by : Rey Andres
Californians woke up January 1st greeted by new laws many see as a bundle of blessings and protections for “vulnerable low income workers, immigrants who are in the country illegally, domestic care givers and farm workers.” Also benefitting from new laws are transgender students, same sex couples, women seeking abortions, the homeless, prison inmates who committed crimes as juveniles and celebrities with young children.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed 805 bills into law in 2013 and said no to 96 others. The Democratic leaders of both the Assembly and the Senate had in mind the protection of the workers who are reeling from recession. The labor front has considered the year 2013 as a banner year for workers with the benefits of the laws being felt immediately and has established California as a “national leader in protecting the rights of workers.”
The Republicans saw the new laws in a different perspective claiming they “will harm California’s business climate.”
In a dramatic and far-reaching move, minimum wage workers will be paid $9 starting July pushing the base of the two-dollar –an-hour boost to $110 base wage by 2016 and “giving the state of California one of the nation’s highest rates.”
Under the new law, domestic workers must be paid time-and-a- half if they work more than nine hours in a day or more than 45 hours in a week. Baby sitters, however, are exempt from the law.
Workers in the agriculture and landscaping industries will now get rest breaks during hot weather.
In protecting the immigrants who are in the country illegally, they now enjoy new rights and protections by making it a crime “for employers to report workers to immigration authorities as a form of retaliation for worker-related complaints” and for anyone extorting money from those in the country illegally by threatening to report their legal status.
Moreover, local law enforcement agencies can no longer detain immigrants for deportation if they are arrested for a minor crime and are eligible to be released from custody. They are also prohibited from requiring immigration or citizenship papers before releasing crime reports and other public records.
A new law that takes effect in 2015 grants immigrants the added mobility they have long fought for by giving a right to have a driver’s license.
Other laws in effect add job protections for victims of domestic violence and other crimes; prohibiting employers from firing an employee who has been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking or dismiss a victim of certain crimes who takes time off for a court hearing.
The 800 new state laws also deal with electric cars and low-emission vehicles, celebrities on paparazzi limits, neglect of children and child abuse, crimes, drugs, environment, gender, government, guns and health.