As of January 1, Hundreds of New Laws

Whatever you may call our state legislature, lazy is a name that can’t be included. They were busy last year adding 898 laws that most are unaware of. As of January 1 here are some of them:

While California drivers have not been able to use their cellphone to send a text or make a phone call since 2008, they were allowed to navigate with a maps app or even to take a selfie. Now California drivers cannot hold their phone while driving and can only swipe or tap the screen if the phone is in a holder. Drivers may use a cellphone to make a call as long as they use a hands-free mode.

“Granny flats” – whether in your garage or a free-standing structure on your property – will be easier to build in hopes of alleviating California’s housing crisis. If you’re near public transit, cities won’t be able to require extra parking spaces and the fees they charge to connect to water and sewer lines are now limited.

You’re now free of liability for breaking into a car to rescue an animal if you call law enforcement first. If the cops are late arriving and you believe the animal is in imminent danger, go ahead and bust the window.

You may now take a selfie with your completed voting ballot. If you have a mail-in ballot, you may designate anyone you choose to deliver it sealed to election officials. In addition, most local governments are now authorized to implement public campaign financing plans as a means to lessen the impact of wealthy campaign contributors.

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.

Barber shops and beauty salons can now serve beer and wine to customers without a permit. The drinks must be free and served up to 10 p.m.

California’s minimum wage is currently $10 an hour, it will rise by 50 cents for businesses with 26 or more employees. Establishments with 25 or less workers have until 2018 to comply.

Senate Bill 1046 would extend a pilot program that requires most convicted DUI drivers to install ignition interlock devices — also referred to as IIDs — that would prevent them from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. The bill extends the pilot program in four California counties — Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare counties — before it expands to the the entire state on Jan. 1, 2019.

Right-to-try; The bill gives terminally ill patients access to try drugs that have passed the FDA “Phase 1” but have yet to be approved. California became the 32nd state to pass this type of legislation.

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.

Young people under 18 cannot be charged with prostitution and will instead be treated as victims under SB1322 by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles. It’s one of several human trafficking-related bills that include raising the age kids can testify outside a courtroom from 13 to 15, protecting victims’ names from disclosure and mandating that they have access to county services.

Children younger than 2 must be in rear-facing child restraint systems unless they weigh 40 or more pounds or are 40 or more inches tall under AB53 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.

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.

Assembly Bill 1995 requires community colleges with shower facilities to make them available to homeless students, while Assembly Bill 1747 requires public and private colleges that offer food service to apply to participate in a state-funded program that provides meals to the homeless. Advocates for homeless students note that those without permanent housing often don’t have a reliable way to store or prepare food.

Powdered alcohol — yes, that is a thing — is now illegal to possess, sell or make. But beauty salons and barber shops can serve small amounts of wine and beer as long as it’s free and it’s before 10 p.m. — a privilege previously enjoyed by patrons of hot air balloon rides and limos.

Passed back in 2015, Assembly Bill 30 gave public schools until 2017 to ditch a mascot, “Redskins,” now widely denounced as racist and insensitive to Native Americans. There were four high schools in California that needed to comply. Two of those schools now cheer for the “Tribe,” one roots on the “Reds” and one has ditched a mascot altogether.

While North Carolina waged a proxy war in its restrooms over gender identity, California quietly went in the opposite direction. Assembly Bill 1732 requires all single-toilet bathrooms in businesses and public agencies to be gender neutral.

Assembly Bill 701 broadens the definition of rape to include “all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.” And after the worldwide outcry over the six-month jail sentence given to former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, Assembly Bill 2888 makes sexually assaulting an unconscious person a crime with a mandatory prison sentence. Rape, sexual assault and other sex offenses committed in 2017 will no longer be subject to a statute of limitations, under Senate Bill 813.

AB 1843 – Criminal History in Applications for Employment – Prohibits employers from asking applicants to disclose, or from utilizing as a factor in determining any condition of employment, information concerning or related to “an arrest, detention, process, diversion, supervision, adjudication, or court disposition that occurred while the person was subject to the process and jurisdiction of juvenile court law.”

You didn’t think you’d make it through the year without some kind of fee increase did you? Get ready to pay more when you’re vehicle registration comes due. New law increases the vehicle registration fee on every vehicle or trailer coach from $43 to $53 beginning April 1, 2017.

For a complete list of laws, bill information and California Legislature information go to:


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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