PD Editorial: California’s new laws for 2020 — the good, the bad and the strange

Welcome to 2020.|

Welcome to 2020. A new year means bowl games and parades on TV, resolutions and, if you celebrated the new year a little too much, maybe an aspirin or two. Of course, a new year also means new laws - about 870 of them here in California.

There won't be a quiz, so you don't need to memorize them all.

For that matter, you probably wouldn't lose a bet that a lot of these new laws will be forgotten almost as soon as they're added to the state code books. Fair warning: Your wager might violate state law. But legislators are talking about legalizing sports betting in 2020.

Some of the new laws are important, and some are … we'll let you judge for yourself.

Animal hides: If you've been dreaming of alligator boots or a crocodile handbag, you're too late. They no longer can be sold in California. Ditto for most luxury fur coats.

Pay raise: California's minimum wage steps up to $13 an hour for employers with 26 employees or more, and to $12 an hour for smaller employers. In Santa Rosa, the minimum wage will increase another $1 per hour on July 1.

Gig work: Thousands of independent contractors could become regular employees - or they might find themselves newly unemployed. A new law imposes tight restrictions on who can be classified as an independent contractor. Truckers and freelance writers are challenging the law in federal court. So are Uber and Postmates.

Health insurance: In 2019, President Donald Trump and Congress effectively eliminated the Obamacare mandate that everyone must buy health insurance. For 2020, California restored the mandate for Golden State residents, while making more people eligible for premium subsidies on the Covered California exchange.

Vaccines: The state will review the decisions of doctors who provide five or more medical exemptions from childhood vaccine requirements.

Cannabis on the go: Passengers cannot consume cannabis while riding buses, taxis, pedicabs, limousines or campers.

Smoke-free zones: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a twice-vetoed bill to ban smoking at state parks and state beaches.

Elections: Voters can register on Election Day at all polling locations. Voters also can change their party registration at the polls, allowing them to cast ballots in partisan primary elections.

Lunchroom shaming: School districts cannot deny meals to students with unpaid lunchroom balances.

Police tactics: Law enforcement officers can use deadly force only when it's “necessary in defense of human life,” a standard adopted in response to officer-involved shootings.

Tenants: Rent increases will be capped at 5% annually, plus inflation. The law also prohibits landlords from evicting tenants without stating a cause. The law expires Jan. 1, 2030. An expiring law that required landlords to give tenants 90 days' notice before eviction was permanently renewed.

Offshore oil: Seeking to thwart Trump administration proposals for more oil drilling, the state will prohibit pipelines crossing state-owned land.

Kill it and grill it: A new law authorizes the state Fish and Game Commission to start a pilot project allowing people to collect roadkill animals for human consumption. If your resolution involves losing weight, this new law might help you push away from the table.

If that doesn't work, consider this: State lawmakers return to Sacramento on Monday to start writing new laws for 2021.

Happy New Year.

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