Lots of new California laws ringing in 2023

New California laws taking effect on January 1, 2023 include:

Abortion (AB-2223) —  It protects a woman or pregnant person who chooses to end a pregnancy from prosecution, even if the abortion is self-induced or happens outside the medical system. It also abolishes the requirement that coroners investigate stillbirths and protects someone who helps a pregnant person end their pregnancy voluntarily from criminal or civil liability.

Minimum wage (SB-3) — The statewide California minimum wage will rise to $15.50 per hour for all employer sizes. In 2022, the minimum wage in California was $14 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $15 an hour for employers with more than 25 employees. However, employers in at least 30 cities are already paying a higher local minimum wage, and new increases took effect in some cities lasts July – with at least six cities raising their minimum wage higher than $15.50. Cities with higher minimum wage than the state include Berkeley, Emeryville, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.

Mental illness (SB-1338) —Gov. Newsom signed the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Act in September. It will let family members, first responders and others ask a judge to draw up a treatment plan for someone diagnosed with certain disorders, including schizophrenia. Those who refuse could be placed under a conservatorship and ordered to comply. The new law would let a court order a treatment plan for up to one year, which could be extended for a second year. The plan could include medication, housing and therapy.

Under CARE Court, families, clinicians, first responders and others will be able to refer individuals suffering from schizophrenia spectrum or psychotic disorders. CARE Court will be implemented statewide and will start with a phased-in approach. The first cohort to implement CARE Court includes the counties of Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Francisco.

Farmworker unionization (AB-2183) — It expands options for farmworkers to unionize through a vote-by-mail process or through a process where ballot cards are dropped off at the state’s agricultural labor relations board, also known as “majority sign up” or “card check.” Advocates said the measure would free workers from intimidation from their employers. Newsom agreed to sign the bill so long as labor groups agreed to strike the vote-by-mail process from the bill, leaving the card check process to become state law. The groups agreed to cap the amount of card check elections the labor relations board can certify at 75 for the entire state until 2028.

Fast food workers (AB-257) — The bill will set up a 10-member council that would include worker and employer representatives and two state officials, and that would review pay and safety standards across the restaurant industry. The council could issue health, safety and anti-discrimination regulations and set an industry-wide minimum wage. The legislation caps the figure at $22 an hour in 2023, when the statewide minimum wage will be $15.50. The bill also requires annual cost-of-living adjustments for any new wage floor beginning in 2024.

Parking mandates near transit (AB-2097) — Cities in California can no longer impose minimum parking requirements on new developments within a half-mile of public transit. The bill would not prevent property owners from building parking but rather limit mandates on minimums. It was introduced by Assembly Member Laura Friedman with the goal of creating more opportunities for housing by lowering the cost of building parking spaces. The bill aims to address California’s housing crisis by removing costly parking mandates in transit-rich areas.

Pink tax (AB-1287) — California businesses are no longer allowed to charge a higher price on products marketed for women, also known as the “Pink Tax.” The bill prohibits two “substantially similar” products from the same company from being “priced differently based on the gender of the individuals for whom the goods are marketed and intended.” Companies that violate the new law could face hefty fines.

Rape kit DNA (SB-1228) — DNA collected from sexual assault victims during an investigation can no longer be used for other purposes, including investigating other crimes. The bill was introduced in California after the district attorney’s office discovered that the San Francisco Police Department had used DNA collected from a victim during a sexual assault investigation to tie that victim to a property crime. In a sexual assault case, a victim’s DNA is collected in order to exclude their genes from an investigation, but the district said the police department was adding that information to its general genetic database.The victim whose arrest sparked the revelations sued the city of San Francisco in September.

Reproductive health (SB-523) — Also known as the Contraceptive Equity Act, there will be significant changes to California’s employment laws to take effect on January 1. The new legislation expands protections related to reproductive health decision-making. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the list of protected categories is now expanded to include “reproductive health decision-making,” which, under the new law, “includes, but is not limited to, a decision to use or access a particular drug, device, product, or medical service for reproductive health.” This means that employers are forbidden from discriminating against an employee or applicant based on “reproductive health decision-making” or requiring employees to disclose information related to “reproductive health decision-making” as a “condition of employment, continued employment, or a benefit of employment.”

State holidays (AB-2956) — Assembly Bill 2956 officially made Lunar New Year a state holiday. Workers can use “eight hours of vacation, annual leave, or compensating time off in lieu of receiving eight hours of personal holiday credit” to celebrate the day. In 2023, the Lunar New Year falls on Jan. 22. Workers can also choose to take off Genocide Remembrance Day? (April 24), Juneteenth (June 19) or Native American Day (Sept. 22).

