32 New California Laws That Went into Effect in 2021 Which May Affect Your Life

Hundreds of new California laws took effect on January 1, 2021 covering a broad range of issues. While it is difficult to keep up with the fast-paced State Legislature, here are a few new laws that you may want to take note of.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

AB1506– Requires the state attorney general (rather than local prosecutors) to investigate any incident in which an officer kills an unarmed civilian.

AB846– Sets a new requirement for all police officers: that they “[b]e free from… bias against race or ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.”  The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training shall, by January 1, 2022, incorporate their regulations and screening materials to identify and screen for these biases. 

AB1196 – Prohibits a law enforcement agency from authorizing the use of a carotid restraint or a choke hold.

AB1185 – Allows all counties to establish sheriff oversight boards to investigate their local sheriff’s departments.

SB230 – Amends “use of force” policy at the state level, allowing for the use of deadly force only when “necessary.”  Requires each law enforcement agency to maintain a policy that provides guidelines on using de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to force whenever possible, specific guidelines for the application of deadly force, and factors for evaluating and reviewing all use of force incidents.  Also requires each agency to make its use of force policies available to the public.

AB1869 –Repeals the authority of courts to collect various fees that are charged to criminals for arrest, prosecution, conviction, and the administration of the justice system.  Repeals the authority of the courts to evaluate a defendant’s ability to pay the fees and costs.  The estimated lost revenue of approximately $65,000,000 per year will be taken from the State General Fund. 

Closure of Juvenile State Prisons – California teens who have committed the most serious crimes will no longer be sent to prison.  Instead, the counties will be given responsibility for the teens.

RACE

AB979 – Requires corporations headquartered in California to have at least one person from an underrepresented community on their board of directors by the end of 2021.  Those directors could be people of color or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. 

AB275 – The commission will publish a new list of California Indian tribes, revise certain definitions, and work with state-funded museums and will change processes regarding artifacts, human remains, and associated funerary objects.

AB1460 – Requires California State University students to take an ethnic studies course before graduation. 

AB3121 – Establishes a 9-person committee to study California’s complicity in slavery, develop proposals on what reparations might look like for descendants of enslaved people, and determine who should get paid.

CRIMINAL LAW

AB1950 – Reduces probation terms to one (1) year for most misdemeanors instead of three (3) years, and two (2) years for many felonies instead of five (5) years, except for violent offenses and large financial crimes.

AB1775 – Makes it a misdemeanor (carrying potential fine or jail time) to make false 911 calls that target people because of their race. 

SB145 – Pedophiles who have sex with a minor no longer have to register as sex offenders if the victim is over 14 and less than 10 years younger than them.

SB132 – Allows inmates to specify their gender identity (male, female, or non-binary) and their preferred gender pronoun, and to choose whether to be housed in a men’s or women’s prison.  It also prohibits staff, contractors, and volunteers from failing to consistently use a person’s gender pronoun in both verbal and written communications. 

AB2147 – Allows criminals who have trained at state fire camps in prison to petition to have their criminal records expunged. 

REAL ESTATE & HOUSING

AB1851 – Allows religious institutions or developers working with religious institutions to build affordable housing on their properties without replacing the parking spaces that would normally be required. 

AB 3074 – Homeowners in high fire-hazard areas (as identified by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) must adhere to more intense fuel-reduction measures around their structures to create an ember-resistant zone. 

Prop 19 – Replaces Proposition 58 (which created the parent-child exclusion from property tax reassessment) and greatly limits the scope of the parent-child exclusion beginning February 16, 2021.  It also expands the ability of persons who are age 55 years or older, disabled, or victims of a wildfire or natural disaster to preserve and transfer their current property taxes on their primary residence to a replacement residence, including a more expensive replacement residence, and up to 3 times.   

LABOR

Minimum Wage Increase – Businesses with 25 or fewer employees must now pay at least $13 per hour, while those with 26 or more employees must pay at least $14 per hour.

AB2257 – Makes changes to AB5, which is the default standard for independent contractor/employee  classification. 

SB973 – Requires private companies with 100 or more employees to submit a pay data report to the State every year, containing specific information regarding race, ethnicity, and gender.  Authorizes the State DFEH to receive, investigate, conciliate, mediate, and prosecute complaints alleging practices unlawful under current discriminatory wage rate provisions.

SB1383 – Expands unpaid family leave requirements to small businesses.  Any business with five or more workers must now offer unpaid family leave.  The law also requires employers to maintain health coverage during the time off and expands eligible family members to include domestic partners, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and parents-in-law. Workers could previously use the unpaid leave only to care for a seriously ill child, parent, spouse or themselves.

AB2992 – Expands job-protected leave for victims of crime or abuse causing physical or mental injury or a threat of physical injury.  Employers with 25 or more employees must also provide these victims with time off work to seek medical attention or psychological counseling for their injuries. 

AB685 – Requires all employers to promptly notify their employees in writing of potential COVID-19 exposure, as well as local public health officials, after someone at the worksite tests positive for COVID-19, receives a medical diagnosis, and/or receives an isolation order.  Notification must be issued within one business day of notice of potential exposure, as well as an disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to implement.  Employers must also maintain records of notifications for at least 3 years.  Civil penalties apply for employers who violate these notification requirements.  Also allows Cal/OSCHA’s authority to shut down a worksite if the agency deems it an “imminent hazard.”

AB2017 – Gives employees the ability to use their sick days at their sole discretion.  Businesses cannot deny an employee’s use of their sick days for whatever reason the employee deems necessary. 

HEALTH

SB275 – Requires California to maintain a 90-day stockpile of personal protective equipment for health care workers and other essential employees. By 2023, hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis clinics and other health facilities will have to maintain their own stockpiles with enough personal protective equipment to last 45 days at surge levels.  Fines of up to $25,000 will be issued for those found in violation. 

SB852Directs the State to engage in a prescription drug bulk purchasing program and explore the viability of manufacturing and selling its own general prescription drugs, in partnership with pharmaceutical companies. 

AB2276 – Requires all children on Medi-Cal to get regular blood screenings (blood tests). Medi-Cal providers must report children who do not complete their regular blood tests to the State.

MISCELLANEOUS

AB2152 – Ends the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits throughout California, while still allowing retail establishments to partner with rescues or shelters for adoption events. 

AB1 – Prevents youth football teams from having more than 2 full-contact practices per week, at 30 minutes only.  A medical professional must also be on hand at all games. 

AB2717 – Protects individuals from liability if they break into a locked car to rescue a child 6 or younger who is unattended and appears to be in danger, if certain conditions are met and the police are called first.

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