New California laws bump up minimum wage, tighten gun laws

- A higher minimum wage, a ban on using "Redskins" as the name of a school team or mascot, and new restrictions on assault weapons are among the California laws taking effect with the new year.

MINIMUM WAGE

California's minimum wage will increase from $10 an hour to $10.50 for businesses with 26 or more employees under SB3 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. It will eventually rise to $15 an hour in 2022. The law delays the increases by one year for smaller employers.

Employers will also be prohibited from paying a female employee less than male colleagues based on her prior salary.

ASSAULT WEAPONS

Lawmakers passed a package of bills to strengthen California's already tough gun laws then voters reinforced them by passing even more measures. People who own magazines that hold more than 10 rounds will be required to give them up starting Jan. 1. Buyers must undergo a background check before purchasing ammunition and will be barred from buying new weapons that have a device known as a bullet button.

Gun makers developed bullet buttons to get around California's assault weapons ban, which prohibited new rifles with magazines that can be detached without the aid of tools. A bullet button allows a shooter to quickly dislodge the magazine using the tip of a bullet.

HANDGUN STORAGE

Law enforcement officers will be required to follow the same rules as civilians by securely storing handguns in a lockbox out of plain view or in the trunk if the weapons are left in an unattended vehicle. SB 869 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, closed a legal loophole that had exempted authorities and concealed weapons permit holders from those rules. The move came after stolen guns were used in high-profile crimes.

SEXUAL ASSAULT

Sexually assaulting an unconscious or severely intoxicated person will become a crime ineligible for probation — a change prompted when former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was given a six-month jail sentence for assaulting an unconscious woman. AB2888 clarifies that a victim cannot consent to sex while unconscious or incapacitated by drugs, alcohol or medication.

And inspired by the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, California is getting rid of statutes of limitations for rape and other sex crimes. If a crime happens after December 31, 2016, the victim will be able to report it at any time and have it prosecuted. Prosecution was previously generally limited to 10 years.

TEXTING WHILE DRIVING

Add using traffic apps or updating your Instagram account to the list of things you cannot do while driving. AB1785 by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, updates California's existing ban on texting while driving to make it clear that state law prohibits the use of any hand-held device in a way that distracts from driving — not just while texting. Motorists can still use devices that are mounted or voice-operated and hands-free.

SCHOOL MASCOTS

California public schools will be barred from using the name "Redskins" for sports teams and mascots under AB30 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville. American Indians regard the term as offensive.

CHILD SAFETY SEATS

Children younger than 2 must be in rear-facing child restraint systems unless they weigh 40 or more pounds or are 40 or more inches tall under AB53 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.

HEALTHCARE

Women can now pick up a whole year's worth of birth control pills at once and health plans are required to cover the cost.

Terminally ill California patients will be allowed to use experimental drugs that do not yet have full regulatory approval under AB1668 by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier. It authorizes but does not require health plans to cover investigational drugs and protects physicians from disciplinary action if they recommend them when other treatment options have been exhausted.

Businesses can stock EpiPens — used to treat people undergoing life-threatening allergic reactions — under AB1386, which allows pharmacies to dispense the devices to colleges, private businesses and other venues that have a plan in place for using them. Gov. Jerry Brown said he signed the bill because the move has the potential to save lives. However, he called out EpiPen manufacturer Mylan for what he termed "rapacious corporate behavior" by rapidly raising prices.

BUILDING SAFETY

The state will attempt to better monitor potential safety issues in the wake of a fatal balcony collapse at a Berkeley apartment building that killed six young people in June 2015. SB465 by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, requires better information-sharing between state and local agencies about contractors, convictions and legal settlements. A working group will have one year to decide whether changes are needed to state building codes after several structure failures.

PETS

You will not be held legally liable for breaking into a locked car to save an animal in the heat or cold as long as you call authorities first.

Dog kennels and pet hotels must check on animals once a day and have elevated platforms for cats.

GOVERNMENT

Felons serving time in county jails will now be allowed to vote in state elections.

Smile! It's now legal to take a selfie with a completed ballot.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Young people under 18 cannot be charged with prostitution and will instead be treated as victims under SB1322 by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles. It's one of several human trafficking-related bills that include raising the age kids can testify outside a courtroom from 13 to 15, protecting victims' names from disclosure and mandating that they have access to county services.

OTHER LAWS

Restrooms in any public buildings with a single toilet will have to be designated as all-gender beginning March 1.

Smoking or using an e-cigarette within 250 feet of any youth sports event, such as a Little League baseball game, is now illegal.

Beauty salons and barbershops will be able to offer customers a free beer or glass of wine.

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