California Gov. Jerry Brown signed 898 bills into law in 2016. The new changes will have an effect on both the individual and institutional level.
Cell Phone Law
As of Jan. 1, California motorists cannot hold their phone while driving for any reason. In 2008-09, making phone calls and texting without the use of a hands-free device were banned. Any use of a cell phone, including the use of navigation, music or any other smartphone applications will be punishable by fine. The base fee for the first offense is $20, while all subsequent offenses will result in a $50 fine.
California minimum wage will go up to $10.50 as part of the state’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. Businesses with less than 26 employees will have an extra year before mandatory wage increases begin. California is one of 29 states to have an hourly minimum wage above the federal $7.25 minimum.
Additional laws will ensure that women cannot be paid less than their male colleagues on the basis of a prior salary and all K-12 and community college employees will be guaranteed up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
Gender Neutral Restrooms
Though not in effect until March 1, California law will now require single-stall restrooms in public and business facilities to be gender neutral. All single-stall public restrooms will be required to display a gender neutral bathroom sign. The law is seen as a progressive response to controversial transphobic bathroom laws such as those passed in North Carolina.
Regulations will now broaden the definition of an illegal assault weapon and for the first time, ammunition purchases will now require background checks. The ban will also include all magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Tougher Sentencing for Sexual Assault
Following the controversy of the Brock Turner case, people convicted of sexual offenses will serve mandatory prison sentences and cannot receive probation unless the court can prove special circumstances. The statute of limitation for sexual offenses, which was limited to 10 years, was removed. It will apply to crimes committed after Jan. 1, as well as crimes within the previous statute of limitation on Jan. 1.
California public and private colleges that provide meals must apply to a state-funded program to help offer meals to houseless students.
Another bill coming into effect will require community colleges to allow houseless students to use on-campus showers. Community colleges must create a plan of action to implement this requirement. Eligible students must be in good academic standing.
Schools will no longer be allowed to have a “redskins” mascot, a term long deemed insensitive toward Native American and indigenous people. Four schools in California will be required to comply with the law.