It’s a new year and with that comes new laws.
Hundreds of new laws emerged from the California Legislature’s 2019 session, changing the landscape for data privacy, law enforcement practices, evictions and more in 2020.
Among the notable laws expected to affect a variety of businesses is Assembly Bill 5, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, to codify a 2018 California Supreme Court decision on workers’ rights.
The bill makes it more difficult for companies to classify people like freelance writers and rideshare drivers as independent contractors, instead of employees. The new law would now make them entitled to minimum wage and benefits.
Ventura County Farm Bureau CEO John Krist said it could impact agriculture.
The truck drivers who move crops like avocado and citrus from the farm to the packing house were previously considered independent contractors, Krist said. They were hired for the seasonal work, he said.
“The most efficient way for that industry to work is for truckers to go wherever there is a job,” Krist said.
California Consumer Privacy Act
The California Consumer Privacy Act was enacted in 2018 and takes effect in 2020. The Legislature delayed its effective date to continue fine-tuning it, said Brandon Bjerke, legislative director for Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks.
In 2019, Irwin was one of several lawmakers to propose legislation shaping the law aimed at ensuring consumers know what personal information companies are collecting, what they’re doing with it and the right to have it deleted.
“It’s really important to know that it’s gonna be the first major privacy law, at least in California,” said Yosef Getachew, media and democracy director for the watchdog group Common Cause. “It will force companies to make similar practices for other states given the size and the scale of the law in California.”
Irwin was not available for an interview. On her behalf, Bjerke said Irwin has disclosed her relationship to the Legislature’s ethics council. She introduced bills that affected the broad public and not a specific industry so as not to create a conflict of interest, Bjerke said.
Police Use of Force
Assembly Bill 392 introduced by Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, redefined the legal standard for law enforcement’s justifiable use of deadly force. It comes on the heels of several years of high-profile officer-involved shootings of minority victims across the nation.
The bill itself is referred to as the “Stephon Clark Law,” named for the man fatally shot in 2018 by Sacramento police officers responding to a report of a man breaking car windows. Clark was thought to be holding a gun but only a cellphone was recovered after the shooting.
“It requires the officer to kind of take a step back and reevaluate the situation and to take different avenues or measures before the deadly force,” said Oxnard Police Cmdr. Chris Williams, adding that it puts more accountability on the officer.
Anytime law enforcement officers are able to preserve life, and if this law truly reduces deadly force, then it could be a good thing, Williams said. The bill puts an emphasis on deescalation techniques, which Williams said the Oxnard department has been utilizing and training on for the past few years.
The bill bans landlords from rejecting potential tenants solely because they have federal Section 8 housing vouchers. Low-income residents with vouchers pay 30% of their income on rent, and the remaining balance is subsidized by the federal government. Starting Jan. 1, landlords can no longer write “no Section 8” in their housing advertisements.
Rent hike and eviction processes are also changing in the state. The Tenant Protection Act of 2019, also known as AB 1482, by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, caps yearly rent increases at 5% plus inflation and bans evictions without a just cause. The bill is effective until January 2030.
“AB 1482 is most impactful in communities like Ventura County that have had essentially no tenant protections to speak of during the worst housing crisis in generations,” said Lucas Zucker, policy director at the nonprofit Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy. “For most tenants in Ventura County there was nothing to prevent unjust evictions or having rents doubled almost overnight until this came into effect.”
Wildlife Emergency Planning
Consecutive years of devastating fire seasons have prompted many lawmakers to focus on ways to prevent wildfires and protect people and property. The 2017 Thomas Fire sparked State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat who represents parts of Ventura County, to introduce Senate Bill 160 to bridge the cultural gap in emergency planning.
“I introduced this bill frankly after the Thomas Fire because it was clear that during that fire everything to warn people, everything to try to provide emergency evacuations and information, were really done on an English-only basis,” Jackson said.
The blaze started near Santa Paula, a Spanish-speaking community. When the evacuation warnings were sent out in English with the use of Google translation the messages called it a “hairbrush fire,” Jackson said.
Other notable 2020 laws
- Senate Bill 83 expanded paid family leave from six weeks to eight weeks, effective July 1.
- Senate Bill 3 requires a hike in minimum wage to $12 an hour for businesses with 25 or less employees and $13 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees. Annual $1 increases in minimum wage are mandated by the law until the $15 an hour wage is reach
- Senate Bill 313 bans all animals except for domesticated dogs, cats and horses from being used in circus acts.
- Senate Bill 188 makes it illegal to discriminate based on hairstyles or hair texture.
- Assembly Bill 1718 banned smoking in state parks and on state beaches.
- Assembly Bill 1215 makes it illegal for law enforcement to use facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technology.
- Assembly Bill 668 prohibits a person from courthouse civil arrests, such as federal immigration arrests, while they’re attending a court proceeding or having legal business done there.
- Senate Bill 310 allows convicted felons to be called in for jury service so long as they are not incarcerated, a registered sex offender or on probation or parole. Before this law passed, convicted felons were not allowed to serve on juries.