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ONME News Headlines (5-3-24): New California law safeguard's consumers from hidden fees; electricity bill rate-hikes appall customers; State removes nearly 700 pounds of fentanyl

By ONME Newswire

New bill SB 478 to take effect this July bans restaurants' hidden 'junk fees'

Food & Wine reports that California is banning hidden restaurant fees, in addition to other surcharges.  The rule would also require companies to disclose upfront whether fees are refundable.

Some people call them “junk fees.” While some places disclose the surcharges up front on menus and table cards, many others don’t. 

That’s led to accusations that restaurants are hiding them and making meals more expensive than diners realize. Now, California is stepping in to stop them. Last October, the state legislature approved a measure that bans hidden fees for hotel stays, as well as tickets to concerts and sporting events.  The new law, SB 478, aimed at banning hidden fees, takes effect in July, according to the office of State Attorney General Rob Bonta.

Authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, the new law comes after California’s fast-food law took effect in April. Under the new law, the minimum wage for fast-food workers increased from $16 per hour to $20, a move that prompted fast-food companies to raise prices to keep up with labor costs.

PG& E's prominent energy rate hikes are due to excessive wildfires happening throughout California

On January 1, 2024 PG&E implemented a significant rate increase for all customers; the rate hike has already taken affect, where customers may have noticed the difference in February and March bills. According to the California Public Utilities Commission, the top drivers of PG&E’s proposed increases are inflation and significant investments in undergrounding electric lines to decrease wildfire risk. According to PG&E, the change is an increase of approximately 12.8% in 2024, with the typical bill increasing by about $34.50 per month (which uses about 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month per typical household), according to the company's estimates.. This is on top of other significant PG&E rate increases in recent years.

For instance, on March 7, the Public Utilities Commission approved a PG&E rate hike that will add about $5 a month to the average bill, to begin as soon as April 2024.   The newly approved hike is to expected to compensate for PG&E’s previous vegetation management efforts dating back to 2020. The spending was part of PG&E’s efforts to limit the risk of wildfires after a string of disastrous blazes that started in 2017 and ultimately led to the utility filing bankruptcy.

PG&E said it expects total rate hikes in 2024 will total about $50 more per average customer.

State law enforcement makes 500+ arrests, removes nearly 700 pounds of fentanyl as part of San Francisco Operation

Marking one year since Governor Newsom deployed California Highway Patrol and California National Guard personnel to a multiagency special operation in San Francisco, the Governor announced this week over 500 arrests made and nearly 700 pounds of fentanyl seized as part of this effort.

 As part of its operations, the CHP issued 6,200+ citations for illegal activity, made 500+ arrests, and recovered 115+ stolen vehicles.

“Our coordinated work to shut down drug markets in San Francisco is making a difference, but we have more work to do,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Building on the Newsom Administration’s efforts to improve public safety throughout California, including Oakland and Bakersfield, violent crime and property crime are significantly down year-over-year in San Francisco. This reduction reflects the work of local law enforcement and state and federal efforts.

“The California Highway Patrol has been a valuable partner in our work dismantling the drug markets in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods,” said San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott. “The SFPD and CHP have taken an unprecedented amount of fentanyl off our streets in the last year. We’ve seen progress, but we’re not going to let up in this effort. I want to thank Gov. Gavin Newsom and the members of the California Highway Patrol, San Francisco Area for his assistance in this ongoing work.”

“Through collaborative efforts with our partners on both the local and state level, we have made significant strides in San Francisco. These partnerships are proof that when we work together, we can effectively combat crime and enhance public safety in the community,” said CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee. 

“For the past year, your California National Guard has been committed to combating the rise of fentanyl in the streets of San Francisco,” said California National Guard Major General Matthew Beevers. “These extraordinary seizure statistics are a direct reflection of the tireless efforts of the highly trained service members from our California communities who directly support law enforcement agencies in this fight.”

In addition, CHP and Cal Guard are partners in San Francisco’s Drug Market Agency Coordination Center (DMACC), which coordinates with local, state and federal law enforcement and agencies across the City to dismantle the illegal drug markets in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods.

Last week, Governor Newsom announced a similar public safety enforcement effort in Bakersfield that has so far resulted in 211 arrests and recovered 127 stolen vehicles in the area in recent weeks.

California has invested $1.1 billion since 2019 to fight crime, help local governments hire more police, and improve public safety.


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