Governor Jerry Brown has made his decisions on  bills, passed by the legislature last month, that he will sign into law. Already signed or vetoed were bills on the assisted dying and drones flying near wildfires.

Last week, he signed the motor voter, medical marijuana, and a different drone bill.

Motor voter

Brown signed Assembly Bill 1461, which would register every eligible citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to get a driver’s license or renew one. Assembly member Lorean Gonzalez (D – San Diego) sponsored the bill, with support from California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Initial estimates believe the “motor voter” bill will potentially add millions of new registered voters to California’s voter rolls. More than 6.6 million California citizens are eligible but unregistered to vote, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Under this new law, California citizens who are identified as eligible voters when visiting the DMV to apply for, renew, or change their address on a driver’s license would be registered to vote by the Secretary of State’s office.

“In a free society, the right to vote is fundamental. I ran for Secretary of State to expand access to the polls. Government should not impede a citizen’s right to vote. The New Motor Voter Act will make our democracy stronger by removing a key barrier to voting for millions of California citizens,” said Padilla.

“Citizens should not be required to opt-in to their fundamental right to vote,” Padilla added. “We do not have to opt-in to other rights, such as free speech or due process. The right to vote should be no different.”

California becomes the second state in the nation to adopt an automatic voter registration system. Oregon adopted a similar measure earlier this year.

All mail-in elections

AB 1504 would extend a pilot project to test all mail-in ballot elections. Current law authorizes the counties of San Mateo and Yolo to test this method. This bill, which Brown did sign, extends the authorization of the pilot test to the counties of Monterey and Sacramento.

Medical marijuana

On Friday, Gov. Brown signed three bills to regulate the medical use of marijuana. The key was defining medical marijuana as an agricultural product. Consequently, its cultivation must comply with state rules on water use, discharge and pesticides.

Since Brown’s staff was involved in the development of these bills, his approval was not a surprise. The bills create statewide licensing and operating rules for the marijuana industry. This includes testing packaging, labeling and tracking marijuana products.

A new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation was established, too. It will be part of the Consumer Affairs Department.

For all involved in the cultivation, distribution and marketing of the product, the legislation requires two licenses: from the state and a local city or county.

In 1996, California was the first state in the nation to allow for the medical use of marijuana with the passage of Proposition 215. Since then, 22 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted some form of this legislation. However, California still lacks a comprehensive regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry.

“These regulations will ensure patients have legal, safe, and consistent access to medical marijuana. New guidelines for testing and labeling products will ensure patients know what they are getting and that it meets appropriate standards for quality,” Lauren Vazquez, Oakland-based deputy director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project said in a press release after the signing was announced.

“We hope localities that have banned medical marijuana establishments will rethink their policies now that these establishments have clear and uniform rules to follow,” she added. “Seriously ill patients in many of these areas are being forced to travel many miles to legally obtain medical marijuana.”


Brown signed two bills strengthening personal privacy. AB 856 expands the definition of invasion of privacy. Now entering the airspace about the land of another person without permission to capture any type of visual image or sound recording of a person in a private, personal or familial activity will be considered an invasion.

In contrast with the drone bills vetoed last week because they created new crimes, this bill expands the definition of an existing crime rather than creating a new one.

The Governor also signed Senate Bill 178, which requires police to get a court order before they can search a person’s text messages, photos and other digital data stored on phones, laptops and in the Cloud.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Riley v. California held that the Fourth Amendment protects cellphones in a search incident to arrest. The court found that the search of a cellphone is akin to the search of a home, which requires a warrant.

By extending the court’s reasoning to information held in the Cloud, this bill  reinforces the idea that a person’s data held by third parties should not be accessed without the person’s knowledge, according to the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Brown vetoed similar legislation two years ago.