Fur ban (AB-44) — Signed into law in 2019, it makes California the first state to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products. Lawmakers had given retailers enough time to phase over and make the changes necessary. The fur law bars residents from selling or making clothing, shoes or handbags with fur starting in 2023. The fur ban doesn’t apply to used products or those used for religious or tribal purposes. And it excludes the sale of leather, dog and cat fur, cowhides, deer, sheep and goat skin and anything preserved through taxidermy.

Workplace safety (SB-1044) — It prohibits an employer from taking or threatening adverse action against any employee for refusing to come to work, or leaving, if the employee has a “reasonable belief” that the workplace or work site is unsafe. That includes taking an employee’s mobile device and preventing him or her from seeking help. It also requires an employee to notify the employer of the emergency condition requiring the employee to leave or refuse to report to the workplace or work site. The bill clarifies that these provisions are not intended to apply when emergency conditions that pose an imminent and ongoing risk of harm to the workplace, the worksite, the worker, or the worker’s home have ceased.

Wage Transparency (SB-1162) — SB 1162 requires companies that employ at least 15 people to include salary ranges in all job postings and provide them to existing employees upon request. It expands the requirements for annual pay data reports and requires covered employers to retain certain pay records. It also broadens SB 973 by requiring the median and mean hourly rate for each combination of race, ethnicity and sex in the designated job categories. Employers with multiple establishments are required to submit separate reports for each establishment instead of a consolidated report. The law is an effort to bolster pay transparency and counter workplace discrimination and aligns California law with several other states, including New York, Nevada and Washington.

Leaves of absence (AB-1041) — It amends two laws by relaxing the definition of people an employee can take off time to care for. The new law adds a “designated person” to the category of existing permitted family members that include a spouse, registered domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild and sibling. The new law, taking effect Jan. 1, expands both the California Family Rights Act and California’s paid sick leave law, called the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act.

Bereavement leave (AB-1949) — It is illegal for employers with five or more employees to deny employees up to five days of unpaid bereavement leave upon the death of a family member, so long as: (1) the employee seeking leave was employed for at least 30 days before the commencement of leave, and (2) for private employers, the employer has five or more employees. There are separate requirements for public employers.

Bicycles (AB-1909) – The OmniBike Bill makes four changes to the vehicle code. It requires drivers to change lanes whenever passing a bicyclist, if feasible. The bill also stops cities and counties from enforcing bicycle license laws. Additionally, it expands access for people riding e-bikes and allows bikes to cross streets on pedestrian walk signals, rather than only a green traffic light.

Catalytic converter theft crackdown (SB-1087, AB-1740) — These laws enhance requirements on recyclers to keep specific records of catalytic converters they receive and on the authorized parties that can sell used catalytic converters. These laws specifically list who can sell catalytic converters to recyclers and require those recyclers to keep documentation such as the year, make, model, and copy of the vehicle title from which the catalytic converter was removed. These laws aim to reduce the increasing theft of catalytic converters and help keep Californians and their cars safer.

Consumer notices for semiautonomous vehicles (SB-1398) — Dealers and manufacturers that sell new passenger vehicles equipped with a partial driving automation feature or provide any software update or vehicle upgrade that adds such a feature are required to give a clear description of its functions and limitations. The law also prohibits a manufacturer or dealer from deceptively marketing a feature.

Criminal records (SB-731) — Criminal records will still be provided to school districts, county offices of education, charter schools, private schools and state special schools that conduct background checks for job applicants. People who have their records sealed also would be required to disclose their criminal history if asked when applying for a job in law enforcement or public office. Registered sex offenders were excluded from the legislation, and those convicted of serious and violent crimes would have to petition a court to have their records sealed.

The bill would permanently and electronically seal most felony convictions after a person fully completes their sentence, including any time on probation, and would require a certain number of subsequent years without any arrests. The bill would also apply to people who were charged with a felony and served time in state prison and who have a record of an arrest that never resulted in a conviction. Law enforcement, courts and the state Department of Justice would still have access to the records.

DMV license plates, stickers, tabs, registration cards alternatives (AB-984) — The DMV will create a new ongoing program that allows entities to issue alternatives such as digital license plates, vinyl front license plate wraps and digital registration cards. Since 2015, the current pilot program has enrolled more than 19,000 customers for digital license plates, more than 5,000 customers for vinyl license plates and less than 100 customers for e-registration. The DMV will work on regulations to govern how the requirements for the permanent program will be implemented.

