Starting Jan. 1, Californians’ lives will be governed by hundreds of new laws including added controls on guns, harsher sanctions against criminals, extra restrictions on ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft, and a boost in the minimum wage. We read every new law so you don’t have to.
- At companies with 26 or more employees, the minimum wage will increase from $10 an hour to $10.50.
- Employers are prohibited from paying women less than male colleagues based on prior salary. Workers in “substantially similar” jobs but of different race or ethnicity will also need to be paid equal wages.
- Employers won’t be allowed to ask a job applicant to disclose information about an arrest, detention or court case — if it happened while the person was younger than 18.
- Children younger than 2 must sit in rear-facing car seats.
- Those convicted of driving under the influence must install a device in their cars that would ensure they are sober before they can start the ignition.
- The state’s ban on texting while driving expands to include other distractions, such as searching for “Pokemon Go” characters.
- Once a gray area for motorcyclists, new rules will be established by the California Highway Patrol for how fast they can drive when riding between cars along the lane line.
- Companies including Uber and Lyft can no longer hire drivers who are registered sex offenders, have been convicted of violent felonies or have had a DUI conviction within the last seven years.
- Drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft can’t have a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or more.
- Charter bus drivers must provide written or video instructions to passengers on how to use the vehicle’s safety equipment and emergency exits.
- School districts must improve bus driver training to avoid students being left alone on buses and must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles if students are left behind.
- There will be new protections against foreclosure for surviving spouses who own their home but are not listed on the mortgage.
- A program providing electric-car rebates will now only be available to those making $150,000 a year or less.
- To help the state’s housing crisis, it will be easier for California homeowners to construct additional small units on their properties, whether in their garages or as freestanding second structures.
- The cost for lead-acid batteries like those used to start cars and trucks will increase to help pay for cleaning up contaminated sites like the former Exide battery plant in Los Angeles County. Consumers will see the new $1 fee starting in April.
Crime & Punishment
- Inspired by the sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, California eliminated statutes of limitations for rape and some other sex crimes. That means if a crime happens after Dec. 31, 2016, the victim can report it at any point in the future and see it prosecuted; previous law generally limited prosecution to within 10 years.
- In response to outrage over the six-month sentence for sexual assault given to former Stanford student Brock Turner, prison time will be mandatory for those convicted of assault in which the victim was unconscious or not capable of giving consent because of intoxication.
- County prosecutors can pursue felony charges against people caught with the most common date-rape drugs and who also have demonstrated the intent to commit a sexual assault.
- Convicted sex offenders involved in Internet-related crimes must report their email addresses, user names and other Internet identifiers to police.
- It will be tougher for law enforcement to seize someone’s cash, cars or property. A criminal conviction is now required before the police can permanently take from a suspect any assets valued under $40,000.
- A ban is imposed on publishing the addresses of domestic violence victims
- A ban is in place on possession of a synthetic drug called “spice.” The first offense would be an infraction; the second or third offense would be a misdemeanor.
- Children can no longer be charged with prostitution, given the high incidence of human trafficking of people younger than 18. Adults who perform or solicit prostitution would not face mandatory minimum sentences.
- It is now a crime to use ransomware, malware or intrusive software injected into a computer or network to hold data hostage until money is paid.
- Public schools can now expel students for bullying through video or sexting. State education officials will be required to publish information on sexual cyberbullying online and encourage schools to teach students about sexting.
- People will no longer be able to buy semi-automatic rifles that have a bullet button allowing removal of the ammunition magazine, commonly used in mass shootings. Those that have such weapons will have to register them with the state.
- People who falsely report a firearm is lost or stolen would face a misdemeanor charge, and would face a 10-year ban on owning a firearm upon conviction.
- Licenses to carry a concealed weapon will no longer vary from county to county. State justice department officials will create a uniform license.
- Law enforcement officers and concealed-weapon permit holders who leave firearms in cars are now required to lock them in a safe box or in the trunk.
My Personal Life
- Bathrooms in public buildings with a single toilet must be designated as all-gender, open to anyone. The law will take effect March 1.
- The state can’t fund or require public employees to travel to states believed to discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexual or transgender people.
- Smoking or use of electronic cigarettes within 250 feet of any Little League baseball game or other youth sports event is now illegal.
- Beauty salons and barbershops can now offer patrons a free beer or glass of wine.
- Denim is now the state’s official fabric to recognize its role in California history.
- Every autographed collectible sold in California must come with a certificate that verifies it’s not a forgery, under a bill backed by famed “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill.
- Patients who go to their insurance’s in-network hospital, lab or other health facility will not face surprise, larger charges if the doctor or health worker treating them is not in the network.
- California businesses and public agencies are authorized to have on hand medicine designed to combat severe, emergency allergic reactions.
- Women can pick up an entire year’s worth of birth control pills at once, and health plans must cover the cost.
- To counter a spike in opioid overdose deaths, prescribers must check a state database to see whether their patients also have received drugs from other physicians.
- Terminally ill Californians will have the “right to try” experimental drugs that do not yet have full federal approval for clinical trials.
Pets & other animals
- Want to save an animal trapped in a car in heat or cold? As long as you call authorities first, you won’t be held legally liable for breaking into the car.
- Dog kennels and pet hotels must check on animals once a day and provide elevated platforms in cat enclosures.
- A dog seized from criminal fighting rings will no longer automatically be labeled “vicious” — which leads to it being euthanized. Instead, each dog will be evaluated to see whether it can be rehabilitated to safely re-enter society or be placed in a sanctuary.
- Carbon monoxide gas chambers are banned in animal shelters for euthanizing animals.
- Orca breeding and performance programs, like the one formerly run by SeaWorld theme parks, will be outlawed starting in June.
- Felons serving sentences in county jails will be able to vote in California elections as part of an effort to speed their transition back into society.
- Voters can now legally take a selfie with their completed ballot.
- Voters are permitted to legally hand off their sealed ballot to anyone to mail or deliver in person.
- More cities and counties can offer public financing of political campaigns.
- City councils and county boards of supervisors are required to publicly announce pay and benefit increases for government executives before they are approved by a vote.
Note: This list does not include the ballot propositions, such as legalized recreational marijuana, that were passed by voters on Nov. 8, 2016 and immediately became law the next day.
For the record: A previous version of this list states California businesses and public agencies must have medicine on hand designed to combat severe, emergency allergic reactions. The businesses are now allowed to have the medicine on hand but they are not required to do so.