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February 5, 2023

Hate Speech, Bike Safety, Wages Get Legislative Attention This Year

Each year, the State of California leads the way when it comes to establishing new laws that will benefit the populous state of over 39 million residents. In 2023, get ready for some laws that will govern workplace pay transparency, traffic, and official holidays. Below is a buffet sampling of new rules to live by.

Assembly Bill 257: (AB 257), also known as the Fast Food Accountability and Standards (FAST) Recovery Act, will establish a Fast Food Council within the Department of Industrial Relations. Governor Newsom, along with the input of other legislative bodies, will be tasked with appointing ten members to establish “sector-wide minimum standards on wages, working hours, and other working conditions related to the health, safety, and welfare of fast food restaurant workers,” according to the text of the Bill. Additional verbiage in AB 257 supports the need for the law, citing, “Numerous complaints filed by fast food workers with state and local health departments illustrate that many fast food operators routinely have flouted protections, including, but not limited to, failing to provide adequate protection against workplace violence, requiring workers to work without access to personal protective equipment, denying workers sick pay, failing to inform workers of exposure to COVID-19, actively hiding COVID-19 cases, and demanding that workers come to work when they are sick.” 

Assembly Bill 2282: (AB 2282) increases penalties against anyone who uses hateful symbols in the perpetration of a hate crime, including swastikas, nooses, and desecrated crosses, and includes K-12 schools and colleges as sites beneath the Bill’s umbrella. In the 2019-2020 school year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “77 percent of public schools recorded that one or more incidents of crime had taken place, amounting to 1.4 million incidents.” The Anti-Defamation League was a contributing agency to the text of the Bill. Regional Director Seth Brysk noted, “We want to fight back against acts of intimidation, but we also have to be mindful of the First Amendment and the right to free speech,” said Brysk. “And we really do believe that this bill strikes that right balance.”

A Boost to the Minimum Wage: If you’re making minimum wage at your job, you’ll see an increase in your rate of pay to $15.50 come the New Year. In 2017, the California Labor Commissioner’s Office began to phase in a gradual increase of minimum wage in the state. Companies composed of 25 employees or less started to see a slight shift upward in minimum wage requirements according to the Labor Commission’s matrix, while companies of 26 employees or more saw a slightly more dramatic increase. In January of 2023, both sectors of employment will reach the new pay rate simultaneously. 

Assembly Bill 1909: (AB 1909) has the safety and security of two-wheeled inhabitants of the roads in mind. Some features of the Bill include allowing bicycles to cross an intersection under the pedestrian code, rather than the moving vehicle code (unless otherwise directed by a bicycle control signal). Existing law requires that anyone driving a motor vehicle must allow a 3-foot distance between themselves and a bicyclist when attempting to pass or overtake the cyclist. AB 1909 would require that any vehicle attempting to pass or overtake a cyclist must move over to an adjacent lane of traffic, if one is available, before attempting to pass. (Note: Adjacent lanes are ones with a dotted white line between them. Crossing a double-yellow line to pass a cyclist is still against the law.) In addition, the Bill eliminates licensing ordinances for bikes, as well as expanding access for e-bikes.

Assembly Bill 2011: (AB 2011) allows for more housing to be built in areas specifically zoned for office and retail buildings. In addition, the Bill promises high union wages for construction workers and guarantees an expedited building process near established city centers to manage sprawl. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), California needs to build 180,000 new units of housing every year to keep up with increasing demand, including offering 80,000 units of affordable housing to low-income households. The California Housing Accelerator (CHA) is a grant program that has supplied $1.9 billion in funding for current projects; Newsom has announced that an additional $1 billion will be designated for 30 shovel-ready projects in concert with the CHA. Specifications within AB 2011 will also exempt conversion projects from local approval processes and adherence to the California Environmental Quality Act, which ultimately could lower the cost of building new homes while accelerating the construction process.

Senate Bill 1162: (SB 1162) will require that companies that employ at least 15 people must include the salary range for all job postings, and that information must be provided to existing employees upon request.

In addition, a slew of new laws affecting drivers and pedestrians will also see daylight in January. From a decrease in jaywalking charges to enacting a “Yellow Alert” in response to fatal hit-and-run crashes to making races, burnouts and sideshows illegal in parking lots and off-street parking structures, multiple Assembly Bills will change the way people in the State of California move about.

Christina Wise
Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.

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