DMV license suspension law reform (AB-2746) — California state courts will stop sending notices to the DMV for license suspensions for failure to appear starting on January 1, 2023, while requiring the DMV to stop suspending licenses for failing to appear starting on January 1, 2027, to allow time to make computer programming changes.

DMV notices and remote renewals (SB-1193) — This law allows customers to receive certain DMV notices electronically – which previously had been required to be mailed – if they opt in. It also removes the requirement that a vehicle salesperson’s license be renewed in person, which will enable the DMV to establish a renewal program that allows for consecutive remote vehicle salesperson license renewals. The law will help save time, paper and reduce the number of transactions needing to be completed at a field office.

Electric bicycles (AB-1946) –– This requires the CHP to work with other traffic safety stakeholders such as the California Office of Traffic Safety, to develop statewide safety and training programs for electric bicycles.  This training program, which will consist of electric bicycle riding safety, emergency maneuver skills, rules of the road and laws pertaining to electric bicycles, will launch on the CHP’s website in September 2023.

Endangered missing advisory: Feather Alert (AB-1314) — The new “Feather Alert” allows law enforcement agencies to request the CHP to initiate an alert when an indigenous person has been kidnapped, abducted, or reported missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances, and specific criteria has been met to permit alert activation. Additionally, consistent with the Department’s existing AMBER, Blue, and Silver Alert programs, this new “Feather Alert” program encourages the use of radio, television, and social media to spread the information about the missing indigenous person.

Online marketplaces (AB-1700) — This law requires the Attorney General’s Office to create an online reporting system for users of third-party online marketplaces to report listings of suspected stolen items.  The reported information would be available to local law enforcement and the CHP’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force to assist with investigations.

Privacy rights — It’s been two years since voters passed the California Privacy Rights Act, which amended the California Consumer Privacy Act by strengthening privacy laws that prohibit businesses from collecting and sharing consumers’ personal data without their prior consent or knowledge. Among the amendments taking effect Jan. 1, companies will no longer be allowed to collect information about their workers. Additionally, other than the right to access, the law applies to personal information collected by a business on or after Jan. 1, 2022.

Sex trafficking penalties (AB-1788) — Under this law, hotels will be subject to civil penalties if a supervisory employee knew or acted with reckless disregard of sex trafficking activity within the hotel and failed to inform law enforcement, the National Human Trafficking Hotline, or another appropriate victim service organization. Penalties may also be imposed if any hotel employee was acting within the scope of their employment and knowingly benefited from participating in a venture that the employee knew, or acted in reckless disregard of the activity constituting sex trafficking.

Song lyrics use in court (AB-2799) — The bill known as The Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act aims to restrict the use of rap lyrics as evidence by prosecutors in criminal cases. The law would require judges to press prosecutors on the purpose behind including lyrics as evidence and interrogate whether doing so injects “racial bias into the proceedings.” Calls from the music industry for legislation addressing the use of lyrics in criminal cases have grown in the wake of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations indictment of Grammy-award winning rapper Young Thug in Georgia, earlier in 2022.

Street food vendors (SB-927) — This law makes it easier for street vendors to obtain local health permits by amending the California Retail Food Code, thus increasing community health and safety.

Toll exemptions for some veterans (AB-2949) — This law exempts vehicles registered to veterans displaying specialized license plates from paying tolls on roads, bridges, highways, vehicular crossings, or other toll facilities. The exemption applies only to vehicles with license plates that are issued to a disabled veteran, Pearl Harbor survivor, prisoner of war, or to veterans who have received distinctions such as the Purple Heart or the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Transgender youth (AB-107) — The bill aims to stop other states from punishing children who come to California for transgender surgeries and other gender-affirming care. AB-107 is designed to stop Texas and other conservative states from removing children from parents who allow them to receive “gender affirming” health care, defined as “medically necessary health care that respects the gender identity of the patient, as experienced and defined by the patient.” That would include hormone therapy to to suppress secondary sex characteristics and other treatments “to align the patient’s appearance or physical body with the patient’s gender identity.” The law will block out-of-state subpoenas, stop health providers from sharing information with out-of-state entities related to gender-affirming care. And it would give California courts authority to make an initial child custody determination if the child is in California for the propose of obtaining gender-affirming care.

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