In the overall scheme of things, it seems that one of the least-important new California laws is getting a disproportionate share of the media attention.
Voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana use in November 2016, and it was fairly predictable that, because of the controversy surrounding marijuana’s other-worldly effects, it would grab headlines when the rules were eased.
But the fact is that nearly 1,000 bills passed by the California Legislature and signed into law by the governor went on the books at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The following is but the tip of a regulatory iceberg that just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year:
Bucking a nationwide trend on crime laws, California now prevents a public school employee from carrying a concealed firearm onto campus. School workers formerly had discretion with regard to carrying a gun. The jury is still out on more Americans legally carrying guns in public places, but we fail to see how adding guns equates to safety.
Juvenile offenders facing life in prison without parole now get a break. That sentence is no longer available to judges and juries. Juveniles already in prison for life become eligible for release after serving 25 years. This, too, is a departure from the national trend of getting tougher on young criminals.
A new rule gives law enforcement more authority to crack down on motorists who misuse disabled-driver permits. It is irksome to see a fully ambulatory person park in a space for the disabled.
The state is turning the screws on owners of vehicles fueled by gasoline and diesel with an add-on road-repair fee of from $25 to $175 a year. Yes, that’s punitive, but also part of California’s shift away from dependence on fossil fuels.
California’s lowest-paid workers are getting a modest raise to a minimum of $11 an hour — unless you work for a very small company, in which case the jump is to $10.50 an hour. We’ve been hearing a lot about how raising the minimum wage is a disaster for business owners, and will hurt workers because some businesses will simply reduce their work force. But that hasn’t been the case in states already using a higher minimum wage. As long as the U.S. economy keeps improving, the jobs will be there.
One new law is a direct response to the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Law enforcement statewide now has strict limits on how much help they can give federal immigration agencies. This is part of the controversial sanctuary movement, whose major adherents are big metro areas of the country.
In fact, Jan. 1 ushered in a bevy of new laws designed to protect people in California from search and seizure by federal immigration authorities. What this tells us is that California has a concern for all residents.
For a hint about the future of voting in California, we turn to a new law that will effectively close neighborhood voting precincts and redirect voters to so-called vote centers. Five counties — Sacramento, San Mateo, Madera, Napa and Nevada — are part of a pilot program that, if it works, could be expanded statewide. Voters in those counties will be sent ballots in the mail.
Obviously, we’ve only scratched the surface here, and there’s a good chance that few of the new laws will have any major impacts on the way we all live. But this is a process that plays out in Sacramento every year. Justice is always a work in progress.