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  • Pamela Punzalan

New California Laws for 2021

With everything that is going on in our country, you may not have been keeping close track of the California legislature, which passed hundreds of bills in 2020. Here a few of the new laws taking effect in 2021 in California: Police uniforms (Senate Bill No. 480)

Law enforcement will no longer be allowed to wear uniforms that have camouflage or otherwise resemble military uniforms. Texting and driving (Assembly Bill No. 47)

It's already the law that you can't get caught with your phone in your hand while driving, whether you're talking or texting, but now the punishment is getting a little stricter. Two convictions in 36 months will add a point to your record starting in July 2021. Diversifying executive boards (Assembly Bill No. 979)

A law that went into effect in 2019 already requires all publicly owned companies based in California to have at least one woman on the board. Now, by the end of 2021, any board with at least five members must also now have at least two women, and any board with six members has to have three women. Companies are also given another year to add even more diversity: boards with at least four members need to have two or more directors from underrepresented communities (meaning "an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender"). Hot car rules (Assembly Bill No. 2717) In California, it's already against the law to leave a child under 6 in a car unattended. A new law protects people who try and break into the car to rescue the child from civil or criminal liability for property damage or trespassing. Coronavirus exposure (Assembly Bill No. 685) A law, which is in effect from 2021 to 2023, requires businesses to notify employees and the general public of a coronavirus exposure at the workplace within a day of exposure. Minimum wage (more information)

Starting Jan. 1. California's minimum wage is $14 at companies with 26 or more employees and $13 at companies smaller than that. It's part of the phased increases that will eventually make the state's minimum wage $15. A task force on reparations (Assembly Bill No. 3121)

A new law establishes a task force to study the history of slavery in the United States and how that legacy is still impacting slaves' descendants today. After researching and hearing witness testimony, the task force will recommend how reparations would be paid out in California and who would receive those payments, if such a program were implemented. Inmate firefighters (Assembly Bill No. 2147)

The new law allows people who worked on inmate fire crews while incarcerated to petition the court upon release to have their records cleared. That would make it easier for them to get a job after release, including as a professional firefighter. Those convicted of sex offenses and certain violent felonies are exempt. Parolees' right to vote (Prop 17)

Voters passed Proposition 17 in the November election, which restores felons' right to vote after the completion of their sentence. Property transfer taxation (Prop 19)

Prop 19 also narrowly passed in the November election, which changes some of California's laws around property transfers. Starting in February, those who inherit property have to use it as their primary residence or have its tax value reassessed. Starting in April 2021, homeowners 55 or older or those who lost their home in a disaster will also be able to transfer their tax assessment to a more expensive home three times (instead of the currently allowed one time). Family leave (Senate Bill No. 1383)

Current law requires companies with 50 or more employees to offer 12 weeks of family leave. This law will greatly expand those protections by requiring companies with five or more employees to grant the same amount of family leave. Youth criminal justice reforms (Assembly Bill No. 901)

Several bills reforming how young people are treated within the justice system go into effect in 2021. Starting Jan. 1, AB 901 prevents kids who are acting out in school from being referred to probation programs or becoming a ward of the court. Instead, they'll be referred to community support services. Starting in July, the state will be phasing out juvenile prisons. Another law also makes it easier for minors in police custody to get legal counsel before being questioned. Student loan borrowers (Assembly Bill No. 376)

Assembly Bill 376 implements a host of new protections for student loan borrowers and makes it harder for lenders to take advantage of people who may not know all their rights or how to navigate the wonky system. It goes into effect in July 2021. Flavored tobacco ban (Senate Bill No. 793)

This law bans the sale of all flavored tobacco products in California. The goal, lawmakers say, is to make these products less appealing to children and teens. But just before the end of 2020, California state officials agreed to delay the ban after opponents led by tobacco companies said they filed enough signatures to put a new law to a statewide vote.

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