New laws for a new year


From the Editor

Ryan Campbell

Ryan Campbell

    As the first colorful scraps of confetti touched down in cities throughout California on January 1, a laundry list of new state laws came into effect. From bewildering labor codes to the number of calories in a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast (there are 1040), many of these new laws will influence businesses in the Central Valley in some form or another.
    Like every year in our great, proposition-crazed state, the litany of new laws hitting the books will be greeted with open arms by some and foreboding by others.
    Take, for example, Prop. 2.
    Voters resoundingly approved the measure that requires calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs to be allowed to stand up and turn around in their cages. But area farmers weren’t so happy.
    The $323 billion egg industry in California has voiced concerns over whether they will be able to comply with the law by the 2015 deadline.
    One interesting fact is that in Stanislaus County, the measure failed with 44 percent voting yes on Prop. 2, while 44 percent of residents in San Joaquin County, voted no.
    The California Chamber of Commerce recently gave a rundown of new laws that will impact businesses in 2009.
    “California employers need to be aware of several new laws affecting their businesses,” said Cal Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg.
    Another law that has had California residents talking (or rather not talking) has been the hands free cell phone measure that went into effect in July. A provision of that law bans text messaging while driving came into effect with the new year. As a seasoned I-5 commuter, I’m not embarrassed to tell you I fully endorse this bit of legislation.
    Most drivers seem to have a hard enough time managing the gas pedal, let alone texting a dinner reservation.
    Senate Bill 28 prohibits drivers from e-mailing while driving as well. Fines for violating the law are at least $76 with penalties for a first offense and roughly $190 for subsequent offenses.
    For the health conscious: Chain restaurants with 20 or more eateries in the state are now required to post nutritional information. Restaurants like McDonald’s, BJ’s and Black Angus will have to disclose nutritional information and calorie counts for the food they serve. In addition to calories, they will have to display the amount of carbs, saturated fat and sodium in their meals.
    Some good news for those of you making the daily trek across the Altamont Pass: San Francisco employers with 20 or more employees are now required to provide commuter benefits to employees who work at least 10 hours per week in the City.
    This includes offering employees a number of transportation benefits like pre-tax compensation of as much as $110 per month. Employers could also opt to provide transportation passes like FastTrack to employees free of charge.
    Computer professionals can now receive a monthly or annual salary rather than a minimum hourly rate set by the Division of Labor Statistics and Research. The hourly rate for 2009 increased from $36 to $37.94 while the minimum monthly salary exemption is $6,587.50 and the minimum annual salary exemption is $79,050.
    A bill amended Labor Code 206.5, making null and void execution of any release on account of wages due. Employers who violate this law are guilty of a misdemeanor.
    On the Workers’ Comp front, Labor Code section 6409.1 was amended to change the reporting of work related injuries and illnesses. Insured employers must file new electronic forms with the Division of Labor Statistics and Research before the Division of Workers Compensation.
    Many bills that didn’t make the final cut for the 2008 ballot are still on the shelf for future election years.
    Bill A.B. 2026 was a flop in 2008. The proposed law which would regulate and tax the interstate online poker industry floundered in committee, but will likely be reintroduced early this year.
    Ryan Campbell is the editor of the Central Valley Business Journal. He can be reached at (209) 477-0100 or [email protected]


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