatement fee. Owners of vehicles six years old or newer still pay the annual $20 fee.
Loud mufflers (AB 1824): A fine will become mandatory when drivers of loud motor vehicles and motorcycles are cited. They no longer can correct the problem to avoid a fine. Now, an official citation will be issued for loud mufflers or exhaust systems with excessive noise. This applies to owners of cars, truck and motorcycles, but not to aircraft.
DUI ignition locks (Senate Bill 1046): Repeat DUI offenders, as well as first-time DUI offenders who caused an injury as a result of their condition while driving, will be required to install an ignition interlock device for a period of one to two years. The law also allows people who have had their licenses suspended under an administrative order “to obtain an IID-restricted driving privilege.” This law sunsets on Jan. 1, 2026, unless it is renewed. SB 1046 was enacted in 2016.
Long guns (SB 1100): As of Tuesday, only individuals 21 years or older may buy any gun in California. This bill raises the age limit to buy shotguns and rifles from 18 to 21. This was already the law for purchase of handguns. However, for “long guns,” SB 1100 exempts members of the military, police and licensed hunters.
Concealed weapons permit (AB 2103): Beginning now, one must complete at least eight hours of firearms safety training and pass a live-fire shooting exam to demonstrate proficiency, in order to obtain a concealed weapons permit in California.
Banned from owning (AB 3129): Future convictions of misdemeanor domestic violence will result in the permanent loss of the right to own a firearm. Currently, felons are prohibited from owning firearms and some misdemeanor violators can lose the right for 10 years.
Cash bail (SB 10): On Oct. 1, 2019, cash bail for suspects awaiting trial will be eliminated. Instead, a pretrial risk assessment will be conducted. The purpose will be to assess the risk level of a person charged with the commission of a crime. The results will be reported to the court for a decision. The risk-assessment system will allow local courts to decide who can and can’t get out of jail while awaiting trial. Most defendants accused of nonviolent misdemeanors would be out within 12 hours of booking without seeing a judge.
Food and restaurants
Plastic straws (AB 1884): To receive a plastic straw for your drink in California, restaurants will require a request. Full-service, dine-in restaurants will no long offer plastic straws without a customer request.
Kids’ drinks (SB 1192): In an effort to combat childhood obesity and other diseases linked to sugar consumption, water or unflavored milk will be the default beverage when kids’ meals are ordered; unless an alternative beverage is ordered.
Home food preparation (AB 626): Selling homemade food will be legal with a local permit for small, home-cooking operations.
Freedom of Information
Police records (SB 1421): Police officer personnel records and the investigations conducted by law enforcement agencies into their employees will now be accessible through a public records request. Three categories of disclosure are defined: Cases where a police officer discharges a firearm or causes a person great bodily injury, or when there has been a substantiated charge against an officer of sexual assault or a serious case of dishonesty, like perjury. The bill specifies what records are subject to disclosure upon request, and sets forth timing for disclosures.
Police audio and video footage (AB 748): This bill allows access to video or audio footage related to “critical incidents,” defined as an officer’s use of a firearm, or an incident where an individual is seriously injured or dies. Dash camera and body camera footage, along with 911 calls, videos collected by an agency like surveillance footage, and any other audio or video record related to a critical incident may be disclosed. The bill applies retroactively.
Pet shops (SB 2445): Only dogs, cats or rabbits obtained from a public animal control agency, public shelter or rescue group can be sold in California pet shops. Pet store operators will be required to keep records documenting the health, including veterinary records, status and disposition of each animal for at least two years after the animal is sold. Also, the organization providing the animal to the pet store will have to provide the pet store operator the terms of the transfer and information about the animal, if requested. Violation of the new law is a misdemeanor, carrying a civil penalty of $500 per pet sold illegally.