New laws bring wage hike, driving rules and expanded vote

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Rules involving cellphone use while driving have tightened in 2017.

Mountain View’s minimum wage rose to $13 per hour beginning Jan. 1, but another new law aimed at supporting the city’s lower-income workers ground to a halt a day before taking effect last month.

A judge granted a temporary restraining order against Measure V, the rent control measure passed in the Nov. 8 election, based on a lawsuit filed Dec. 21 by the California Apartment Association (CAA).

If enacted as voters decreed, Measure V would roll back rents in Mountain View to their 2015 levels and cap increases at 5 percent annually. The CAA argued that the new rules, and a related anti-eviction ordinance voted into effect last month, violate state and federal laws by unfairly benefiting tenants over landlords, and should be struck down. The city of Mountain View agreed to the temporary agreement halting Measure V’s implementation but preserving an emergency anti-eviction ordinance. The city’s attorney has not yet revealed whether the city will defend the measure in court. If not, the coalition of local housing advocates who brought Measure V to the ballot claim that they will defend the measure.

Another lawsuit, this one on the national level, will also affect local incomes. A U.S. District Court judge in Texas barred new Fair Labor Standards Act rules from taking effect last month that would have expanded who qualified for overtime pay to any salaried employees making less than $47,477 per year. That means the existing limit of $23,660 remains in place until the case is resolved.

State laws of local interest

Locally, no lawsuits hampered California’s minimum wage increases to $10-$10.50 depending on the size of the employer, Sunnyvale’s and Mountain Views’ hikes to $13, and Los Altos’ and Palo Alto’s new minimum of $12.

A new state law aims to reduce the prevailing inequality between what men and women are paid for doing the same work. In an attempt to address the long-term effects women experience from working in lower-paid roles than men, Assembly Bill 1676 requires that prior salary cannot be used to justify paying a woman less than a man performing the same work. Massachusetts passed a similar law this year that goes further, banning employers from asking job applicants about their previous salaries.

A warning to distracted drivers: Assembly Bill 1785 tightens the existing law against using cellphones while driving, which until now allowed drivers to interact with navigation apps. Under the new rules, drivers can only use features or functions if they invoke a single swipe or tap. No typing in an address – or face a $20 ticket.

It won’t undo the trademark fiasco that has rebranded most of Yosemite’s landmark buildings, but Assembly Bill 2249 prohibits any future instances of a concessionaire winning a state park contract and then trademarking names associated with the park.

Under the theory that underage sex workers are victims, not criminals, Senate Bill 1322 prohibits police officers from arresting minors for prostitution or loitering with intent to commit prostitution.

Senate Bill 1129 removes mandatory minimum sentences for repeated prostitution convictions, giving judges more sentencing flexibility for both buyers and sellers of sex work.

Sexual assailants see the law changing in the opposite direction – outrage over Stanford University rapist Brock Turner’s light sentence led directly to Assembly Bill 2888, which mandates prison time for those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious victim.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 813 – inspired in part by the emerging accounts of sexual assault lodged against comedian Bill Cosby – eliminates the statute of limitations for rape cases. It will not apply retroactively, meaning rapes that occurred prior to this year still face time limitations for prosecution.

Senate Bill 1182 enables prosecutors to bring felony charges against people who possess the “date rape” drugs most commonly used to attempt sexual assaults.

Voters can now register to vote as late as Election Day, thanks to Assembly Bill 1436 – currently law cuts off registration at 15 days prior – and Californians previously convicted of felonies who have already completed prison and/or parole will now be able to reclaim their right to vote.

Assembly Bill 1494 allows all voters to take, and share, ballot selfies, a form of sharing that had previously been banned by poll privacy regulations.

Assembly Bill 797 provides a “Good Samaritan” allowance for concerned civilians to free distressed dogs sealed in hot cars without an owner to be found. The law requires that would-be saviors contact authorities and wait for their arrival.

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