How Bills Become Law in the California State Legislature

The California State Legislature is made up of two houses: the 40 member Senate and the 80 member Assembly, representing the people of the State of California.

All legislation begins as an idea or concept. Ideas and concepts can come from a variety of sources. The legislative process begins when a Senator or Assembly Member decides to author a bill.

A Legislator sends the idea for the bill to the Legislative Counsel where it is drafted into the actual bill. The draft of the bill is returned to the Legislator for introduction to the Senate or the Assembly.

A bill is introduced or read the first time when the bill number, the name of the author, and the descriptive title of the bill is read on the floor of the house. No bill may be acted upon until 30 days has passed from the date of its introduction.

The bill then goes to the Rules Committee of the house of origin where it is assigned to the appropriate policy committee for its first hearing. Bills are assigned to policy committees according to subject area of the bill. For example, a Senate bill dealing with health care facilities would first be assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for policy review. Bills that require the expenditure of funds must also be heard in the fiscal committees: Senate Appropriations or Assembly Appropriations. Each house has a number of policy committees and a fiscal committee. Each committee is made up of a specified number of Senators or Assembly Members.

During the committee hearing the author presents the bill to the committee and testimony can be heard in support of or opposition to the bill. The committee then votes by passing the bill, passing the bill as amended, or defeating the bill. Bills can be amended several times. Letters of support or opposition are important and should be mailed to the author and committee members before the bill is scheduled to be heard in committee. It takes a majority vote of the full committee membership for a bill to be passed by the committee.

Each house maintains a schedule of legislative committee hearings. Prior to a bill's hearing, a bill analysis is prepared that explains current law, what the bill is intended to do, and some background information. Typically the analysis also lists organizations that support or oppose the bill.

Bills passed by committees are read a second time on the floor in the house of origin and then assigned to third reading. Bill analyses are also prepared prior to third reading. When a bill is read the third time it is explained by the author, discussed by the Members and voted on by a roll call vote. Bills that require an appropriation or that take effect immediately, generally require 27 votes in the Senate and 54 votes in the Assembly to be passed. Other bills generally require 21 votes in the Senate and 41 votes in the Assembly. If a bill is defeated, the Member may seek reconsideration and another vote.

Once the bill has been approved by the house of origin it proceeds to the other house, where the procedure is repeated.

If a bill is amended in the second house, it must go back to the house of origin for concurrence, which is agreement on the amendments. If agreement cannot be reached, the bill is referred to a two house conference committee to resolve differences. Three members of the committee are from the Senate and three are from the Assembly. If a compromise is reached, the bill is returned to both houses for a vote.

If both houses approve a bill, it then goes to the Governor. The Governor has three choices. The Governor can sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without his or her signature, or veto it. A governor's veto can be overridden by a two thirds vote in both houses. Most bills go into effect on the first day of January of the next year. Urgency measures take effect immediately after they are signed or allowed to become law without signature.

Bills that are passed by the Legislature and approved by the Governor are assigned a chapter number by the Secretary of State. These Chaptered Bills (also referred to as Statutes of the year they were enacted) then become part of the California Codes. The California Codes are a comprehensive collection of laws grouped by subject matter.

My Recent Experience Renewing my Driver’s License and Getting a REAL ID Card

dmv renewal_edited.jpg

Recently I received a driver’s license renewal notice from the California DMV. I received the renewal notice four months prior to the expiration date. The notice indicated that my last two renewals have been by mail and that the coming renewal required me to renew at a DMV office.

I wondered why they were requiring me to go into a DMV office to renew the license this time. According to the DMV, in order to renew by mail, you must provide your Social Security number and be under 70 years old when your current license expires, and answer “no” to all of the following questions:

  1. Have your last two licenses been renewed by mail?

  2. Has your license been expired for over one year?

  3. Does your license expire more than 60 days from today?

  4. Are you currently on any type of driving probation?

  5. Are you changing or correcting your name?

  6. Do you have a driver’s license from more than one state or jurisdiction?

  7. Within the past two years, were you convicted of any vehicle code moving violations, did you fail to appear in court for any vehicle code moving violation, were you suspended for DUI or refuse or fail to complete an alcohol screening test or have you been at fault in one or more collisions?

OK, no problem, it is what it is.

The renewal notice first required me to complete an application online at www.dmv.ca.gov.

To complete the application, you must create an Online Service account on the DMV website. They require a two-factor authentication to prove your digital identity, which means you’ll need an email address as well as a way to receive a text message or phone call for a six-digit confirmation code. If you do not want to do this at your phone or computer, you can do it on a terminal at a DMV office.

