DEAR READERS: As we embrace a New Year, I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the new laws, most of which are effective January 1, 2016, unless special provisions are addressed in the text of the new law. Keep in mind that approximately 800 Assembly Bills (AB) and Senate Bills (SB) collectively passed and were then signed by Governor Brown. Below is only the tip of the iceberg, in no particular order. I have referenced the bill number, so if you want to read the full text of the new law, go to www.legislature.ca.gov, click on “Bill Information” and then enter the bill number.
Toys…Hover Boards: Did Santa bring you or a loved one a hover board this year? If so, you should know that hover boards are now legal in California (AB 604), unlike in the United Kingdom where they are outlawed. The new law authorizes hover boards on public streets, and requires the rider to wear a helmet. Private landowners may still ban their use.
Employment Law: Frankly, there are so many new laws in the employment arena, that a savvy employer may wish to consult with an employment lawyer or compliance specialist. A few highlights include: i) The Fair Pay Act (SB 358), dubbed one of the toughest “equal pay for equal work” laws in the nation, which finally levels the paying field between men and women; ii) Expansion of School Activities Leave (SB 579) broadens who is a “parent” for purposes of taking up to 40 hours of unpaid leave to attend activities at your child’s day care, elementary school, middle school, or high school. The new law also broadens the definition of “activities” to include emergency calls at the school; and iii) Grocery store workers enjoy additional protection from layoffs if their grocery store changes ownership or control (AB 359 and AB 897).
Professional Sports Team Cheerleaders: AB 202 now requires that professional sports teams ensure that their cheerleaders are employees, not independent contractors. Ra-Ra for the new law…and shame on those multi-million dollar owners for short-cutting their professional cheerleaders’ benefits and pay previously!
Death with Dignity (AB x2-15) allows a terminally ill patient with a life expectancy of six months or less to seek a “death pill”, if approved by two independent physicians. (Read my November 2015 legal column which offers more information on this subject.)
Bicycle Safety: If you ride your bike at night, previously you must have a rear red reflector that is visible from 500 feet. AB 28 amends the law by requiring either the red reflector or a solid or flashing red light. Also, AB 40 gives bike riders and pedestrians a “free pass” on toll bridges. No toll can be charged.
Marijuana Regulation (SB 643), dubbed The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act 2016. The new law legalizes marijuana for “social use” by adults 21 years of age and older, outlines a proposed tax structure, and allows for local control of marijuana businesses through city or county ordinances (like the new City Council Ordinance that Sebastopol recently passed).
Our Animal Friends: AB 316 allows a California licensed Veterinarian in good standing to attend to animal cruelty or animal fighting matters in another state, without the need of an out-of-state vet license. Also, AB 559 sets up a structure for Monarch Butterfly Preservation.
Veterans’ Housing: AB 388 requires additional information to be included in the annual report to the Governor, specifically information relating to the effectiveness of supportive or transitional housing for our honorable veterans.
Privacy in Mobile Communications: It is a crime to use “eavesdropping devices” to intercept phone calls, unless you are local law enforcement agency. SB 741 imposes certain requirements on the exempted agencies, such as posting their written policies relating to usage and privacy.
Mold: SB 655 addresses standards for mold in housing. In some circumstances, it appears that the landlord is not obligated to repair or abate the mold, until they have notice of the mold. The new law also clarifies that visible mold (except minor surface mold) is considered a “substandard condition”.
Happy New Year!
Debra A. Newby is a resident of Monte Rio and has practiced law for 34 years. She is a member of the California, Texas and Sonoma County Bar Associations and currently maintains an active law office in Santa Rosa which emphasizes personal injury law (bicycle/motorcycle/motor vehicle accidents, dog bites, trip and falls, etc.) and expungements (clearing criminal records). Debra can be reached via email(firstname.lastname@example.org), phone (707-526-7200), or fax (526-7202).