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New year, new laws

December 30, 2013

Punching a time clock will be more profitable for minimum-wage workers as California’s base pay goes from $8 to $9 an hour. By Jan. 1, 2016, the state’s minimum wage will increase to $10/hour. Photo by Mike Gervais

Traditional first-of-the-year recaps of new laws that go into effect either on the first day of each year, or shortly thereafter, generally exemplify good-news/bad-news.
For instance, the minimum wage in California will go up July 1, good news for minimum wage service workers, bad news for their employers. The distance motorists must allow when passing a cyclist has been codified at three feet; good news for cyclists, bad news for motorists caught behind a cyclist. And, the list goes on, though not each and every one of the approximately 1,000 bills signed into law in 2013 is covered.
Laws Impacting Motorists
As of Sept. 16, 2014, motorists must allow three feet between “any part of their vehicle and any part of the bicycle or bicyclist” when passing a cyclist. In those situations where that three-foot distance is not possible, the motorist must slow to “a reasonable and prudent speed” and pass when “no danger is present to the bicyclist.” According to a press release from the California Highway Patrol, “failing to do so can incur a fine, regardless of a collision or not.” Good news for the cyclist.
For residents with low- or zero-emission vehicles headed to metropolitan areas, there will be a sunset date for use of the high occupancy vehicle lanes. As of Jan. 1, 2019, these green vehicles will have to carry the requisite number of passengers in order to use the HOV lane.
SB 717 amends current law allowing for a search warrant in order to draw blood from a person who has refused an officer’s request to submit to a blood test. The blood test is used to prove a violation of DUI provisions. This law has been in effect since Sept. 20.
OMG: Drivers under 18 are prohibited from using an electronic wireless communication device to write, send or read a text message while driving regardless of whether those communications are transmitted with a hands-free device.
Vehicle ownership cannot be transferred to family members until all parking or toll-violation fines and penalties are paid by the transferee.
While AB 60, the bill allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, will not be in effect for another year, the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin drafting new regulations and preparing area DMV offices to process these new applications.
Health and Safety code 11350 (A) has also been in effect for a few years, but the law is, apparently, not widely known. The law requires anyone carrying prescription drugs to have proof of the prescription either by carrying those drugs in the original prescription bottle or a copy of the doctor’s prescription. The law specifically applies to opiate derivatives like Vicodin or Oxycodone, but a law enforcement officer may not be able to immediately identify if a drug is an antibiotic or an opiate derivative. According to Bishop Police Department Chief Chris Carter, officers can exercise discretion in these cases and if proof can be supplied, charges could be dropped. But all of this could be avoided by simply carrying proof the drugs are prescribed.
Gun Laws
As of Jan. 1, long guns will have to be registered in California. In the past, gun dealers would destroy the personal information on a rifle purchase once the buyer’s background check was completed. As of tomorrow, those dealers will have to register the purchases with the state. In addition, the sale of magazines with more than 10 bullets will be prohibited in California as of tomorrow.
Employment Laws
As of July 1, 2014, California’s minimum wage will go up from $8 to $9 an hour. As of tomorrow, the minimum wage in San Jose and San Francisco jumps to $10.15 and $10.74, respectively, per hour. The rest of the state will come close to these two cities Jan. 1, 2016 when the state minimum gets another $1 bump to $10 per hour.
The increase in minimum wage impacts exempt employees, those who receive a salary not based on hours worked. The minimum monthly salary of exempt employees will increase from $2,773.34 per month to $3,120 as of July 1 and to $3,466.67 on Jan. 1, 2016.
California law allows for six weeks of partial wage replacement benefits to take care of a seriously ill member of one’s family, or to bond with a minor child. That definition of immediate family has been extended to a seriously ill sibling, grandparent, grandchild or parent-in-law, as of July 1.
A new law especially relevant during the Owen Valley’s long summers is the requirement for breaks for heat illness prevention. Employees are now entitled to heat illness recovery periods defined as “cool down periods afforded to prevent heat illness.” Employees not afforded this cool down period are entitled to an additional hour of pay each workday that that period is not provided.
Immigrant workers were not left out of this year’s list of new laws. The law now prohibits employers from engaging in “unfair immigration-related practices” when an employee asserts his or her rights under the Labor Code. Civil penalties for employers can go as high as $10,000. In addition, an employer cannot threaten to report an employee’s suspected or actual citizenship or immigration status of the employee or members of his family, if the employee exercises their rights under Labor, Government or Civil codes.

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