After you create the account, you will need to confirm your name, address, Social Security number (if applicable) and the type of card you are applying for. They will also ask if you want to register to vote and if you want to be a registered organ and tissue donor; however these will not be completed until you visit a field office to complete the registration process.

So after after completing the application, which was actually quite painless and quick, you will receive a confirmation code. Bring the code to the DMV office to continue the license renewal process.

The next stop is scheduling an appointment. For me, this was the broken step. There’s a link provided to make an appointment. You select an office and look for a time. I searched five different DMV offices and there were absolutely no times available. But as one might expect it to do, the appointment system did not give any hints as to other DMV offices with available openings, nor did it show the “next available” day and time available. For me, this was an exercise in futility. Truly a glitch in the system when you have to spend hours attempting to schedule an appointment online…to save time.

So instead, I drove to the Thousand Oaks DMV office at 8am on a Tuesday morning.

This was a great move. No line! No hassle!

Awaiting my turn at the Thousand Oaks DMV.

Awaiting my turn at the Thousand Oaks DMV.

I had all the documentation with me, including the renewal form and $36 renewal fee.

But I decided to up the ante and upgrade my license to the REAL ID card. The REAL ID card is a federally-mandated card that, unless you prefer to carry your passport with you, will be required to board domestic airline flights or access some federal facilities beginning October 1, 2020. So for example, on October 1, 2020 you have a flight from Burbank to Vegas. If all you have is your standard driver’s license, they won’t let you fly; you’ll need either the REAL ID or a U.S. passport even for a domestic flight. MORE ON REAL ID

The key is being prepared. I was prepared for REAL ID. There’s an online checklist at www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/realid/checklist that includes the following:

  1. Proof of identity – such as U.S. passport or passport card, certified, copy of U.S. birth certificate, etc.

  2. Full name^ – if your true full name is not listed on the identity document, you will need to provide a document that shows that.

  3. SSN – you need to prove your SSN by showing a Social Security card, W-2 or other items.

  4. Where do you live – you will need two different documents showing your current address, such as utility bills, medical documents, mortgage bill, etc.

With all of the above in hand, plus a backup document. I showed the documentation at the front counter after waiting briefly in a line. The clerk was impressed with my organizational skills. On to the next step in the process.

^ As additional clarification, if your current name is different than your maiden name, bring documentation showing your name change(s) - e.g. marriage certificates or other original or certified documentation showing the name change.

They gave me a number. The line was extremely short on a Tuesday morning (though when I was done around 9:15am, there were quite a few more people waiting). After about 10 minutes, my number was called.

I went to the counter and told the clerk that I was there to renew my license and to migrate to the REAL ID. She asked for all my documents and reviewed them, taking photos of most of them as I recall. She also had me provide a thumbprint. All digital. No ink involved.

After just a few minutes’ wait, the next step was a vision test. I passed!

Next up, photo time. She sent me to the photo guy and told me to come back when done. There was no line. Just a quick “stand there behind the line” and a quick smile and I was on my way back to the counter.

The final step was my only “fumble.” The renewal fees paid at the DMV office currently cannot be paid via credit card – choices arer cash, check, money order or debit cards. Doh! Luckily, I had visited the ATM recently and gave her cash. Credit cards can actually be used for internet based transactions – but not for in person and by mail transactions. At least not at this time.

That was it. Done! She printed my receipt and a temporary license, should for some reason I not receive the new license prior to the expiration date of my current license. Fingers crossed!


Real+ID+letter.jpg

THE EPILOGUE

It is Monday, August 26th. I came home to a REAL ID card in the mail., which was great news. The postmark on the envelope was August 22nd. So I’m happy!

But…getting this card took more effort than I originally thought. My license expired in mid-July but I was given a temporary license to carry with me until the new card was received. I waited and called and waited. No card.

I called and told them the situation. No card. Was it sent? No. Why? I was asked what document did I bring to show my proof of identity. I told them I brought my passport. DMV indicated the Department of Homeland Security was reviewing my documents to verify they were legitimate. Well, ok.

Two weeks later, not card. I called again and told them my temporary license was expiring soon. They told me I could call the DHS/DMV Legal Presence Unit to find out what the holdup was. This was getting a bit time consuming. Where the hell is my card?

But I called the number, and each call ended with “We are currently experiencing higher than average call volume. Please try your call later.” Higher than average, eh? Does that mean when call volume is lower than average they answer the phone immediately?

So, the day before my temporary license was to expire (and about a month after my actual license had expired), I had the pleasure of visiting the Thousand Oaks DMV again.

