By Autumn Johnson
As Californians ring in the New Year on Wednesday, a host of new laws passed by the state Legislature will be poised to take effect, including a minimum wage hike, restrictions on teens texting while driving, enhanced bicycle safety and more protection from the paparazzi.
The state is also making history in 2014 by allowing transgender public school students to choose the gender-specific sports they want to play and which restroom to use.
Unless otherwise noted, all laws will take effect on Wednesday:
Drivers are allowed to park at broken parking meters or spaces with broken payment stations up to the posted time limit without getting a ticket from the local city or county.
Anyone under age 18 may not use a mobile electronic communication device to write, send or read text-based messages while driving, even if it has hands-free capability. Under existing law, teens are already prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. An exception to both laws is calls or texts for emergency services such as the police or fire departments.
Drivers behind the wheel of an electric, natural gas or partial zero-emission vehicle may drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) or carpool lanes without meeting the minimum occupancy requirement until Jan. 1, 2019. Two bills – AB 266 and SB 286 – made this law possible.
The "Three Feet for Safety Act" mandates that vehicle drivers who are passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction must stay at least three feet away from all parts of the bicycle or cyclist. If road conditions do not allow for a three-foot distance, the driver must slow down and pass only when the cyclist’s safety is not in danger. The law takes effect Sept. 16.
The law increases the penalties for anyone who harasses the child of a public figure while trying to take video or photos of the child without parental permission. First-time violators could face up to a year in county jail and a fine as much as $10,000.
Students in K-12 who identify as transgender will be allowed to participate in school programs and use facilities that are "consistent with his or her gender identity," according to the legislation. The law is the first in the nation that allows kids to choose gender-specific activities.
The Department of Motor Vehicles must issue a driver’s license to an applicant who meets all license requirements but who cannot provide proof that he or she is in the United States legally. A license issued under these circumstances will contain a notice that it is not an official form of federal identification. The law will take effect before Jan. 1, 2015.
As of July 1, California’s minimum wage will increase to $9 an hour as part of a three-year plan that eventually will raise the hourly rate to $10 by Jan. 1, 2016.
The statute of limitations for hit-and-run incidents that cause death or permanent, serious injury is extended to six years from the date of the crash.
Starting July 1, the state disability insurance program expands to allow workers to take six weeks of paid leave to care for an ill grandparent, grandchild, sibling or parent-in-law.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens are prevented from killing mountain lions that venture into populated areas unless the animals pose an immediate threat to public safety. The department is now authorized to work with rescue and other non-governmental groups in capturing, tranquilizing or relocating the animals.
For a complete list of bills enacted in 2013, visit the state Legislative Counsel website.