Ten new California laws that could affect Silicon Valley residents’ lives
Dave Cortese and Alex Lee wasted no time setting their agendas in Sacramento. Image by glenngould is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

    As we say farewell to 2019 and hello a new year (and a new decade), a slew of new laws will go into effect that could significantly impact Silicon Valley residents’ lives.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first year in Sacramento was a momentous one: He signed 870 landmark bills, impacting everything from cannabis use to circus acts. Here’s a roundup of 10 bills with a major impact, many of them taking effect Jan. 1, 2020.

    1. School lunches: The days of lunch shaming are over. A new state Senate bill, SB 265, will stop schools from serving different meals or denying food to kids whose parents haven’t paid their lunch bill. Although existing legislation prohibits this type of discrimination, stories about kids being denied food because of unpaid bills prompted state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to author the bill, which would help increase compliance by closing loopholes discovered in existing legislation.

    The new bill requires that students, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay, be allowed to select a meal of their choice.

    In San Jose, income disparity hits the East San Jose and Evergreen school districts the hardest.

    “Providing meals to all students addresses the challenge that some of our students may be facing,” Evergreen School District Superintendent Emy Flores said in an email. “They may not have time to eat at home or be able to afford paying for a meal.”

    2. Hotel toiletries: Tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner have long been a staple of any hotel bathroom, but they will soon be banished. AB 1162, crafted by San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra, will make California the first state to ban the single-use plastic containers to reduce waste. Hotels with 50 or more rooms have until January 2023 to comply to the new law; smaller hotels will have until the following January.

    “We have reached a tipping point for action and more needs to be done that transitions consumers and businesses toward more sustainable alternatives,” Kalra said.

    3. Higher education: Undocumented residents who are seeking higher education can benefit from AB 354, which extends California DREAM Loan Program eligibility to students who are seeking a graduate or professional degree.

    “We were really pleased to see this bill passed and that Gov. Newsom signed it earlier this year,” said Priya Murthy, policy and advocacy director for the nonprofit Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN). “(Students) can pursue those dreams and their (immigration) status or financial situation is less of a barrier.”

    State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, authored the bill, which takes effect in academic year 2020-21.

    4. Civic engagement: Another one of Durazo’s measures, SB 225, will permit undocumented immigrants to serve on state boards and commissions. The bill will take effect in January 2020.

    5. Gun control: Gun violence remains a top legislative priority for Sacramento lawmakers, despite the state’s already stringent laws. Starting in Sept. 2020, families and co-workers of gun owners will have an easier time filing restraining orders if they fear the firearm owners might harm themselves or others under AB 12 authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks. The bill also allows restraining orders that prompt law enforcement officials to temporarily confiscate guns.

    “In the absence of federal leadership, more of us will need to step up — the California Legislature and cities like San Jose — to confront the scourge of firearm violence,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told San José Spotlight.

    6. Housing crisis: To address the housing crisis in more rural areas, Assemblymember Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, crafted a bill to help farm workers. AB 1783, which takes effect in January, eliminates the need for a conditional use permit for building farmworker housing on agricultural land.

    “There’s so much emphasis on how housing is impacting people on an urban level,” Rivas told San José Spotlight in June. “Very rarely would you read about the issue from a rural perspective.”

    7. Cannabis equity: Marijuana retailers will soon be able to donate medicinal cannabis products to low-income patients thanks to SB 34, which was crafted by San Francisco Sen. Scott Wiener, and takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.

    8. Cannabis and kids: SB 1127 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo will allow parents to provide medical marijuana to their children on school grounds starting in January, with a few exceptions.

    “If it helps provide relief for minors, that’s a wonderful thing,” said Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance founder Sean Kali-rai. “There’s no reason you should be physically barred from school because of illness.”

    9. The gig economy: AB 5, authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, sets new rules around how employers classify independent contractors. The bill, which is expected to have a major impact on rideshare drivers, manicurists, truck drivers, newspaper carriers, freelance writers and more, says workers are independent contractors only if they meet certain requirements, such as being free from the control and direction of the hiring company.

    The controversial law, which has been praised by labor leaders and sharply criticized by industries that rely on independent contractors, takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.

    10. Animal protections: In addition to banning the sale of fur, the Golden State’s leaders decided in 2019 that elephants and tigers will no longer be a part of circus productions under SB 313, authored by state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego.

    The bill requires that no animal — other than a domesticated dog, cat or horse — be exhibited in this fashion.

    Contact Carina Woudenberg at [email protected] or follow @carinaew on Twitter.

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