Californians must contend with more than 800 laws, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and taking effect in 2016.
Some of the laws appear trivial. For example, state-certified farmers markets can now host beer-tasting events, and hoverboard riders can share in designated bike paths. Cheerleaders for professional sports teams are now considered employees and not independent contractors, and Spanish moss is now California’s official lichen.
But some of the 807 new laws that will take effect this year will dramatically alter California’s economy, employers’ hiring practices, gun regulations, law enforcement protocols, healthcare systems and elections.
Beginning Friday, California’s minimum wage increased from $9 per hour to $10. A new equal pay law will make it easier for employees to sue for gender discrimination, while companies holding state contracts worth more than $100,000 must provide equal benefits for transgender employees.
Many of the most significant new laws garnered national coverage when the governor signed them into law this year. In October, Gov. Brown signed the New Motor Voter Act, which allows those applying for California driver’s licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles to be automatically registered to vote. The new mechanism may allow illegal aliens to vote in state elections.
Also in October, Brown made California the fifth state in the nation to enact “right to die” legislation. Terminally ill state residents can now legally end their own lives using doctor-prescribed drugs. Another controversial bill requires pro-life pregnancy crisis centers to inform clients that the state offers free or low-cost access to abortion services.
On immigration, the word “alien,” used to refer to people in the country illegally, has now been removed from California’s labor laws. Illegal aliens who are victims of violent crime may remain in California under a specially designated visa. Additionally, the state will appropriate $40 million in Medi-Cal coverage, and later, $132 million annually, to illegal immigrants under the age of 19.
Gun owners with concealed carry permits will no longer be permitted to carry firearms on college campuses. Family members of gun owners can now seek a gun violence restraining order (GVRO) temporarily barring a gun owner from possession of a firearm for 21 days.
Brown also signed several significant environmental laws last year: By 2030, 50 percent of the state’s energy must come from renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, and must also double energy efficiency in the same time frame. The state’s unelected Air Resources Board will be appointed two new members, while cities will no longer be allowed to ban residents from installing artificial turf on their properties. The state’s CalPERS and CalSTRS public employee pension funds must divest from energy companies that earn the majority of their revenue from mining coal for electricity.
Other laws will impact the state’s high school students; beginning January 1 and lasting for three years, high school seniors will receive a diploma whether or not they pass a state exit exam. Sex education classes will become compulsory for all state high schoolers, and the class curriculum is mandated to include acceptance of gender non-conforming people. Schools must now provide adequate space and time for student mothers to breastfeed their children, while parents must give their children vaccinations before school begins in September.
Meanwhile, a trio of laws signed by Brown will set up the first statewide system for the cultivation, distribution, sale, and taxation of medical marijuana, though the system will not be fully implemented until 2018.
Check out a list of additional laws set to take effect in California in 2016 here, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.
Happy New Year, California.