2020 Ushers In Slew of New Laws In State

South Pas residents gathered at City Hall on Nov. 6 to support an urgency ordinance protecting tenants until a new state law kicked in on Jan. 1. Now that state law is in effect. Photo by Skye Hannah

The new year rang in numerous changes in California’s laws, including laws affecting the minimum wage for most workers; a reclassification of some independent contractors; limits on the domestic-violence statute of limitations; and new rent control restrictions.

Here are some of the changes that went into effect Jan. 1, or soon will:

Rent Cap: The law caps rent increases at 5 percent each year plus inflation for the next decade. The cap does not apply to property built within the last 15 years. It also requires landlords to provide just cause for evictions.

Gig Workers: A new law, AB5, reclassifies some independent contractors as employees. It is designed to provide new protections for so-called gig-economy workers such as minimum wage, paid sick days and health-insurance benefits. Organizations representing freelance journalists have already sued over the law, as it requires employers to classify freelancers as employees if they contribute more than 35 articles for the year — a situation that has already led some employers to cut ties with freelancers. Uber has also said it will not adhere to the changes.

Minimum-Wage Increase: The state minimum wage is increased to $13 for workplaces with 26 or more employees and $12 for workplaces with fewer than 25 employees. The law calls for incremental minimum-wage increases through 2023, when the rate will reach $15 an hour for all workplaces.

Domestic Violence: The statute of limitations to report domestic violence to law enforcement goes from one to five years. The change would apply to domestic violence that occurs on or after Jan. 1. It also applies to crimes for which the statute of limitations was in effect before Jan. 1 and had not run out.

Gun-Violence Restraining Order: This change expands who can petition a judge to confiscate someone’s weapons if they believe a person may be violent. The updated law allows employers, coworkers and teachers to be able to do so. The law goes into effect Sept. 1, 2020. The previous law allowed police, immediate family and roommates to request a restraining order.

Gun Ownership: Only Californians 21 or over will be able to buy semiautomatic rifles. And starting in 2021, Californians will be limited to buying one of the rifles each month. Also, a person banned from having a gun in another state can no longer legally have one in California.

Private, For-Profit Prisons: The change bars California from keeping prisoners in private, for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers starting in 2028. Starting on Jan. 1, the state  cannot renew contracts with private prisons.

Protections For Nursing Mothers: The new law requires employers to provide clean and safe lactation rooms for breastfeeding mothers.

Hairstyle Discrimination: The law protects employees from discrimination because of hairstyles, such as afros, braids, twists and locks. California is the first state to ban such discriminatory practices.

Extending Paid Leave: This law increases paid leave from six to eight weeks for people taking care of a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. The law takes effect July 1.

Employment Discrimination: Employees are now given up to three years — instead of one — to file complaints of discrimination, harassment or retaliation with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Cosmetics: Bans the import or sale of cosmetic products in California that include ingredients that were tested on animals or were manufactured through animal testing.

Vaccinations: State health officials will create a standardized form doctors will fill out for parents who want a medical exemption from vaccinations for their children.

Charter Schools: School districts will have more power over the creation of new charter schools in their communities. New teachers at charter schools will be required to hold the same credentials as those at traditional public schools.

Health Insurance: Californians are now required to have health insurance, an “individual mandate’’ similar to the one under the federal Affordable Care Act. Penalties won’t kick in until taxes are filed in 2021.

Rape Kits: Sexual-assault evidence collected through rape kits must be submitted to a crime lab within 20 days and tested within 120 days.

Drones: Surveillance by drones and other electronic equipment is denied in places where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Personal Information: State Residents will have more control over how their personal information is used and shared by companies. Residents can also opt out of information sharing and request companies delete their personal data.

Smoking: Smoking is now illegal in most parts of state parks and beaches.

Politics: Residents will be able to vote or change their party registration on Election Day in March and November at any local polling place. The state presidential primary was moved up to March.

Circus Animals: Animals other than domesticated dogs, cats or horses are forbidden in circuses.