When I told the clerk my situation - that my REAL ID never came in the mail and my temporary license was about to expire, of course she sent me to a line to apply for a new driver’s license.

I was unsure of why I would have to do that. Do I start the whole process again? I was completely unprepared for that.

So I went back and stood in the line again, and this time, another woman understood the situation and issued me a new temporary license on the spot. She also told me the REAL ID would be mailed to me soon.

Success at last!

Most of the folks I dealt with at the DMV were nice and courteous. But it is glaringly apparent that the organization needs a complete re-do. The DMV needs to hire experts to review processes in place and how they can be improved. Processes currently seem so unnecessarily complicated and confusing that frustration is bound to happen.

California Minimum Wage Laws as of July 2019

Barring additional changes in California minimum wage laws prior to 2023, here is the schedule for California minimum wages through that year from the State of California Department of Industrial Relations:

The federal minimum wage for 2019 is $7.25, a rate that has stood frozen in time since it became effective on July 24, 2009. Politics aside, if a federal minimum wage is going to exist and serve any purpose, why would it not change for 10 years? For it to have any meaning, perhaps apply an inflation factor to the rate. Cumulative price changes from 2009 to 2019 were about 19%, which would render a federal minimum wage rate of $8.63 in 2019. Otherwise, perhaps eliminate the federal minimum wage rate and leave it to the states.

I digress. In addition to the state and federal minimum wage rates, many cities and counties have their own minimum wage ordinances, including our neighboring Los Angeles County and City of Los Angeles:

Note that as of July 2019, employees at companies with 26 or more City of Los Angeles based employees will receive a minimum of $14.25 per hour, $2.25 more than the rest of the state, including Ventura County. But if your LA based company only employs 25 employees or less, the minimum is $13.25.

Employees in unincorporated sections of Los Angeles County also receive the above noted rates.

As of July 2019, the County of Ventura and cities in Ventura County have not established separate minimum wage rates.

Now if you’re really looking for a high minimum wage, move to San Francisco, where the current minimum wage is $15.59 per hour as of July 1st.

For local area jobs in Ventura County and nearby areas that pay more than the minimum wage rate, visit THIS LINK.

California's Statewide Smoke-Free Air Laws

NoSmokeNoVape.jpg

The state of California has a number of smoke-free laws in place that include traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes as well as electronic smoking devices. Let's have a look at these laws below, keeping in mind that local laws may be more stringent. Learn more about smoke-free air laws at www.cdph.ca.gov/Tobacco.

Child/Day Care Centers: Smoking is prohibited within all licensed day care center, including private residences licensed as family day care homes.

Farmers' Markets: Smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of farmers' markets.

Foster and Group Homes: Smoking is prohibited within and outside these homes when children are present.

Government Buildings: Smoking is prohibited in all state, county and city government buildings and within 20 feet from their main exits, entrances or operable windows and in any passenger vehicle owned by the state.

Multi-Unit Housing: Smoking is prohibited in apartment and condo indoor commons spaces (e.g. hallways, stairwells, laundry rooms and recreation rooms).

Personal Vehicles: Smoking prohibited when children under age 18 is present in a motor vehicle, whether it is moving or stopped.

Public Transportation: Smoking prohibited.

Workplaces: Smoking is prohibited in all indoor workplaces, including bars, restaurants, offices, factories and warehouses. 

Youth Buses: Smoking is prohibited by operators of youth buses at all times.

Correctional Facilities: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited in all state correctional facilities. Tobacco products may be possessed in residential staff housing where inmates are not present.

Playgrounds and Youth Sports Events: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited within 25 feet of playgrounds, tot lot sandboxes and children's recreational areas, as well as within 250 feet of a youth sports event (including practices, games or related activities where kids up to age 18 are present).

Schools: Smoking and tobacco products are prohibited in all school districts, charter schools and county offices of education, while students are under supervision. 

Looking to quit smoking? Find help at the California Smokers' Helpline, 1-800-NO-BUTTS or by visiting www.nobutts.org.

California Tobacco Facts and Figures 2019 from the California Department of Health

  • Adult tobacco use in California decline from 57.4% in 1988 to 10.1%, or 2.8 million adults, in 2017. The rest of the U.S. is at 17..1%.

  • There is a clear correlation between education and cigarette smoking. Just 6.7% of residents with a bachelor’s degree smoke, vs 16% for those without a high school degree.

  • Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties have a cigarette smoking rate of 9.6% in 2015-2017.

  • Youth cigarette use has dropped from 16% in 2002 to 2% in 2018, while the U.S. rate has dropped from 22.5% to 8.1%.

