The new California laws will surely affect you and here’s why


Richard B. Levine/Sipa USA/TNS

Plastic straws in lemonade at a street fair in New York.

KK Interchuck, Features Co-Editor

California residents saw hundreds of new state laws come into effect on Jan. 1 and will more likely than not be touched by their effects.

Among these new mandates is SB 3, the minimum wage increase. Employees working for a business with over 25 employees have seen an increase from $11 an hour to $12. The new wage for businesses with fewer than 26 employees raised from $10.50 to $11 an hour. According to the California Labor Code, the state minimum wage must increase each year, ultimately leading larger employers to pay $15 an hour by 2022.

Also as of Jan. 1, previously requiring a physician’s approval, Californians who identify as nonbinary are now able to indicate so on their drivers’ licenses by marking an “X”. This is made possible through SB 179 and in turn allows transgender people to switch more easily to the male or female gender markers.

Following the #MeToo movement sparked in late 2017, secret settlements will no longer be permitted. SB 820 aides employees who file sexual misconduct, assault, or discrimination suits against employers by prohibiting nondisclosure agreements in cases signed on or after Jan. 1.

Several measures promote public safety by way of police transparency. Case records involving misconduct or use-of-force as well as police body camera footage are now available for public inspection per SB 1421. AB 748 requires footage to be released no later than 45 days after a police shooting or a use-of-force incident involving death or serious injury.

There are two laws you may not have noticed if you have yet to dine at a restaurant this year. AB 1884 makes California the first state to prohibit full-service restaurants from offering single-use plastic straws. However, straws will still be available when specifically requested. As it is not an altogether ban, this law does not affect establishments like fast food restaurants or coffee shops from distributing beverages with a plastic straw.

Another restaurant-specific law, SB 1192, pertains to kids meal beverages. In an effort to discourage the consumption of sweetened beverages, all restaurants that offer a kids combo meal are now restricted from promoting drinks that are high in sugar, such as soda or juice, as the standard options. Though these drinks are still available upon request, restaurants are now required to instead promote either water or unflavored milk as the default.

Motorized scooters, made popular in recent years by companies like Bird or Lime, may now have a new speed limit on certain roadways. Due to AB 2989, local governments are permitted to increase the speed limit of these vehicles from 25 mph to up to 35 mph when operated on highways with special bike paths. Additionally, adults 18 years or older with a valid license are now permitted to operate these motorized scooters without a helmet. Minors riding without a helmet can receive a citation.

Lastly, a couple laws simply seem to capture a unique essence of California, including the designation of surfing as the Golden State’s official state sport. Then, following the legalization of recreational marijuana, one law requires the state to help expunge low-level charges related to marijuana from criminal records.