Plastic cutlery - new laws

In an effort to ease the environmental burden of single-use foodware, the state set rules requiring consumers to ask for them before restaurants provide the utensils. Photo courtesy Surfrider Foundation

California legislators kept busy in 2021, delivering 836 bills to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who signed 770 of them into law. Not all of the new laws take effect immediately. Here are some that might impact life on the coast.

-Helping the environment

A law passed in 2016 kicks in this year requiring that organic waste be collected separately from other solid waste. Organic materials take up as much as 40 percent of landfill space and emit methane, a greenhouse gas, when not composted. Although penalties for noncompliant residents and trash collection companies will not be implemented this year, there has already been discussion on social media about whether local agencies are keeping materials separate.

Another new law prohibits restaurants from providing single-use food accessories (such as plastic forks) or “standard condiments” (the law includes a definition) unless a customer requests them. Jurisdictions have until June to establish enforcement.

Another law that will not have immediate impact requires the relevant state agency to reevaluate which plastic products are truly recyclable and provide this information no later than Jan. 1, 2024. Products displaying the “chasing triangle” symbol that do not meet recyclability criteria will be subject to penalties for making deceptive claims.

-Minimum wage

With the start of 2022, minimum wage in California is now $15 per hour for businesses with more than 25 employees and $14 per hour for smaller businesses. Some cities have already implemented a $15 rate. In Half Moon Bay, where minimum wage is adjusted according to changes in the consumer price index, all businesses must now pay $15.56 an hour.

-Food delivery services

Food delivery apps such as DoorDash and Uber Eats are now required by law to provide 100 percent of tips to drivers or, in the case of pick-up orders, to the restaurant. The delivery companies must also itemize bills and disclose all fees to customers.

-Outdoor dining

If you prefer to pick up dinner yourself, you can continue getting a cocktail to go with your meal. A new law makes this pandemic accommodation permanent.

Restaurants that received temporary permission to serve alcohol outdoors during the pandemic can also now apply to extend their permits.

-Mail-in ballots

Another temporary COVID accommodation will become permanent due to a bill authored by Peninsula Assemblyman Marc Berman. California will become the eighth state to send mail-in ballots to all voters whether or not they request them.

-Animal rights

Proposition 12 passed by voters in 2018 goes into effect this year by requiring increased confinement space for breeding pigs, egg-laying chickens and veal calves, and banning the sale of products from producers who do not comply. Some stores have blamed the change for their depleted shelves, but in this case the supply chain had more than three years to prepare.

-School curriculum

All high schools in California must adopt a course in ethnic studies as a graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2030. The Legislature and governor approved this bill after making changes to a controversial earlier version. Social studies teachers at Half Moon Bay High School are already attending training sessions to help them develop the new course for future students.

-Journalist access

One new law will not directly impact many readers but will help ensure the vibrancy of a free press by prohibiting police from denying journalists access to the scene of protests.

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