A sampling of new state laws in effect since Jan. 1

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During 2016, the state Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed hundreds of new laws. While some were effective immediately and some will not go into effect until 2018 or 2019, most were effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Below is a small sampling of the new laws and rules with which we have to comply.

Minimum wage

For businesses with more than 25 employees, the minimum wage increased to $10.50 per hour from $10 on Jan. 1. Businesses with fewer than 26 employees can wait one year, until Jan. 1, 2018, before raising their employee wages. At that time, larger employers will be paying $11 per hour.

Use of cell phones while driving

While driving, California law already prohibits using a cell phone to write, or send or read a text-based message. Phones that allow for voice operation are exempt. Beginning Jan. 1, a new law prohibits any person from driving a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or a wireless electronic communication device unless the device is mounted or fixed on the vehicle in the same manner as a portable Global Positioning System, and only a single swipe or tap of the driver’s finger is necessary to activate it.

Children’s car seats

In October 2015, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 53, which requires children up to 2 years old to remain in rear-facing car seats. Currently, children are required to ride rear-facing only until age 1. The bill does not apply to children who weigh more than 40 pounds or are 40 inches tall or taller.

Breathalyzers

Following a pilot program, the state may now require installing an “ignition interlock device” in cars of individuals convicted of driving under the influence. The device will prevent the car from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit.

The new law extends the pilot program for another two years in Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare counties. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the pilot expands statewide.

The device costs between $60 and $80 per month and installation costs between $70 and $150.

Motorcycle lane splitting

The California Highway Patrol has been authorized to develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclists, drivers and passengers. Current law defines “lane splitting” as driving a motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane.

Election reform

Voters can now legally take a selfie with their completed election 

ballot. Brown signed Assembly Bill 1494 in September allowing California voters to take ballot selfies and post them on social media.  

Granny flats

AB 2299 encourages the development of accessory dwelling units, also known as second units or “granny flats,” as a way to increase the housing supply. Authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), the new law requires local governments to adopt accessory dwelling unit ordinances. ADUs are a creative, affordable housing option often used by college students, elderly parents or disabled individuals who need to live close to their families. 

Fire arms — loaned and reported thefts

California law now limits a firearm owner’s ability to loan the weapon to a spouse or registered domestic partner, or to a parent, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild, related as specified. 

Existing law generally requires the loan of a firearm to be conducted through a licensed firearms dealer. A violation of this provision is a crime. A current exemption exists for friends. If the loan is between persons who are personally known to each other, and if the loan is infrequent and does not exceed 30 days in duration, it was permitted and is now also limited.

The new law requires a handgun loaned pursuant to these provisions to be registered to the person loaning the handgun. 

Another new law related to firearms is that it is a misdemeanor to make a false report to a peace officer or a law enforcement employee that a firearm has been lost or stolen, while knowing the report to be false.

The bill would also make it a misdemeanor for a person convicted of violating this provision to own a firearm within 10 years of the conviction. 

Pet rescues

Existing law authorizes a peace officer, humane officer or animal control officer to take all steps reasonably necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle because the animal’s safety appears to be in immediate danger of specified harm. 

This bill expands the authorization and requirements to include a firefighter or other emergency responder. A person also may be required to pay for charges for the maintenance, care, medical treatment or impoundment of the animal removed from the vehicle. 

And, the bill also exempts a person from criminal liability for actions taken reasonably and in good faith to remove an animal from a vehicle under dire circumstances if the person satisfies specific conditions, including immediately turning the animal over to law enforcement, animal control or other emergency responder who responds to the scene. 

The bill would exempt a person from civil liability for property damage or trespass to a motor vehicle if the property damage or trespass occurred while the person was rescuing an animal pursuant to these provisions.

Alcohol and beauty salons or barber shops

These establishments may now serve beer or wine without a license as part of a beauty salon or barber shop service if no extra charge or fee for the beer or wine is required.

State fabric

Denim is now the state’s official fabric in recognition of its role in California history. 

According to AB 501, the history of denim jeans parallels the history of California. Denim jeans were invented in San Francisco during the Gold Rush Era. In May 1873, the United States Patent and Trademark Office approved patent number 139,121 for the invention of jeans.

At first, jeans were designed as practical working clothes. They eventually became a symbol of American culture. Today, California is responsible for about 75 percent of the premium denim jeans sold throughout the world.

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