California Law Has Required Gas Stations to Provide Free Water, Air and Air Pressure Gauge For Customers Since January 2000

Air 1.jpg

There’s a law that was passed in 1999, that made it a requirement for service stations in California to provide free water, compressed air and an air pressure gauge to customers who purchase fuel.

A service station is defined as an establishment that offers gasoline or other motor vehicle to the public.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I was not aware of this law until just recently, when a few folks shamed me on paying $1.00 to fill the air in my tires. (That said, I was not a paid customer at the time. So technically I was not legally entitled to free compressed air.)

Section 13651 of the California Business and Professions Code further indicates “Every service station in this state shall display, at a conspicuous place on, at, or near the dispensing apparatus, at least one clearly visible sign which shall read as follows: CALIFORNIA LAW REQUIRES THIS STATION TO PROVIDE FREE AIR AND WATER FOR AUTOMOTIVE PURPOSES TO ITS CUSTOMERS WHO PURCHASE MOTOR VEHICLE FUEL. IF YOU HAVE A COMPLAINT NOTIFY THE STATION ATTENDANT AND/OR CALL THIS TOLL-FREE TELEPHONE NUMBER: 1 (800) ___ ____. “

So perhaps this post will save someone from unnecessarily paying 75 cents to $1.50 to fill up their tires.

There is no requirement to provide the air for free to non-paying customers.

Air Water.jpg

Bicycle Safety Tips From the Ventura County Sheriff's Office

bike sign.JPG

Each year, hundreds of bicyclists in California are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle. Here are some important facts bicyclists and motorists should know.

California vehicle code section 21202(a): Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at the same time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

A bicycle ridden at night must be equipped with a lamp emitting a white light. There must also be a red reflector on the rear of the bicycle that must be visible from 500 feet when directly in front of a motor vehicle whose headlights are on.

Riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet at all times. All riders, regardless of age, should wear a helmet at all times to reduce injuries.

No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane established on a roadway except to park where parking is permitted, to enter or leave the roadway, or to prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection.

Bicyclists must travel on the right side of the roadway in the direction of traffic, except when passing, making a legal left turn, riding on a one-way street, riding on a road that is too narrow, or when the right side of the road is closed due to road construction. (CVC 21650.)

Handlebars must not be higher than the rider's shoulders. (CVC 21201(b))

A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator. (CVC 21760(c))

Bicyclists must obey the rules of the road because they travel along the roadway with other motorists. It is important to note drivers and bicyclists must share the road. When making turning movements in a car or on a bike, use caution, be seen (appropriate lighting after dark) and be predictable.

The Thousand Oaks Traffic Bureau urges citizens to drive their cars and ride their bicycles responsibly. Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like a bike helmet, bright clothing (during the day), reflective gear, and a white front light and red rear light and reflectors on your bike (at night, or when visibility is poor). Plan your route if driving as a vehicle on the road; choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic altogether, in a bike lane or on a bike path.

For more information on bicycle safety, visit:

www.safekids.org/bike

www.ots.ca.gov/grants/pedestrian-and-bicycle-safety

www.calbike.org/go_for_a_ride/california_bicycle_laws

You also avert motorists when you ride on some of these class I (protected) bike paths around Ventura County.

What Happens When You Turn 18 in the State of California?

Age 18 in the United States is considered the "age of majority" and is a milestone.

Age 18 has been the age of majority since the 26th Amendment, signed into law by President Nixon in July 1971. Historically the age of majority was 21, but when Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the military draft age to 18 during World War II, there was a push to align the voting age with the military draft age.

So what changes when you turn 18? The State Bar of California has a nice guide for teenagers to help better understand how their rights and responsibilities change at age 18.

Here's a summary of these rights and responsibilities, excerpted from "When You Turn 18: A Survival Guide for Teenagers." (pdf link)

  1. Enter into binding contracts - for example, leases, opening bank accounts and applying for loans (of course, to obtain the loan, you may still need a co-signer).

  2. Buy or sell property, such as real estate and stock.

  3. Marry without written consent of parents or guardian.

  4. Sue or be sued.

  5. Compromise, settle or arbitrate a claim.

  6. Make or revoke a will.

  7. Inherit property outright.

  8. Vote in federal, state and local elections.

  9. Consent to all types of medical treatment.

  10. Join the military without parental consent. Male U.S. citizens or immigrants living in the U.S. generally must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of turning 18. Women are exempt.

  11. Get a job without a special work permit.

  12. Serve jury duty.

  13. Be subject to more serious consequences for breaking the law.

  14. Prior to June 9, 2016, you could buy tobacco products; the law was changed, however, and now you have to wait until you are age 21.