As Californians welcome the new year, they will also have to welcome a whole slate on new laws, including those dealing with COVID-19, law enforcement, housing, diversification, firearms and much more.
Some of the news laws seem to be based on common sense, while others may border on absurd and a waste of tax-payers dollars – let the reader decide.
Of the new laws going into effect, some start at the first of the year, others at different times throughout 2021.
Following are a few of the hundreds of new laws implemented in 2021:
- As of Jan. 1. California’s minimum wage is $14 at companies with 26 or more employees and $13 at companies smaller than that. It’s part of the phased increases that will eventually make the state’s minimum wage $15.
- Proposition 19, which narrowly passed in the fall, will require people who inherit property to use it as their primary residence or have its tax value reassessed starting in February.
- Law enforcement will no longer be allowed to wear uniforms that have camouflage or otherwise resemble military uniforms.
- Youth football leagues cannot hold more than two full-contact practices a week, each lasting no longer than half an hour. An emergency medical official must be present at games, and someone to evaluate injuries must attend practices.
- The retail sale of all dogs, cats and rabbits is no longer allowed. Shelter or rescue groups can offer pets for adoption in pet stores, as long as the store isn’t paid to display the animals.
- Californians will be prohibited from buying more than one semiautomatic rifle in a 30-day period.
- By the end of 2021, any executive board of a publicly owned company based in California with at least five members must have at least two women, and any board with six members has to have three women. Companies are also given another year to add even more diversity: boards with at least four members need to have two or more directors from underrepresented communities (meaning “an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender”).
- A new law protects people who try and break into a vehicle to rescue a child under 6 years from civil or criminal liability for property damage or trespassing, however, there are a series of conditions attached to the law, such as rescuer must prove they called 911, determined the vehicle was locked and breaking in was the only option and had a “good faith belief” that the child inside was in imminent danger.
- A COVID-19 law, which is in effect from 2021 to 2023, requires private and public employers to take specific actions, like written notifications to employees, within one business day of a potential exposure to the virus in the workplace. The notification must be written in English and another language, if applicable. The law also includes notification by employers of subcontractors who shared a worksite with the potentially infected person. All contacted employees must also be provided with information about work’s comp, paid sick leave and anti-retaliation policies.
- A new law establishes a task force to study the history of slavery in the United States and how that practice may still be impacting slaves’ descendants today. After researching and hearing witness testimony, the task force will recommend how reparations would be paid out in California and who would receive those payments, if such a program were implemented.
- People who worked on inmate fire crews while incarcerated are now allowed to petition the court upon release to have their records cleared. That would make it easier for them to get a job after release, including as a professional firefighter. Those convicted of sex offenses and certain violent felonies are exempt.
- After a number of high-profile deaths in police custody around the nation, California passed AB 1196, which prohibits police from using chokeholds and carotid holds.
- Voters passed Proposition 17 in the November election, which restores felons’ right to vote after the completion of their sentence.
- Private insurance companies must fully cover all medically necessary mental health and substance abuse disorder treatments under the same terms as other medical conditions.
- Prop 19, which narrowly passed in the November election, changes some of California’s laws around property transfers. Starting in February, those who inherit property have to use it as their primary residence or have its tax value reassessed. Starting in April 2021, homeowners 55 or older or those who lost their home in a disaster will be able to transfer their tax assessment to a more expensive home three times (instead of the currently allowed one time).
- A law that required companies with 50 or more employees to offer 12 weeks of family leave, now greatly expand those protections by requiring companies with five or more employees to grant the same amount of family leave.
- A transgender protections law allows incarcerated transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex individuals to be housed and searched according to their gender identity. Individuals will be housed where they feel they will be the safest. State corrections officers will be required to record self-reported gender identity, gender pronouns and honorifics during intake and throughout incarceration. The law also prohibits prison workers from failing to use a person’s specified gender pronouns and honorifics.
- A new law leads to the closure of California’s youth prison system starting in July. Youths who would have previously been sent to the state facilities will instead remain in local settings closer to their families and communities. In addition, another law makes it easier for minors in police custody to get legal counsel before being questioned.
- AB 901 prevents kids who are acting out in school from being referred to probation programs or becoming a ward of the court. Instead, they’ll be referred to community support services.
- Assembly Bill 376 implements a host of new protections for student loan borrowers and makes it harder for lenders to take advantage of people who may not know all their rights or how to navigate the system. It goes into effect in July.
- Homeowners in high fire hazard areas must create a five-foot “ember resistant zone” surrounding their home and outdoor decks, with guidelines from state officials phased in over the next two years.
- The California Racial Justice Act expands opportunities for defendants to challenge a charge or conviction by demonstrating that there was racial bias present in their case.
- Doctors are required to submit and electronic form to state public health officials when approving a medical exemption that allows a child to skip one or more vaccines otherwise required to attend school.
- A law signed in 2010 furthers its impact this year by stipulating vehicle manufacturers cannot make brake pads with more than 5 percent copper material. As a result, Car and Driver reports Chevy will no longer be able to sell the 2021 Camaro SS, 1LE, and ZL1 models in California, as each use pads with more than that amount of copper.
- California law enforcement must honor a gun violence restraining order issued in another state.