Of the 1,217 bills that reached California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk in 2018, he signed 1,016 new laws and vetoed 201 – a record-high for Brown’s last two terms in office.
Of the new laws going into effect in California in 2019, some are important and some are oddities: A plastic straw ban, making surfing the official California sport, banning the use of refrigeration chemicals, additional gun control requirements, requiring women on Boards of Directors of publicly traded companies… and 1,011 more.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly:
Vegan Meals for Prison Inmates
California is the first state in the nation to offer prison inmates an all-vegan menu, effective January 1, 2019. SB 1138 requires prisons, hospitals and healthcare facilities to offer plant-based meals to prisoners and patients. The bill passed the Legislature unanimously.
Restaurants and Plastic Straw Ban
AB 1884 bans full-service restaurants from automatically giving customers plastic straws, effective January 1, 2019. Dine-in restaurants will only be allowed to provide plastic straws at customers’ request. Businesses will receive a warning for their first two violations, then a $25 fine per day for each subsequent violation, up to $300 annually, according to bill language.
SB 1192 now requires restaurants that advertise kid’s meals to include water or unflavored milk as the default beverage, because according to state Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), “Kids’ meals shouldn’t come with a side order of diabetes, obesity or cardiovascular disease.” Customers can still order other drink options.
California’s Official Sport
California has an official flower (Golden Poppy), nut (Almond) and reptile (Dessert Tortoise) however, until AB 1782 was signed into law in August, the official Golden State did not have an official sport. Unsurprisingly, surfing is California’s new official sport. Northern Californians disagreed, preferring snow boarding and skiing.
CA Vote-by-Mail Elections
California voters won’t have to put a stamp on mail-in ballots starting in 2019, thanks to AB 216. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill requiring elections officials to provide return ballot envelopes with prepaid postage. Additionally, voters will be allowed to correct a ballot signature that doesn’t match the one on file.
Five California counties are all vote-by-mail under the 2016 Voter’s Choice Act: Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo counties did away with traditional polling places like schools, churches and fire stations.
Latest Minimum Wage Increase
Under SB 3 passed in 2016, the minimum wage increases once again this year to $12 per hour for companies with 26 or more employees, and $11 per hour for smaller employers, as California phases in a $15 base hourly wage over seven years. The California minimum wage increased to $10.50 per hour on January 1, 2017, and will increase each year until reaching $15 per hour in 2022. According to Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed the first minimum wage increase AB 10 in 2013, once the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour for all businesses, wages could then be increased each year up to 3.5 percent for inflation.
Net Neutrality Challenge
Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 822 late on a Sunday night in September, officially allowing California its own state-level net neutrality law. However, within moments of the signing, the U.S. Department of Justice sued to block the law, arguing it was invalid under both conflicting federal law and the U.S. Constitution.
In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announcing the DOJ was suing to block SB 822 permanently wrote, “States do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”
Gender identity changes on CA driver’s licenses: California’s SB 179 now allows transgender people to select “nonbinary” as an option on their California drivers license if they do not identify as either male or female.
Sanctuary State of California
SB 54, called the “California Values Act,” already restricts the ability of state and local police in California to cooperate with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents. Effective Jan. 1, law enforcement officers won’t be allowed even to ask about someone’s immigration status or hold them for ICE agents, unless that person has been convicted of a crime.
Signed into law October 2017, AB 291 now prohibits landlords from reporting illegal alien renters. According to the California Apartment Association, under AB 291, dubbed the “Immigrant Tenant Protection Act,” a landlord could face civil penalties if he or she attempts to influence a tenant to vacate the dwelling unit or attempts to recover possession of the dwelling unit based on the individual’s immigration status.
Vehicle registration fee increase: Under SB 1, California’s controversial gas tax and car registration increase, drivers will pay escalated fees of up to $175 more for vehicle registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles, based on the vehicle’s value.
