The new year will bring in hundreds of new laws in California, including a landmark law that permits undocumented individuals to obtain a driver’s license and another requiring that all eggs sold in California come from chickens living in bigger spaces.
Many of those new laws have to deal with health. Some take effect on Jan. 1, others in July. Here’s a look at some of them:
Assisted Living Homes: A new law increases 100-fold the top fine for violations of state regulations by assisted living facilities for the elderly. The fine is jumping from a mere $150 to $15,000. AB2236 takes effect July 1 and was part of a package of bills signed by the governor that tighten state oversight of the 7,500 assisted living homes in California. It’s the most significant overhaul of the industry in almost 30 years.
Paid Sick Leave: Nearly all California employers will be required, starting July 1, to provide at least three paid sick days to their workers. The new law largely affects millions of lower-wage service industry workers, including retail and fast food employees who don’t already have paid sick leave. Under the law, workers accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work.
Death Certificates: Coroners will be required to list a person’s sex according to the person’s gender identity, not simply sexual anatomy. The law was inspired in part by the death of Christopher Lee, co-founder of the Transgender Film Festival. After he committed suicide, his friends were shocked to learn that his death certificate listed him as “female,” despite the fact he’d lived as a man for nearly 20 years. The law takes affect in July.
Pesticide Use at Schools: An amendment to the Healthy Schools Act of 2000 requires that K-12 schools and licensed child care centers choose the “least toxic pest management practices.” Under the new law, schools are to follow an integrated pest management approach, which generally focuses more on prevention with the fewest hazards to people and to the environment. It takes effect in July.
Concussions: Athletes who suffer a concussion or head injury must wait a minimum of seven days to return to play and have a doctor’s permission to do so under this law. The law also limits teams to two full-contact practice sessions twice a week.
Provider Network Adequacy: After the launch of Covered California, one of the issues that cropped up almost immediately was problems consumers were having in finding a doctor who would take their insurance. One of the ways insurers hold down premiums is by narrowing their provider network — they offer doctors and hospitals lower reimbursements in exchange for delivering them a higher volume of patients. This new law requires the Department of Managed Health Care to provide greater oversight of health plan network adequacy.
Hospital Fair Pricing: Low-income Californians (less than 350 percent of poverty) will be eligible for a “reasonable payment plan” if they receive a hospital bill, under this new law taking effect Jan. 1. Their payments would be capped at 10 percent of income after living expenses.
Soda Tax: While it’s not a statewide law, perhaps the most-noticed law going into effect Jan. 1 is Berkeley’s soda tax measure, passed with a whopping 75 percent of the vote in November. The law places a penny-per-ounce tax on most sugar-sweetened beverages. The tax is imposed on distributors, but analysts have long believed that it will be passed through to consumers. While the tax is not earmarked, the law requires that a panel of health experts advise Berkeley’s City Council on how to spend the tax, with an eye toward programs that further reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and mitigate the health effects of that consumption.