OPINION: New California laws seal Gov. Brown’s legacy with positive changes

Joscelyn Stocks/Daily Trojan

As California’s new governor Gavin Newsom takes control of the state’s most powerful seat, new laws spearheaded during outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration are starting to take flight. For the most part, these laws will have a positive effect on California and for Brown’s  gubernatorial legacy.

Some of the important areas that received legislation include gun control, the state criminal justice system and inclusivity and diversity regarding gender.

Though there was not much federal change, California moved to increase gun control. Following many tragic mass shootings last year, like the Thousand Oaks shooting which occurred less than an hour away from USC campus, Brown’s most recent gun control legislation raises the minimum purchase age for rifles and shotguns to 21. Critics of this law argued that raising the age for semi-automatic rifles would do “depressingly little,” since the age limit remains 18 for those purchasing from unlicensed sellers.

Though it is much more difficult to police private, unlicensed gun sales, it is an oversight to insist that this legislation makes no difference. The Stoneman Douglas and Sandy Hook shootings are two of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, and both cases involved a gunman under 21 who legally purchased a gun. According to a study on pre-attack behaviors of active shooters conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2000 to 2013, most active shooters obtain their firearms legally.

In addition to gun control, the criminal justice system saw changes for minors who are being tried in court. While citizens are guaranteed a right to trial by jury, minors should be provided additional protections due to age and the possibility of committing crimes in their adult lives. California’s new focus on rehabilitation of minors ensures justice for those who may be too young to understand the justice system.

Previously, California did not have a minimum age to stand trial — children as young as 8 years old were tried in juvenile court and sent to probation camp. Now, there is an age minimum of 12 to stand trial for certain crimes. Rather than being sent to probation camp after delinquency court, minors will have the opportunity to go to mental health or dependency court, or partake in alternative services. Adult courts also have an age limit now. Those standing trial must be 16 or older to be tried as an adult. These new age limits set better standards for considering minors and may increase criminal justice efficiency.

Another new law requires publicly traded corporations to have women on their boards — at least one by the end of this year, with increasing proportion in following years. While this law has been met with fierce objection, there is no doubt that many qualified women are ready to join the boys’ club. It is not a question of skill, but of corporate willingness to promote equality and inclusion.

However, this new legislation seems to be more of a grand gesture than an assessment of the root of the issue. Groups like the California Chamber of Commerce are concerned about the displacement of current male board members. The Chamber believes that it is unfair to displace existing boards “solely on the basis of gender.”

Despite collective qualms, this new legislation will push companies to rethink their interview and hiring processes for future decisions. It is much more difficult to regulate the companies’ internal functions than to require hiring that is just as much a public display of solidarity. To avoid the issue of displacement, corporations should consider expanding their boards.

Another new law that particularly affects our local community is higher protections for sidewalk vendors — this includes beloved downtown taco trucks, cotton candy carts and sidewalk sunglasses stands. This change may be overlooked in suburban spaces, but in highly urban communities like Los Angeles, this law is a positive change for many whose livelihoods rely on street vending.

Local legislation varies, but at least in Los Angeles, this statewide protection prohibits local governments from dictating where and how many vendors could sell their food and goods. There are some requirements, like minimum distance between vendors and necessary access points, such as fire hydrants. There are also a few locations that are off limits for overcrowding safety issues, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and game days at Dodger Stadium. But now that street vending is legal, many people in the L.A. community are protected from unnecessary fines and other consequences.

While on the surface many of these laws seem to be grandiose, they do their best to address issues Californians have battled time and again. Despite the gridlock on federal reforms, California is moving in a direction that improves the criminal justice system, gender equality and local communities.