Guns, fires and shutoffs: The new California laws likely to impact the North State in 2020
When can police legally shoot and kill? Who can request a restraining order against someone who has a gun? And what happens if you rely on electricity for health reasons and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. shuts off your power again?
A crop of new laws bringing California into the 2020s will answer those questions and more.
Here's a look at the laws likely to affect life in Shasta County the most:
Fire laws come into play, including a crackdown on PG&E
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed some two dozen fire-related bills his first year in office, and one of them specifically requires PG&E and other electric utilities to come up with three-year plans on fire mitigation and have new protections for people who rely on power for health conditions.
Among other things, Senate Bill 167 says electric utilities "may deploy backup electrical resources or provide financial assistance for backup electrical resources" for certain customers who need power to stay healthy.
The bill also requires utilities to turn in more detailed plans on what it's doing to minimize fire risk.
Related:How should PG&E be overhauled?
It comes after PG&E's controversial power shutoffs throughout the fall left thousands across the state without power because of unusually dry and strong winds that the utility said posed a fire risk when mixed with its aging infrastructure.
Another shutoff-inspired bill, SB 560, requires the utility to develop protocols for notifying customers when the power will be going out.
One more, SB 247, lets the California Public Utilities Commission authorize a third-party auditor to review utilities' fire plans and come back with a report on any failures.
When can police shoot and kill?
Another new California law tightens the rules over when police can shoot and kill someone.
Right now, police are legally granted permission to shoot when it's determined to have been "reasonable." The new law, Assembly Bill 392, changes the wording so that officers are only allowed to shoot to kill when it's deemed "necessary."
Going forward, officers could be prosecuted if investigating agencies determine that the shooting wasn't truly necessary to avoid another death.
Instead of shooting, officers would have to consider other tactics first like de-escalating someone.
The law makes California one of the strictest in the nation when it comes to use-of-force rules, whereas currently officers are more likely to be cleared of wrongdoing in a shooting based on the way the laws here are written, USA TODAY reported.
Locally, the Shasta County District Attorney's office just last week cleared officers of wrongdoing in a March shooting death.
More gun laws coming
Come fall, the new decade will also bring some new gun laws, including one that expands who can ask for gun protection orders and how long those last.
Assembly Bill 61 lets teachers and co-workers, not just relatives or law enforcement, request a gun-violence restraining order against someone who they believe is a threat. That law takes effect in September.
Those restraining orders would also last up to five years.
In a rare case of agreement, both gun advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the bill.
A recent case in Siskiyou County used a gun-violence restraining order after Sheriff Jon Lopey's Office decided a man who had made threatening posts should have his guns taken away for a time.
Protection for Section 8 renters
It'll no longer be legal to deny a rental to someone because they're on Section 8 housing.
It's already illegal to discriminate on prospective tenants for many reasons, but so far the law hasn't spelled out that landlords have to allow housing vouchers, too — In fact, they have to be willing to take them.
The new law doesn't mean owners are required to rent to people with Section 8 if they're determined to be unsuitable candidate for a rental for other reasons, though.
Alayna Shulman covers a little bit of everything for the Record Searchlight. In particular, she loves writing about the issues of this community through long-form storytelling. Her work often centers on local crime, features and politics, and has won awards for best writing, best business coverage and best investigative reporting in the California News Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Follow her on Twitter (@ashulman_RS), call her at 530-225-8372 and, to support her work, please subscribe.