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Set to Take Effect in California

By Tracy Bloom

The start of a new year means a fresh slate of laws will soon be in place throughout California. Some of the laws going into the books on Jan. 1 will take effect immediately on Wednesday, while other legal changes will happen later in the year.

Here are some of the news laws California has enacted for 2014:

Beginning Jan. 1, teen drivers will not be allowed to write, send or read texts behind the wheel, even if they are using a hands-free device.

Another law affecting all motorists stipulates drivers must provide at least three feet of distance between cars and cyclists while passing. Motorists who fail to give cyclists the adequate space will face fines beginning in mid-September.

Drivers will soon be able to park for free at meters that do not work. A new law taking effect in 2014 prohibits cities from ticketing motorists for parking at a broken meter.

Family Leave
The state is also expanding family leave time. Currently, anyone who has a new baby, or who has to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner or parent is eligible for family leave. Starting New Year’s Day, however, the program will be expanded to cover grandparents, grandchildren, in-laws and siblings.

Gun Control
California will begin retaining information about long-gun purchases, including shotguns and rifles, at the beginning of the year. Records with that information were previously destroyed by the state within five days.

Transgender students in grade school will be allowed to use bathrooms and join school athletic teams that match their gender identity, even if it is different than their gender at birth.

Starting January 1, all UC campuses will be smoke-free. Smokers at University of California schools will be prohibited from using tobacco products–including e-cigarettes, hookahs and chews–on campus.

A new anti-paparazzi law that aims to protect the children of celebrities and public officials will make it a misdemeanor to attempt to photograph or videotape them in a harassing manner starting in 2014. The measure was backed by a number of Hollywood celebrities.

Plastic Bags
Another law going into effect Jan. 1 will ban plastic bags at large grocery stores in Los Angeles. Small markets will no longer be allowed to hand out the bags beginning July 1. Plastic grocery bags are already banned in other parts of the state, including San Francisco, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.

Minimum Wage
California is also raising its minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2014, but workers must wait until July 1–when the law kicks in–to see the addition to their paycheck.

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