California’s Largest Cash Crop
Marijuana is legal in California, however, Proposition 64, the ballot measure California voters approved that legalized marijuana for recreational use, had a gaping loophole in it which didn’t address the legality of using marijuana while driving. Effective Jan. 1, drivers and passengers will be prohibited from smoking or eating marijuana products while driving in a vehicle, as part of SB 65.
Under AB 2274, divorce and custody battles over pets have a new law. Divorce court judges will now be able to decide who gets custody of a family pet during a divorce, based on who takes the most care of the pet or feeds the pet.
California will also be the first state in the nation to require pet stores to only sell rescue dogs, cats and bunnies. AB 485 bans pet stores from selling puppies, kittens and bunnies from breeders; they can now only be sourced from animal shelters. Any businesses violating this new law face a $500 fine.
Gender-Neutral California Requires Women On Boards
California becomes the first state to require large corporations with base operations in the state to put more female directors on their boards. Senate Bill 826 requires publicly traded companies based in the state, and with operations located in other states, to have at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019, and on boards of five or more directors, and two or three women directors will be required by the end of 2021. Companies found violating the law will face stiff fines: $100,000 for a first violation, $300,000 for a second or subsequent violation, and $100,000 fine for failure to timely file board member information with the Secretary of State.
#METOO Goes Corporate
Spurred by the #MeToo movement, three new laws ban private and public employers, including members of the state Legislature, from reaching secret settlements and non-disclosure agreements over sexual assault, harassment or discrimination. Senate Bill 1300 outlaws non-disparagement clauses,
SB 100 increases California’s electricity portfolio required to come from renewable energy sources by 2030, to 60 percent from 50 percent. It also requires an electric grid entirely powered by clean energy by 2045. “It was California’s latest ambitious reaction to Trump’s decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and revive the coal industry,” the Associated Press reported.
AB 1775 and SB 834 ban expanding offshore drilling by the Trump administration, by blocking new pipelines, piers and wharves and related construction in the state’s coastal waters. The bills prohibit the State Lands Commission from issuing new leases for oil-related infrastructure.
In March, the California Air Resource Board banned chemicals used in industrial refrigeration equipment, referred to as “super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons,” a type of refrigerant used in supermarket refrigerators, refrigerated vending machines, Slurpee machines, frozen yogurt dispensers, and foams. “The Board’s action preserves the federal limits on the use of these powerful chemicals and refrigerants, and provides more certainty to industry,”California Air Resource Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said.
Second Amendment Under Fire
Encouraged by mass shootings, California lawmakers once again bolstered California’s restrictive gun and ammo laws, effective January 1.
AB 424 bans guns on campuses and eliminates the policy allowing school administrators the authority to decide whether campus employees with concealed carry permits can carry their personal firearms to school.
SB 1200 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), would beef up her 2014 Gun Violence Restraining Order legislation, which allows family members to seek a court order to disarm a relative they fear is dangerous. The bill would include gun parts and components as items to be surrendered.
AB 3 raises the legal age to 21 to purchase a rifle or shotgun unless they are members of law enforcement, in the military, or already have a hunting license.
SB 1100 would limit purchases of all guns, not just handguns, to one every 30 days.
Under AB 1968, anyone who has been hospitalized for a mental health issue more than once in a year will be prohibited from ever owning a gun.
Ammunition purchases must now be made in person through an authorized firearms and ammo vendor, as per Proposition 63, approved by voters in November 2016.
Misc. New Laws
Under AB 168, employers will no longer be able to ask job applicants about their salary history, compensation or benefits. Employers will also be required to disclose pay scales for a job if the applicants ask for them.
AB 19 establishes free college, waiving the fee for first-time students who enroll full time in California community colleges.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 219, the “LGBT Senior Bill of Rights” in October 2017, making it a crime to “misgender” LGBT nursing home residents. According to the law, people who “willfully and repeatedly” misgender a transgender resident’s preferred name or pronouns could spend up to a year in county jail and face a $1,000 fine. The new law also requires nursing homes and long-term care facilities to comply with California’s transgender bathroom law, and allow residents to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of gender.