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New year brings with it plenty of new laws

One bill opens up public records about misconduct and officer-involved shootings

A slew of new laws that went into effect on Jan. 1 – from bills addressing gender issues to new rules banning gun ownership by those convicted of domestic violence – reflect the progressive politics California has come to be known for.

Senate Bill 826 gives publicly held companies based in California until the end of 2019 to recruit at least one woman to sit on their boards of directors, and requires two female members for a five-member board and three for boards of six or more members by the end of 2021.

In a win for people who do not identify with a particular gender, Senate Bill 179 enables them to obtain a birth certificate establishing their gender as non-binary. The process would include an attestation, under penalty of perjury, that the change is being done in good faith. Identification as non-binary would extend to the person's driver's license.

On the food front

You're in your favorite restaurant and you're expecting a plastic straw with that drink? OK, you can have one, but now you'll have to ask it. The stipulation of Assembly Bill 1884 does not apply if the straw is made of paper, pasta, sugar cane, wood or bamboo. Nor does it apply if the eatery is not a full-service restaurant, which means you're shown to your seat, waited on at that seat, and given a check for your meal at that seat.

Regardless of the restaurant category, with the passage of Senate Bill 1192, if you're a child and you order a children's meal, it will come with a non-sugary drink, such as water, sparkling water, flavored water or plain milk. Sugary drinks, if available, may be ordered.

Obesity in California rose 250 percent between 1990 and 2016, the law notes. Between 2009 and 2015, the percentage of overweight children under 6 years old rose 13.7 percent and 16 percent for ages 6 to 11. Overweight children are twice as likely to become overweight adults.

Assembly Bill 626 addresses meals prepared in "microenterprise home kitchens." It regulates in-home food handling and safety, allows no more than one full-time employee earning no more than $50,000 per year in those kitchens, and permits the sale of food cooked that same day.

As a rationale for revising regulations on selling home-cooked food, the bill notes the high bar to owning a restaurant and the high cost of renting a retail kitchen as factors contributing to an "informal economy of locally produced and prepared hot foods." The absence of "appropriate regulations" was mitigating against experienced cooks participating and earning a legal income.

Safety, law enforcement

First responders from the local fire or police department tend not to be licensed veterinarians, and so were prohibited from administering first aid to dogs and cats. Senate Bill 1305 changes that. Now medics and other emergency personnel can administer oxygen to a dog or cat, fit them with a ventilation mask, clear their upper airways, and take steps to control bleeding.

In any incident that involves police engaging in a serious use of force, the video and audio footage of the incident must now be made public within 45 days. Senate Bill 748 allows redaction if release of the information would violate a "reasonable expectation of privacy" of someone shown in the recording.

Senate Bill 1421 opens up public records about misconduct, officer-involved shootings and "other serious uses of force" by police and corrections officers. Concealing this information "undercuts the public's faith in the legitimacy of law enforcement, makes it harder for tens of thousands of hardworking peace officers to do their jobs, and endangers public safety," the law notes.

In civil or administrative cases involving sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sex-based harassment or discrimination, nondisclosure agreements with a provision that prevents the disclosure of factual information relating to certain claims, and entered into after Jan. 1, are void. Senate Bill 820 also protects the victim's identity as well as facts that could lead to the disclosure unless a party in the case is a government agency or public official.

Assembly Bill 1619 gives adult victims of sexual assault 10 years to seek civil damages, up from three years. Assembly Bill 3118 requires police agencies with untested rape kits to audit those kits and report to the state Legislature a kit's significant dates and the reason it has not been tested.

In new laws to address gun violence, Assembly Bill 3129 requires anyone convicted of a misdemeanor of willful infliction of corporal injury upon a spouse, cohabitant, or other specified person to permanently give up the right to possess a firearm, while Senate Bill 1200 expands the definition of ammunition to include gun magazines as prohibited items in the possession of people under a gun-violence restraining order.

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