New California Laws To Take Effect In 2021

With 2021 around the corner, take a look at a selection of the new laws set to take effect next year ranging from efforts to demilitarize law enforcement agencies to updating family leave requirements for small businesses.

Demilitarization Of Police Uniforms

Law enforcement personnel are no longer permitted to wear uniforms featuring camouflage or otherwise resembling military uniforms per Senate Bill 480, passed in Sept. 2020.

Coronavirus Exposure Notification Laws For Businesses

Set to take effect from 2021 to 2023, Assembly Bill 685 requires businesses to provide notice of a coronavirus exposure in the workplace to employees within 24 hours. If the number of cases at the workplace constitutes an ‘outbreak’, defined by the California Department of Public Health as at least three cases within 14 days, the business is required to notify the local public health agency with relevant information regarding the outbreak.

Businesses are also required to maintain records of the notifications to their employees for at least three years.

Small Business Family Leave Requirements

Existing law requires businesses with 50 or more employees to offer 12 weeks of unpaid, protected family leave for employees to care for themselves, a child, a parent, or a spouse. Additionally, businesses of 20 or more employees are required to offer the same 12 weeks of family leave to bond with a new child under the New Parent Leave Act.

To qualify for the family leave protection, an employee must have accumulated at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period.

Senate Bill 1383 extends both of those requirements to businesses of five or more employees.

Hot Car Good Samaritan Protection

While existing law prohibits drivers from leaving a child under the age of six in a car unattended, Assembly Bill 2717, establishes protections from civil or criminal liability for property damage or trespassing for those who try to break into a car to rescue a child from dangerous conditions.

Inmate Firefighter Opportunities

Incarcerated individuals who worked on inmate fire crews may petition the court upon their release to have their records cleared beginning in 2021, per Assembly Bill 2147. The bill does include exemptions for those convicted of certain violent felonies or sex offenses from benefiting from the bill.

Youth Justice Reforms

Several youth criminal justice reforms are set to take effect in 2021. In Jan. 2021, Assembly Bill 901 and Senate Bill 203 are each scheduled to take effect, which will prevent kids who are acting out in school from being referred to probation programs or becoming a ward of the court and bans police interrogation of any youth under 18 until they have consulted with an attorney about their rights, respectively.

Governor Newsom previously announced plans to close the California Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) as part of budget cuts necessitated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state’s coffers in May. Those plans were formalized under Senate Bill 823, which beginning July 1, 2021, requires the halt of all transfers of youth from California’s counties to the state’s three remaining youth correctional facilities. 

As part of the effort to realign the state’s justice priorities, the bill also calls for the creation of a new state entity, the Office of Youth and Community Restoration, which will be responsible for guiding the various counties in the creation of a new system of care, supervision and rehabilitative programs for delinquent youth.

Reparations Task Force

California is to establish a task force dedicated to the study of slavery’s history in the United States, its impact on the descendants of enslaved people today and the development of reparations proposals.

The task force is to consist of nine members, five appointed by the governor, two by the President pro Tempore of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the Assembly, according to Assembly Bill 3121. The governor’s selections are to include one appointee from academia with expertise in civil rights and two from major civil society and reparations organizations that have historically championed the cause of reparatory justice.

Any reparations proposals from the group would include, among other things, the form of compensation that should be awarded, how it should be distributed, and who should be eligible for this compensation, were such a program to be implemented.

Prop 17 – Restoration Of Voting Rights For Parolees

Proposition 17, passed by voters in the November election, restores the right to vote to felons in California upon completion of their sentence.

Prop 19 – Property Tax Changes

Proposition 19, also passed in the November election, modifies the laws related to property transfers. Beginning February 2021, an inherited property is to have its tax value reassessed unless it is used as the inheritor’s primary residence. 

The prop also included changes geared towards disaster victims. Starting April 2021, homeowners 55 or older who lose their home in a disaster are permitted to transfer their tax assessment up to three times, rather than the previously permitted one time. This allows victims of natural disasters to be protected from significant cost of living increases if they purchase a new home after the loss upon the loss of their previous home.

Increased Distracted Driving Punishments

Beginning July 2021, if a driver receives two convictions for using an electronic device while driving within 36 months, that second conviction will count as a point against the driver’s record. The change was implemented in Assembly Bill 47, passed in Oct. 2020.

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