New year rings in minimum wage increase, vote by mail


A slew of new regulations were rung in with the new year for Californians, from minimum wage hikes to immigration policies.

Workers hoping to earn more for their labor are in for a raise in the new year, as the minimum wage will increase by 50 cents this year. That’s up to $11 per hour for workers at companies with at least 26 employees, and up to $10.50 for those at smaller businesses. Senate Bill 3 brings these changes, which was signed into effect nearly two years ago and will continue to hike the hourly wage annually until it reaches $15 in 2022 for large companies, and in 2023 for all workers.

There’s more good news for those in the workforce under Assembly Bill 168, which requires that the salary history of job applicants can only be disclosed voluntarily, meaning that prospective employers will no longer be able to base an employee’s new salary off of his or her old wages.

Assembly Bill 1008 is part of the “Ban the Box” initiative that hopes to improve employment options for formerly-incarcerated citizens, banning the box on applications that asks about criminal conviction history. Employers can still conduct a background check once an offer has been made to the employee, but the law is meant to give former convicts a better shot at being considered for a job based on their merits, and not their past mistakes.

A new era of voting in California will kickoff in 2018, with Senate Bill 450 – passed in 2016 – doing away with neighborhood polling places and replacing them with elections conducted primarily by mail as part of an effort to boost voter turnout. Under the system, every registered voter will receive a mail ballot, and drop-off locations will be available up to four weeks before election day. Temporary regional “vote centers” will be open 10 days ahead of time to register voters and accept ballots.

In Stanislaus County, implementation of SB 450 means that 160 neighborhood polling places will be closed. There are currently 241,000 registered voters in the county, meaning 25 vote centers would be set up in the four days before the election.

Stanislaus County Clerk Lee Lundrigan described the vote center platform as a “new, expensive direction for voting in California.”

Arguably one of the most controversial new laws of 2018 is Senate Bill 54, which makes California a “sanctuary state.” Signed in opposition of President Donald Trump’s plans to increase deportations of illegal immigrants, it limits the ability of state and local police to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Officers cannot ask about someone’s immigration status or detain them unless they have been convicted of one of the crimes from a list of more than 800.

Assembly Bill 291 continues the state’s legislative opposition to Trump by prohibiting landlords from reporting their undocumented renters, and Senate Bill 257 allows students who are deported to continue attending California schools.

Other California laws taking effect in 2018 include:
• AB 711: Allows alcohol companies and businesses to team up with ride shares, like Uber and Lyft, as well as taxi services, to give out vouchers or promo codes for discounted rides.
• Prop 63: Approved by voters in November 2016, Prop 63 requires ammunition purchases to be made in person through an authorized firearms and ammo vendor.
• SB 179: Removes the requirement that people have to choose either male or female on their identification documents.
• AB 424: Eliminates a previous policy implemented in 2016 that gave school administrators the ability to decide whether campus employees with concealed carry permits were allowed to bring their firearms to school, banning firearms on campuses altogether.
• AB 830: Permanently eliminates the high school exit exam as a condition of graduation.
• AB 1127: Diaper-changing stations will be a requirement in both women’s and men’s public restrooms.
• AB 485: Bans pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits unless they are rescue animals.
• AB 19: Waives the fee for first-time students who enroll full time in California community colleges.
• AB 1303: Allows drivers with a medical condition certified by a dermatologist to tint their windshields, side and rear windows to protect them from ultraviolet rays.