California Needs More Vaccine Coverage and Easier Voter Registration; Nobody Needs Microbeads

Your guide to California's progressive new laws.
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There better not be any microbeads in that collection of toiletries. (Photo: J B/Flickr)

There better not be any microbeads in that collection of toiletries. (Photo: J B/Flickr)

Jerry Brown has been a busy man. Over the past few months, the California Governor has passed a number of unusually progressive laws.

We don't know if Governor Brown consulted the research before putting his signature to these policies, but in case he didn't, we're here to provide it for him, as well as anyone else who's interested. Let's take a look:

1. VACCINES

Brown signed laws requiring that daycare workers and kids in school be immunized. The Los Angeles Times called the latter law "one of the nation's toughest," because it doesn't allow parents to opt out from vaccines due to personal beliefs.

California is well past ready for new, tough vaccination laws. In some California schools, fewer than half of the students are up-to-date on their vaccines, the state's epidemiologist told the Times in April. That's far lower than the national average of about 70 percent. Earlier this year, researchers found that a vaccination rate of 96 percent to 99 percent is needed to prevent measles from spreading, and that unvaccinated visitors were to blame for the measles outbreak in Disneyland.

The fact that California leans so heavily Democratic might have helped make its vaccine laws easier to pass. While good health should not be a partisan issue—and, historically, anti-vaccination views haven't been tied to any one political party—recently the issue has shown signs of increased partisanship.

2. AUTO-VOTER REGISTRATION

Starting in 2016, when Californians go to the DMV to get a state identification card, they'll also be automatically registered as a voter, assuming they qualify. California is only the second state in the nation to have this kind of auto-voter registration, the first being Oregon.

This law aims to improve upon California's low voter turnout, according to the Los Angeles Times. And as Seth Masket reported earlier this year, California's troubles are really a reflection of Americans' low voter registration and turnout as a whole. Making voter registration easier may help; America has a more cumbersome voter-registration process than most, born out of policies passed by previous generations of lawmakers to prevent "the uneducated, the illiterate, immigrants, freed slaves, etc." from voting, Masket writes. Opponents to the law, however, fear it will make voting fraud easier and more prevalent, NPR reports.

3. EQUAL PAY FOR WOMEN

California passed an unusually strict equal-pay act last month, requiring that women and men within the same company be paid the same for doing "substantially similar" work, even if they have different titles, or work in different offices. The news comes on top of a recent assessment which found that California is already faring pretty well in terms of equal employment opportunities for men and women, compared to other American states.

A recent report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research found several factors contributing to the United States' gender pay gap. The new California law, which allows women to sue for equal pay, might help with one factor especially: the especially large gender pay gap that occurs among white-collar workers and managers.

Other women who are subject to a pay gap may not find the new law so helpful. Another major reason women as a whole are paid less than men, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research report: Women without college degrees are more likely to work in service jobs, such as restaurants or hospitals, while their male counterparts are more likely to work in transportation, maintenance, and other fields that pay more.

4. NO MORE PLASTIC MICROBEADS

By 2020, manufacturers won't be able to sell toiletry products in California that contain teensy plastic bits.

Scientific research doesn't have a clear answer for how much of the ocean's overall plastic pollution—which is already a big problem—is caused by exfoliating microbeads. Personal experience confirms exfoliating sucks, however, so why not ban the bead?

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