New laws bring change

By Jake Lee Green
Kern Valley Sun

Now that our calendars have begun the dawn of a new decade, laws in California are beginning new practices in the way business, education, gun control, labor, and firearms are regulated. Quite a few laws that have been amended or developed aren’t new information, but, now that the fiscal year has begun, the effects will reveal themselves whether liked or disliked by citizens of the state of California.

Labor has always been a hot topic issue in politics and for many citizens, in the Golden State, good news appears to be relevant to those affected by the new policies being passed in the capital. Nationwide, 72 jurisdiction’s minimum wage went up as of January 1, 2020, due to the passing of SB-3. In 17 of those jurisdictions, minimum wage will go up to $15 an hour, with other areas of California raising their minimum wage to $13 an hour depending on the size of the company, how many employees are on staff, and the location of the company; relative to cities that contain a higher population density. California is one of 14 states who decided to increase the minimum wage based on a prearranged agreement within the Senate bill rather than adjusting the wages according to the cost of living within the state of California.

With the passing of Assembly Bill-9, also known as the Stop Harassment and Reporting Extension (SHARE) Act, deadlines to file an allegation of unlawful workplace harassment, discrimination, or civil rights-related retaliation with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), was increased from one year to three years.

In addition, in an attempt to curb issues of workplace discrimination and harassment, Senate Bill-1343 will require an employer with 5 or more employees to provide at least 2 hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual harassment training to all non-supervisory employees as of January 1, 2020, and once every 2 years thereafter.

Senate Bill-83, which will go into effect a bit later in the year on July 1, 2020, increases paid leave from six to eight weeks for personnel taking care of gravely ill members of immediate family, or to take care of a newly born child.

A highly contentious law that has gone into effect as of January 1, 2020, is Assembly Bill-5. The intention of the law is to extend benefits to gig workers by providing them with a minimum wage, health insurance, and sick days. Essentially, it is an avenue to incorporate freelancers, contractors, and gig economy workers into the workplace with rights established. However, opponents of the bill are saying the law is “irrational and unconstitutional,” according to a law suit filed by major gig worker’s companies Uber, Postmates, and DoorDash. The new law doesn’t necessarily add gig workers to the roster of employees instantaneously but, instead, requires companies to transform its policies to adapt to the new law which can cause a 30 percent increase in labor costs for some of the affected companies.
Organizations such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have applauded the bill stating that the end to the misclassification of workers is a win for workers who are categorized as “independent contractors.”
Within the workplace, as well as school rooms across California, employers and school officials can no longer ban hairstyles based on a person’s natural hair thanks to Senate Bill-188. The Golden State is the first to champion a bill of its kind. SB-188, also known as ‘The Crown Act,’ makes it illegal to enforce code or grooming policies against hairstyles such as braids, dreadlocks, twists, and afros.

Changes in law regarding education have been quite controversial. For many local parents within the Kern River Valley, news of the passing of Senate Bill-419 comes as a difficult adjustment. The bill, which begins at the start of the next school year, makes it illegal for public schools in California to suspend students in first through fifth grade for defying teachers or administrators willfully. In addition, as of 2021 through 2025, the law will extend even further to include children in grades six through eight. Opponents of the bill are saying this creates a wall between children and the administration in terms of how to properly discipline children who are actively defiant or obtrusive within a classroom. An issue that has seen much debate from parents and administrators.

The state of California didn’t have an age restriction for children sent to juvenile hall before 2020. With the passing of Senate Bill-439, the minimum age for a child to be held in juvenile hall is now 12-years-old. This law excludes crimes such as rape, murder, and bodily harm that are committed by children under the age of 12.

Another notable criminal justice revisions in California law include Assembly Bill-12. This law which goes into effect on September 1, 2020, expands who can petition a court to confiscate personal firearms if it is believed that the person poses a threat to themselves or the public. The expansion allows employers, co-workers, and teachers.

There are many other laws in effect as of January 1, 2020, that are also notable. It is encouraged to look into these laws yourself at and develop your own opinions. In any case, much change has come to the state of California and through education and voting, we may enable ourselves as citizens to revise, amend, continue, or overturn these new statutes.