Bridge tolls, helmet use, health insurance, graduation ceremonies affected by 2019 Laws

| December 30, 2018 | 0 Comments

Tolls on the seven, state-owned, Bay Area bridges will go up on Jan. 1, officials with the Bay Area Toll Authority said.

Regular tolls for motorcycles, and two-axle cars and trucks will rise to $6 from $5 on the Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond-San Rafael and San Mateo-Hayward bridges.

Regular tolls on the Bay Bridge will go up to $7 from $6 on weekdays from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Weekday tolls on off-commute hours and weekend tolls will also rise by $1.

The increases are the result of Senate Bill 595, which was confirmed through Regional Measure 3 in June.

Officials with the toll authority said the hikes are the first on the bridges since 2010. Tolls will increase again by $1 on Jan. 1, 2022 and Jan. 1, 2025.

Starting with the new year, California students may wear lei, feathers or other cultural accessories at school events.

But those younger than 18 will need to wear helmets more often than in 2018.

And good news for those with minimum-wage jobs – the hourly minimum will rise to $12 in businesses with 26 or more employees and to 11 for smaller companies.

California Legislature passed dozens of new laws that affect residents during 2019, and many of them go into effect New Year’s Day.

Some focus on the Department of Motor Vehicles and vehicles.

For instance, to aid law enforcement and reduce toll violations, a vehicle leaving a dealership lot no longer can have a temporary license plate unless regular plates have been issued.

Those applying for driver licenses or identification cards no longer have to pick solely from male or female gender categories.

They also may choose non-binary, which will have an X designation.

Those who wish to change their gender designation on their licenses may make an appointment after Jan. 2, 2019, to do so.

Smog check exemptions are expanded, from vehicles that are six model years old up to eight model years. Exempted vehicles’ owners pay a smog abatement fee.

Those 18 and older no longer have to wear a helmet if they’re riding a motorized scooter, but motorized scooters no longer would be allowed on a highway with speed limits greater than 25 mph unless the vehicles are on an appropriate bicycle path.

Those younger than 18 will need to wear helmets if they are on a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or skates. Violators will be ticketed.

Minors with driver’s licenses will learn that juvenile courts no longer may suspend, restrict or delay those licenses if the child is a habitual truant or ward of the state.

Violators of California laws governing driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol also will learn about changes in those laws.

Repeat offenders and those violating the law for the first time in cases leading to an injury must install an ignition interlock (“breathalyzer”) device that must remain on their vehicles for a period of a year to four years if they’re to get their driver’s licenses back.

This new law, which lasts through Jan. 1, 2016, allows those with suspensions under the Administrative Per Se law may obtain driving privilege with the ignition lock and receive credit toward their required ignition lock restriction if they are later convicted of driving under the influence. But this won’t apply to drug-only violations.

Those taking DMV examinations may find questions regarding covering or securing cargo.

Does your electric or low-emission vehicle have a green and white decal that lets you drive alone in high-occupancy vehicle lanes? Those decals expire Jan. 1.

Motorists approaching or passing a garbage collection truck that has its amber lights flashing must move into an adjacent lane if possible, or slow to a “safe and reasonable” speed.

If you belong to the “loud pipes save lives” school of thought about motorcycles, one of the new laws disagrees. Instead of a “correctable” fine, the law requires a mandatory fine in cases of loud exhausts or muffler systems, not only for motorcycles but also for other types of vehicles.

Bicyclists also have new laws to follow. One expands California regulations of hit-and-run accidents. Bicyclists on bike paths as well as roadways who become involved in a collision resulting in death or injury to another person must stop at the scene.

More vehicles participating in ride-hailing companies will have to be zero-emission models, and their applications must provide passengers with driver name, pictures of both the driver and the vehicle and vehicle’s license plate number.

Those companies also will need to do more to encourage passengers to pool their rides in 2019.

Gun owners know California weapons laws are strict, and they’re going to become stricter in 2019.

The age limit to buy long guns – rifles and shotguns – is raised from 18 to 21, putting those purchases in line with the limits to buy hand guns.

Another law requires applicants to complete eight hours of training and pass a live-fire shooting test before receiving a concealed carry weapons permit.

“Bump stocks,” a gunstock that helps semi-automatic firearms to fire faster, are banned, and another law adds magazines and ammunition to items that can be confiscated temporarily under a gun violence restraining order.

One new law takes away the right to own a firearm from someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.

