The start of a new year means bills voted into law last year will be taking effect, if they haven’t already.
Here’s a look at some of the more notable new laws, from the perspectives of local legislators:
One of the most-talked about bills passed last year was Assembly Bill 5, widely known as the gig economy bill, which reclassified a great majority of independent contractors in the state as employees.
Assemblyman James Gallagher, 3rd Dist. Republican of Yuba City, said AB 5, which went into effect Jan. 1, makes independent contracting all but impossible in California.
“This will drastically affect many occupations from truckers to freelance writers,” said Gallagher. “Once again, the super majority in the Legislature figured out a way to make it even harder to earn a living in this state. The consequences of policies like this are becoming glaringly obvious: despite a thriving economy, homelessness is skyrocketing, and our poverty rate is the highest in the nation.”
Gallagher has voiced strong opposition to the bill throughout the legislative process and multiple groups representing several industries affected by the new law have also expressed their opposition by filing lawsuits.
νSeveral fires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres of land across the state made wildfires a big topic for lawmakers in 2019.
“We have really focused hard on fires this past year and assisting those in Paradise and the Ridge,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen, 4th District Republican.
Nielsen said one of the most significant laws he authored in 2019 was Senate Bill 156, which allowed the emergency room in Paradise to reopen despite regulations in place after the Camp Fire.
“They were left without healthcare after the Camp Fire destroyed the Feather River Hospital,” said Nielsen. “Despite a little smoke damage, the emergency room was completely intact but the law at the time stated that emergency rooms had to be connected to a hospital to operate.”
According to Nielsen, the passing of Senate Bill 99, which requires each county to have at least two evacuation routes, was voted into law to help prevent another catastrophic fire event.
For further assistance, Gallagher said he authored the Camp Fire Housing Assistance Act of 2019 (AB 430) which will help expedite home construction in the North State region by streamlining environmental regulations that often delay or stop housing developments.
“Specifically, AB 430 allows housing projects that are in areas planned for residential growth to utilize an expedited review process so they can be approved faster and at lower cost,” said Gallagher of the law that went into effect Jan. 1. “Yuba City and Live Oak are two of the eight cities the law applies to.”
νIn what has been described as an attempt at helping those living on the margin of poverty, the rent control measure Assembly Bill 1482 also passed on the second to last day of the last legislative session.
Gallagher listed that bill as one of the most significant bills signed into law for 2020 because, he said, rent control will decrease housing supply.
“This is a fact,” said Gallagher. “Everywhere it has been tried it has had that effect. This bill will result in higher rents; in fact, it allows them to increase by 8 percent every year, which is higher than the wage growth for most. Government intrusion causes people to do things they otherwise would not. In a free market where there is adequate supply, landlords would have to compete for tenants and rents would be lower. At the very least, rent increases would be smaller and over a longer period of time.
But when supply is limited and rents are capped, landlords will simply raise their rents to the cap every year.”
The lawmakers said they will continue to work together to better California.
“2020 will bring quite a bit of focus on Pacific Gas and Electric, Co. and power shutoffs,” said Gallagher. “Senator Nielsen and I will be introducing legislation that will help prevent future wildfires and Public Safety Power Shutoff events.”
Nielsen said while ideas are still in the brainstorming stages, he plans to work on legislation that would focus on land management and placing underground electrical lines in hazardous area.
“I will continue to work on all matters related to PGE and the shutoffs to ensure that all citizens and individuals are protected” said Nielsen. “The more we have these power shutoffs the more normal they become but that cannot be California. I am adamant about that.”
According to Gallagher, the new bill will direct additional funding into utility infrastructure upgrades and forest fuel reduction projects – which he said were two of the leading factors in catastrophic wildfires and factors cited by PGE when declaring power shutoff events.