2023 New California Laws

Everyone’s favorite entity, the California legislature, came out with a slew of laws that took into effect in Jan. 2023. Here are, what I consider, some of the highlights:

Jaywalking has been decriminalized

This one matters for everyone who’s been stuck on one side of the road because they refuse to jaywalk on principle.

Although I’m not sure if that describes anyone other than myself. I once jaywalked with a judge and still feel weird about it.

Jaywalking is now legal in safe circumstances, under the Freedom to Walk bill. Quite the bill name, but at least it can be said with conviction, at least compared to the 2022 California bill entitled the “Decriminalization of Certain Hallucinogenic Substances Amendment.” Telling an officer that they are “violating my right to walk freely” would make my day.

Maybe the Freedom to Drive act will get passed next, finally allowing me to make a left turn out of the DP parking lot onto Alameda.

However, the bill’s name seems more justified when considering why it was enacted.

Jaywalking laws are shown to be inequitably enforced in Black and Latino neighborhoods, and criminalized commonplace street-crossing behavior. It also was discriminatory against people living in neighborhoods with fewer available crosswalks and had minimal impact in increasing safety.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill last September, although he vetoed a similar proposal in 2021.

The bill states that jaywalking is legal when a “reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision.” As for what that means when crossing a windy or high-speed road, it’s unclear; maybe the courts will have an even more vague definition in a decade or so.

Rap music (usually) cannot be used as evidence in court

I don’t think this affects many Charger Account readers, but it’s still interesting.

The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act places severe limitations on how an artist’s rap lyrics can be used against them in court.

It makes sense, I’ve certainly never heard an officer say “anything you rap can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Much like the Freedom to Walk Act, the primary issue seemed to lie in the inconsistency prior to this bill. Most genres of artistic expression had this protection, creating an odd double standard for rap and hip-hop music.

Rap artists attended a virtual ceremony during which Newsom signed the bill. Attendees included Meek Mill, Killer Mike, Ty Dolla $ign, and Tyga. I barely know what rap music is, but I’m told these are very famous artists.

Minimum wage increase

The minimum wage in California went up…again.

Increased from $15.00, the minimum wage has been set at $15.50.

Inflation and the minimum wage have been playing a game of cat and mouse for the last decade, so this one wasn’t much of a surprise. Still a win for anyone out there that now gets an extra couple bucks per shift.

“Change doesn’t count as real money,” said a local DP student. I just hope they don’t apply that logic and blow their savings on the next gumball machine they find.

New rules for passing bicyclists

Drivers are now required to change lanes when overtaking a bicyclist.

Sounds like they are just trying to make it easier for people to fail their driving tests.

Prior to this law’s enactment, drivers were required to give three feet of space to bicyclists. However, in addition to safety concerns, it was determined that it may be difficult for drivers to accurately gauge if they were maintaining three feet of distance.

At least this law provides some clarity. Well, aside from how it allows situational passing when it doesn’t endanger the bicyclist. And how the “three-foot rule” has effectively become the “enough space rule.”

If you aren’t able to figure out what “endanger the bicyclist” or “enough space” means, you could be subject to the minimum $286 fine that comes with violating the bill.

Eris Weaver of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition said that enforcement was the key to this law’s success.

It’s easier than ever to get thrown out of a public meeting

Everyone should participate in public comment at a local government meeting at least once. Democratic participation is always good; maybe we need “I spoke” stickers since the “I voted” ones seem to be surprisingly motivating.

However, under California’s Senate Bill 1100, you can be removed from a public meeting when the presiding member of a local legislative body deems you “a disruption.”

Don’t worry though, they have to give you a warning first.

The bill came about due to the harassment of a Los Gatos, California mayor at a public meeting. It attempted to expand on the 1953 Brown Act, which established the right to public participation in government meetings.

“The reality is that participatory democracy is a messy business,” the Californians for Good Governance wrote in a letter opposing the bill.

Hopefully, their letter wasn’t disregarded for being too disruptive.

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