During the 2012-13 legislative session that ended Sept. 30, the State Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed nearly 800 bills or laws. Most of these are effective Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014.
Several bills fall specifically within the jurisdiction of the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The following laws go into effect on January 1, 2014, unless otherwise noted.
Bicycles: AB 1371, known as the Three Feet for Safety Act, will require a motor vehicle driver passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction to pass with no less than 3 feet between any part of the vehicle and any part of the bicycle or driver. When 3 feet is not possible, the motor vehicle must slow to a reasonable and prudent speed and only pass when no danger is present to the bicyclist. Failing to do so can incur a fine, regardless of a collision or not. This law will take effect Sept. 16, 2014.
Clean Air Vehicle Decals/HOV Stickers: AB 266 and SB 286 together extend sunset dates for low-emission, zero-emission vehicles to operate in high-occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV) without meeting occupancy requirements to Jan. 1, 2019.
Commercial Driver’s License: AB 1047 will allow the DMV to conduct the commercial drive test for the holder of an out-of-state commercial learner’s permit. The department would electronically transfer the information to the motor vehicle department in the applicant’s state of residence. AB 1047 also modifies the license class definitions to require a driver operating a bus weighing more than 26,000 pounds to hold a commercial Class B license and a driver operating a bus weighing 26,000 pounds or less to hold a commercial Class C license.
DMV Vehicle Registration Pilot Program: SB 806 authorizes DMV to establish a pilot program to evaluate using alternatives to stickers, tabs, license plates and registration cards, subject to certain requirements. It will also enable the DMV to experiment with electronic license plates, as well as facilitate DMV’s ability to explore cost-effective alternatives to California’s traditional metal license plate, plastic-coated registration stickers and paper registration cards.
Registration and Vehicle Transfers Between Family Members: AB 443 prohibits transferring ownership of a vehicle to a relative until all parking or toll–violation fines and penalties reported to the DMV are paid by the transferee.
Teen Drivers: SB 194 will prohibit a person who is under age 18 from using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication while driving, even if it is equipped with a hands-free device.
Also, the DMV will begin implementing AB 60, which requires DMV to issue a driver’s license to an applicant who is unable to submit satisfactory proof they are legally present in the United States but meets all other qualifications for licensure and provides satisfactory proof of identity and California residency. DMV must draft new regulations and prepare field offices to process new applications. The new law becomes operative by Jan. 1, 2015.
Other new laws address employment, health care and other issues.
Minumum wage: AB 10 increases California’s current minimum wage (of $8 per hour) in two $1 increments. On July 1, 2014, the minimum wage will be $9 per hour. Eighteen months later, on Jan. 1, 2016, the minimum wage will increase again to $10 per hour.
Increasing the minimum wage will also increase the minimum salary employees must earn to qualify as “exempt” employees under state law executive, administrative or professional exemptions. Under current law, the earnings threshold for exempt employees is $2,773.34 per month. Under AB 10, the minimum monthly salary for exempt employees will increase to $3,120 on July 1, 2014, and $3,466.67 on January 1, 2016.
Family leave: SB 770 broadens the definition of family within the Paid Family Leave program to allow workers to receive partial wage replacement benefits while taking care of seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law. Implementation is deferred until July 1, 2014.
Eligibility to practice law: AB 1024 allows illegal immigrants to practice law in California. Federal law allows California to enact a law making undocumented immigrants eligible for this public benefit. This bill expressly provides that the state Supreme Court may admit an applicant who is not lawfully present in the United States as an attorney at law in all the courts of this state after certification by the State Bar Examining Committee that the applicant has fulfilled the requirements for admission to practice law.
AB 11 requires employers to permit reserve peace officers and emergency rescue personnel temporary leaves of absence to participate in fire or law enforcement training, just as current law applies to volunteer firefighters. Effective Jan. 1, 2014.
AB 556 adds “military and veteran status” to the list of categories protected from employment discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and also provides an exemption for an inquiry by an employer regarding military or veteran status for the purpose of awarding a veteran’s preference as permitted by law.
Employment protections — time off: SB 288 would prohibit an employer from discharging, discriminating or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of specified offenses, for taking time off from work, upon the victim’s request, to appear in court to be heard at any proceeding, including post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.
Employment — sexual harassment: SB 292 specifies that sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire. Signed by Gov. Brown on Aug. 12.
Physical therapists: AB 1000 allows patients to access physical therapy treatment directly and, in those circumstances, requires a physical therapist to 1) refer the patient to another specified medical provider if the patient’s condition requires treatment or services beyond the therapist’s scope of practice or if the patient is not progressing; 2) disclose to the patient any financial interest he or she has in treating the patient; and 3) with the patient’s written authorization, notify the patient’s physician and surgeon, if any, that the physical therapist is treating the patient. AB 1000 limits a physical therapist to treating a patient who initiated services directly to the lesser of more than 45 calendar days or 12 visits, except as specified, and requires a physical therapist to obtain the patient’s signature on a specified notice before performing services on that patient. Signed by Gov. Brown Oct. 7.
Insurance: Notice SB 251 allows insurance companies to transmit notices electronically instead of by postal mail, with a customer’s consent.
Health-care providers: Until Jan. 1, 2019, SB 494 requires a health-care service plan to ensure that there is at least one full-time equivalent primary-care physician for every 2,000 enrollees. Also authorizes, until Jan. 1, 2019, the assignment of up to another 1,000 enrollees, as specified, to a primary-care physician for each full-time equivalent, non-physician medical practitioner, as defined, who is supervised by that physician. Signed by Gov. Brown Oct. 9.
AB 1180 updates existing state law implementing the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other individual coverage rights related to losing group coverage to conform with the federal Affordable Care Act. Requires health plans and health insurers to notify specified individuals that guaranteed insurance coverage through Covered California is available.
SB 332 requires transparency for California’s contracts and rates of payment to vendors, contractors, board and staff. Such contracts must be available for public inspection under the California Public Records Act, except for health-plan contracts and their rates, which are made public in three and four years respectively.
Copies of all bills are available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.
J.P. Crumrine can be reached at [email protected].