California pedestrians and drivers will see big changes in the way some traffic violations are handled under a pair of bills by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) that are set to become law in 2023. The most significant is how jaywalking will be enforced. AB 2147/The Freedom To Walk Act allows people to safely cross the street outside an intersection when the roadway is clear of moving vehicles. Law enforcement will still be able issue a citation, if the pedestrian causes a hazard.
The new law aims to bring more fairness to a ticketing system that has disproportionately impacted people of color. Sometimes, such police encounters can turn deadly. (See previous press release for examples.) Virginia prohibits officers from stopping a pedestrian just for jaywalking. And in Nevada, it’s no longer considered a misdemeanor.
“The auto industry pushed jaywalking laws nearly a century ago, which only serve them, not pedestrians. When officers enforcement them, the possible consequences of life and injury are too great. In addition, the fines are ridiculous and can total hundreds of dollars, severely hurting the budgets of lower income families,” said Ting. “Crossing the street shouldn’t be a crime. We want people to be out walking more to improve their health and cut down on vehicle pollution.”
Ting’s AB 2594 also seeks to reform the way late fees and penalties are assessed for bridge and road tolls. Those add-ons grow exponentially, particularly for unbanked individuals because they have very few options to pay the debt without a credit or debit card. Starting January 1, agencies must notify violators of a new program coming this summer that allows late fees and penalties to be waived, if drivers settle their toll balances. They must also bring create in-person payment opportunities. In addition, the DMV must notify customers changing their driver license address to also do so on their vehicle registration, so that notices go to the right place.
On the environmental and health front, consumers will see safer fast food packaging in the new year. AB 1200 bans PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, from to-go containers and wrappers that are often used to keep grease and other liquids from leaking out. It was passed in 2021, but companies were given until 2023 to comply.
PFAS is a class of roughly 9,000 man-made chemicals linked to health problems, including cancer, hormone disruption, thyroid disease and vaccine interference. When they comes into contact with food, consumers ingest them. McDonalds, Taco Bell, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are already phasing out PFAS-laced wrappers, boxes and other similar products, or have committed to the goal. New York, Washington and Maine have enacted a similar law prohibiting the use of PFAS in food packaging. Ting’s PFAS legislation from this year, AB 1817, banning its use in fabrics, takes effect in 2025.
Lastly, Ting’s AB 1208 will make it easier to connect people with their lost property currently being held by the California State Controller’s Office. They’ll be able to streamline the Unclaimed Property process, requiring less documentation for smaller claims and allowing for electronic filing for claims of any amount. There’s currently $12 billion in assets from forgotten bank, stock or bond accounts, insurance claims, wages owed, or safety deposit box contents waiting to be reunited with their rightful owners.