New Year’s resolutions come and go, but something else that comes into effect as of each January 1 is a bevy of new laws, and they are here to stay.
During the 2015-2016 legislative year, California Gov. Jerry Brown was sent a total of 1,059 bills, 898 of which he signed into law. Many of these will be enacted on the first day of the new year.
From beers and barbers to totally hands-off phones in vehicles to saying goodbye to "Redskins" mascots, here is a summary of some of the California laws taking effect January 1, 2017:
AB 1785: Use of Electronic Wireless Devices— Hands-free is about to become hands-off. It will now be against the law to even hold your phone while behind the wheel. Assembly Bill 1785 prohibits motorists from driving while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or other wireless electronic communications device. This new law aims to prevent the accidents, injuries, and death caused by distracted driving. The law does allow a driver to operate one of these devices with the motion of a single swipe or tap of the finger, but not while holding it. Cell phones must now be mounted, and texting, taking pictures, streaming video, and entering in GPS destinations are banned.
AB 53: Child Safety Seats— The Assembly Bill, passed in 2015, requires children 2 years old and younger to be fastened in a rear-facing car seat to comply with the current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Until now, parents could let their children sit forward-facing in their safety seats at the age of 1, but come January 1, they must remain rear-facing until they are 2 years old, weigh more than 40 pounds, or are at least 40 inches tall. California law continues to require that all children under the age of eight be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety seat in the back seat of a vehicle.
SB 3: Minimum Wage— As of January 1, California’s minimum wage will rise to $10.50 per hour for businesses with 26 or more employees. The wage is scheduled to increase every year from 2017 to 2022 until the hourly minimum wage reaches $15 per hour. Employers with 25 or fewer employees have an extra year to comply beginning in January 2018 and ending in January 2023.
SB 880 and AB 1135: Firearms, Assault Weapons— These two California bills will ban the sale of semi-automatic centerfire rifles and semi-automatic pistols that do not have fixed magazine. Lawmakers passed a package of bills to strengthen California’s already tough gun laws then voters reinforced them by passing even more measures. Those who purchased one of the listed weapons before January 1, 2017, will have one year to re-register it with the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, people who own magazines that hold more than 10 rounds will be required to give them up starting January 1. Also as of January 1, buyers must undergo a background check before purchasing ammunition and will be barred from buying new weapons that have a device known as a bullet button. Gun makers developed bullet buttons to get around California’s assault weapons ban, which prohibited new rifles with magazines that can be detached without the aid of tools. A bullet button allows a shooter to quickly dislodge the magazine using the tip of a bullet.
SB 869: Handgun Storage— Law enforcement officers will be required to follow the same rules as civilians by securely storing handguns in a lockbox out of plain view or in the trunk if the weapons are left in an unattended vehicle. This law closes a legal loophole that had exempted authorities and concealed weapons permit holders from those rules. The legislation came after stolen guns were used in high-profile crimes.
AB 2888: Sex Crimes, Mandatory Prison Sentence— Following the six-month jail sentence of former Stanford student Brock Turner who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, California lawmakers wrote and passed Assembly Bill 2888. The bill will mandate a prison sentence for those who assault someone who is unconscious or unable to give consent due to intoxication or other factors.
SB 813: Sex Offenses, Statute of Limitations— Linked to the accusations against comedian Bill Cosby, Senate Bill 813 ends California’s 10-year statute of limitations on sex offenses, allowing sex crimes to be prosecuted regardless of when they occurred. The law will cover new offenses after January 1, 2017, and cannot be applied to cases retroactively.
SB 1063: Wage Discrimination and its Application to Race and Ethnicity— Senate Bill 1063 will extend the current law against wage discrimination based on gender to wage discrimination based on ethnicity or race. Employers cannot pay an employee of a particular race or ethnicity less than others for similar work.
AB 1289: Transportation Network Companies, Participating Drivers Penalties— Transportation network companies, including ridesharing businesses such as Uber and Lyft, will now be required to perform a comprehensive background check on all of their drivers. Drivers who are registered sex offenders, have been convicted of specified felonies, or have been convicted of a misdemeanor of assault, domestic violence, or driving under the influence are not allowed to drive for a TNC.
AB 30: School Mascots— California public schools will be barred from using the name “Redskins” for sports teams and mascots, a term considered to be offensive to American Indians.
After 92 years of calling themselves the Redskins, Tulare Union High School’s board voted 3 to 2 in June to change the school’s mascot to the Tribe in response to the legislation.
AB 1494: Voting, Marked Ballots— Better take a shower and do your hair before you go to the polls from now on in preparation of your selfie. Assembly Bill 1494 permits individuals to take photos of their completed ballots and share it how they choose.
AB 797: Motor Vehicles, Rescue or Provision of Care for Animal— Private individuals may now free animals from cars on a hot day. This new law allows a person to break into a vehicle when an animal’s “safety appears to be in immediate danger of specified harm” and the animal’s owner cannot be found. These individuals are then required to contact law enforcement and wait for them to arrive.
AB 1322: Alcoholic Beverages, Beauty Salons and Barber Shops— Customers may now get their hair done while enjoying a 12-ounce beer or 6-ounce serving of wine. The new law allows beauty salons, barbershops, and similar businesses to offer beer or wine to their customers without a beverage license. But no all-night hair appointments for this purpose, however. Last call is before 10 p.m.
SB 1046: Driving under the influence, Ignition Interlock Device— This law requires a driving under the influence (DUI) offender to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle for a specified period of time in order to get a restricted driver license or to reinstate their license. The law also removes the required suspension time before a person can get a restricted license, provided that the offender installs an IID on their vehicle. The law extends the current four-county (Tulare, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Alameda) DUI IID pilot program until January 1, 2019, at which time all DUI offenders statewide will be required to install an IID to have their license reinstated.
AB 51: Motorcycles, Lane Splitting— Current law does not change; lane splitting by a motorcyclist remains legal if done safely. This bill defines lane splitting as driving a motorcycle that has two wheels in contact with the ground driving between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane. The bill permits the California Highway Patrol to develop lane-splitting educational safety guidelines in consultation with other state traffic safety agencies and at least one organization focused on motorcycle safety.
SB 1072: School Bus Safety, Child Alert System— This law requires all school buses, school pupil activity buses, youth buses, and childcare motor vehicles used to transport school-age children to be equipped with a “child safety alert system,” which is a device located at the interior rear of the vehicle that requires the driver to either manually contact or scan the device before exiting the vehicle. This legislative protocol will prompt the driver to inspect the entirety of the interior of the vehicle before exiting, ensuring that a pupil is never left unattended in the vehicle.
SB 247: Charter Bus Safety Improvements— All buses manufactured after July 1, 2020, will be required to have emergency lighting fixtures that will turn on in the event of an impact or collision. The law also requires a bus company to ensure the driver of the charter bus provides oral and written, or video, instructions to all passengers on the safety equipment and emergency exits on the bus prior to any trip.
AB 1677: Tour Buses, Safety Inspections— This new law requires the CHP to develop protocols for entering into a memorandum of understanding with local governments to increase the number of inspections for tour buses operated within their jurisdiction.
AB 1668: Right-to-Try— Terminally ill California patients will be allowed to use experimental drugs that do not yet have full regulatory approval. The law authorize, but does not require health plans to cover, investigational drugs and protects physicians from disciplinary action if they recommend them when other treatment options have been exhausted.
SB 132: Human Trafficking— Young people under 18 cannot be charged with prostitution and will instead be treated as victims under this new legislation.