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Restaurant Service Fees Will Soon Be Illegal in California

The price you see on the menu is what you’ll pay for your meal (plus taxes) under a state law that has the restaurant industry fuming.

From automatic service charges to vague “living wage” fees, California restaurants have increasingly been tacking on extra costs to diners’ bills in recent years, much to customers’ chagrin. But starting later this year, that practice will become illegal — the menu price (plus tax) is all you’ll have to pay.

Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October and set to take effect July 1, SB 478 will prohibit hidden fees, defined by state officials as fees in which a seller uses an artificially low advertised price to attract a customer, disclosing additional required fees in fine print or tacking on unavoidable charges later in the buying process.

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How to Report and Recoup Damages from Potholes

In Los Angeles, drivers reported more than 2,000 potholes a week as storms wreaked havoc on roads and potholes disabled cars by the dozens.
The relentless stream of atmospheric rivers have ravaged Los Angeles roads and led to thousands of potholes on freeways, highways, and surface streets across the Golden State. If it seems worse than usual — it is.

From a pothole on an overpass that sent debris flying onto the 5 in Glendale in mid-March to several large potholes that developed on State Route 71 in Pomona that damaged 30 vehicles, snarled traffic for miles, and prompted several nights of closures to repair, navigating the storms has been anything but pleasant.

In the first three weeks of March, residents reported nearly 6,000 destructive potholes on Los Angeles City streets alone, according to the Los Angeles Public Works Department.

The city is averaging just under two weeks to repair most potholes lately, a jump from the norm of two days, according to Los Angeles Department of Public Works spokesperson Elena Stern.

Residents in Los Angeles neighborhoods can report a pothole for repair simply by dialing 311 or use the city’s website to report portholes and receive updates on repairs.

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CA Urges Feds To Probe Gas Companies, Increases Rebates

Help for skyrocketing gas bills is on the way. Credits ranging from $90 to $120 will appear on utility bills as soon as March.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking federal authorities to investigate the recent spike in natural gas prices — an increase that has been evident to many Californians as their utility bills skyrocket. Households across the state opened their January gas bills last week to find their gas bills tripled in a single month.

“Since late November 2022, wholesale natural gas prices throughout the West have risen to alarming levels that greatly exceed prices in the rest of the country,” Newsom wrote Monday in a letter to Willie Phillips, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Utility providers had cautioned California customers to expect January gas bills totaling twice or more than what they paid for the same period in 2022. Even so, the spike exceeded the forecasts. The companies cited an unprecedented confluence of circumstances, including a recent cold snap, pipeline constraints associated with maintenance work in Texas, low gas storage in the Pacific region, and increased transportation rates.

Newsom characterized the cost spike as “extreme and unexpectedly high.”

“I, therefore, ask that FERC immediately focus its investigatory resources on assessing whether market manipulation, anticompetitive behavior, or other anomalous activities are driving these ongoing elevated prices in the western gas markets,” Newsom wrote. “And, if warranted, I ask that FERC bring its full enforcement powers and resources to bear to protect customers.”

At the state level, help is on the way. Credits ranging from $90 to $120 will appear on gas and electric bills as soon as March after the California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to accelerate the California Climate Credit, according to the governor’s office. The credit represents the consumer’s share of payments from the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and was previously scheduled to be granted in April by natural gas companies, according to CalMatters.

The $90 to $120 credit will be applied to residential utility bills starting in March for customers of PG&E, Southern California Edison, SDG&E and SoCalGas, according to Newsom. Customers of Bear Valley, Liberty, PacifiCorp and Southwest Gas will also get an accelerated credit, and the amount received will vary.

The public utilities commission and the California Energy Commission will hold a hearing Tuesday with market experts to examine the causes and impacts of the gas price increase.

“Millions of California families are opening their utility bills to sticker shock — and we’re taking action now to provide relief to help with those high gas bills,” Newsom said in a news release.

“We know this provides only temporary relief from soaring bills. That’s why I’m asking the federal government to use its full authority to investigate the spike in natural gas prices and take any necessary enforcement actions. We’re going to get to the bottom of this because Californians deserve to know what’s behind these exorbitant bills.”

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