By Haddon Libby
Are you of the opinion that our State Legislature and Assembly in California are a bunch of do-nothings? Think again. While they may not be tackling issues like job creation, reducing bureaucratic red tape or resolving unsustainable debt levels, they were busy creating 800 new laws that went into effect with the start of the new year.
Assembly Bill (AB) 71 which was written by local Assemblyman V. Manual Perez addresses the restoration of the Salton Sea. The goal is to restore the Sea so that it can support fish and other wildlife while improving local air quality and creating new economic opportunities for nearby residents. While the bill addresses an important set of problems, execution on the bills intentions will be difficult if at all possible while costing billions.
A domestic worker’s bill of rights goes into effect this year and will impact many caregivers here in the Coachella Valley. Once a caregiver reaches 45 hours of work in a week, all additional hours must be paid at a rate of time and one half. Additionally, anyone hiring temporary workers must produce a 1099 for that worker at the end of the year. On July 1st, the minimum wage increases to $9/hour.
Restaurants have the Bare Hands Law to contend with this year. This means that workers cannot handle prepared foods with their bare hands. These workers must now use gloves, tongs or other utensils when touching food. This law was passed in order to reduce the chances of disease being spread by food handlers.
Given high unemployment levels in the Coachella Valley and across the state, AB 191 should help more than 230,000 families to eat better. This law looks at Medi-Cal lists to make sure that qualifying families receive this financial support. Additionally, homeless youth will now qualify for Medi-Cal and food stamps.
Senate Bill (SB) 274 allows for the Court System to recognize more than two parents as legal guardians.
While voice-enabled cell phone capabilities are legal to use while driving, SB 194 bans the use of this technology for teenagers. No more hands-free texting for young drivers.
As a help to many drivers, AB194 eliminates a practice engaged in by many cities where the cities gave parking tickets when someone parked at a broken parking meter.
As the state has serious water issues, AB 2230 tries a modest conservation idea. Car washes must now use at least 60% recycled water. Golf courses and lawns are safe for now.
Are you planning on a home renovation to a house made before 1994? If so, you may now have to include water saving plumbing such as low flush toilets as part of the renovation.
Fracking is the process where water and chemicals are forced into the ground to create cracks so that oil and natural gas can be more easily mined. This process is criticized by many for causing earthquakes and polluting ground water. The State Senate passed legislation requiring the disclosure of some of the chemicals injected into the ground while requiring some testing of local water supplies that might be impacted.
One controversial new law allows undocumented immigrants to become lawyers in California.
One federal law of particular note is the requirement that all adults have healthcare. If you do not have healthcare by March 31st, you will be fined $95 per adult or 1% of family income, whichever amount is larger. Covered California is striving to make healthcare affordable to all by subsidizing low income people.
With these public concerns addressed, let’s hope that the Assembly and Senate can tackle complex issues such as job growth, less red tape and lower debt loads this year.