Firearms and gun stores will bear warnings in 2019 that say the weapons must be handled responsibly and must be stored securely to prevent access by children and those who aren’t authorized to use them.

In another law governing emergency situations, first responders are authorized to provide emergency medical assistance to pets, not just to people. Until the law’s passage, only licensed veterinarians were allowed to do this.

In cases of divorce, judges would choose who will have custody of a family pet.

And pet stores no longer would be able to sell live animals like dogs, cats or rabbits from breeders. Instead, they must be obtained from animal shelters, and stores must post the name of those shelters.

Election law also will be changed to accommodate the increase use of vote-by-mail.

One law requires elections officials to provide prepaid mail ballots so voters no longer have to apply their own stamps to the ballots’ envelopes.

Those voters will learn that California’s 2020 primary will be the first Tuesday in March rather than in June.

In a move that is designed to reduce the amount of plastic waste, a new law prevents restaurants from supplying plastic straws to customers unless requested.

Order a “kids’ meal” after Jan. 1, and its default beverage must be water or unflavored milk. However, customers may ask for alternatives, such as soda and juice.

Those who sell homemade food may do so under a new permit for small home cooking operations.

Criminal justice also has a host of new regulations.

Among them is one related to officer killings of civilians, allowing greater public access to internal investigations not only of killings but also cases in which someone is injured seriously. Also included are investigations of accusations of sexual assault and certain other types of misconduct on the job.

Effective in July, another law will require law enforcement agencies to release audio or video footage of a shooting or serious use of force within 45 days of the incident, unless doing so would interfere with an active investigation.

Both police officers and dispatchers will be required to undergo special training to understand differences between sexual orientation and gender identity and how to create an inclusive work environment in law enforcement departments.

Changes in the state’s marijuana laws encouraged the passage of a bill that directs California to identify any offense that is eligible for resentencing or expunging.

In July, those who have old convictions for possession, cultivation and distribution of the drug would be allowed to ask for those convictions to be reduced or overturned. Unless prosecutors object, this could affect more than 200,000 cases.

Veterinarians may discuss cannabis use with their clients, but may not administer cannabis to animals.

Two laws are designed to encourage rehabilitation in the prosecution of minors.

One sets 12 as the minimum age for prosecution in juvenile court, unless a child younger than 12 is accused of murder or rape.

The other eliminates trying as an adult a defendant younger than 16. That means upon conviction, the child would go to into juvenile detention instead of prison.

Health coverage is the topic of another set of laws. One prohibits insurers from offering short-term health plans and blocks a federal rule that would allow low-cost insurance that cap benefits and exclude mental health treatments, prescription drugs and those with preexisting conditions.

Nor can employers form association health plans that are exempt from coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act. Another law requires health plans to spend at least 80 percent of each premium dollar on health care.

Other laws will enhance pay for those delivering perishables in remote areas.

Check out a florist cooler in places where islanders have moved, and you’ll see a stock of fresh-flower lei as graduation ceremonies near. Students of other heritages have used the celebration to wear emblems of their own cultural backgrounds.

But two years ago in Elk Grove, a student was forced to leave his graduation ceremony because he wore kente cloth on top of his robe and wouldn’t remove it when told to do so.

That incident led to a new law that affirms a student’s right to wear religious and cultural adornments during graduation ceremonies.

Another law demands a school issue diplomas even if the students have past-due bus fares, overdue library books and unpaid uniforms. Seniors who have been deported will be granted diplomas retroactively.

Among workplace law changes, employees will be able to obtain personal copies of their employment files, not merely view them in the human resources office.

Publicly-traded companies must have at least one female board member by the end of 2019 and two or more by 2021.

Besides plastic straws, California’s new laws also order public utilities to implement a plan to increase their use of renewable energy to generate at least 60 percent of the state’s power from wind and solar sources by 2030 and have all of its energy from such sources by 2045.

California State Lands Commission will be prohibited from approving or renewing any leases for the building of pipelines and docks that could be used to increase oil and natural gas production in federal waters.

California’s net neutrality law was to take effect earlier, but is not being enforced until a lawsuit challenging the Federal Communication Commission’s reversal of net neutrality is settled in federal court.

A law that becomes effective in October 2019 will get rid of California’s bail schedule.

Instead, those charged with certain misdemeanors would be released within 12 hours of booking without seeing a judge.

Others taken into custody would undergo a risk assessment. Those determined to be low or medium risk likely would be released on their own recognizance or under supervision.

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Category: General News