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A New Year Brings Hundreds of New Laws for California

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 06, 2016 5:58 AM

The California State Legislature passed, and Governor Brown signed, more than 800 new laws in 2015, covering everything from physician-assisted suicide, to minimum wage, to beer-tastings at farmers' markets. As is often the case, most of those new laws went into effect at the stroke of midnight, January 1st, 2016.

Here's a quick overview of some of the most significant new laws and how they might affect your life and your legal practice.

Employment Law

On the New Year, the lowest-paid California workers received a slight raise. The state minimum wage rose from $9 an hour in 2015 to $10 an hour this year.

The California Labor Code will no longer use "aliens" to describe those not born in the U.S.

California's Fare Pay Act will put stronger pressure on companies to ensure equal pay for substantially similar work, by giving powerful new tools to workers -- and their lawyers.

Environment and Land Use

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife can now begin to preserve monarch butterfly habitat. The state is also dedicating $100 million in incentives to help apartment complexes and low-income residences install solar panels.

Meanwhile, the Department of Toxic Substances Control has gained expanded powers to ensure cleanup of toxic sites, including new abilities to recover cleanup costs.

Cities and counties can no longer ban astroturf or drought-tolerant landscaping.

Spanish moss is now California's official lichen.

Guns

Cops or family members can now seek restraining orders to keep others from possessing firearms for three weeks, so long as courts agree the person is a danger to themselves or others.

Concealed weapons cannot be brought onto college campuses.

Immigration

Law enforcement agencies must now provide quick, written certification that undocumented immigrants were helpful witnesses in criminal investigations before immigrants can apply for a U-visa.

Juveniles and Family Law

Parents will have a much harder time avoiding immunizing their children.

Sexual education classes are no longer voluntary, but students may be excused if their parents object.

For civil actions involving claims of liability, courts cannot consider a child's immigration status.

Law Enforcement and Criminal Law

Warrants are now needed before law enforcement can search electronic information like emails, text messages, and GPS data.

Law enforcement agencies now have until 2018 to develop systems to record information on who they stop, which must include the perceived race and ethnicity or those stopped.

New rules will apply to storing and using officer-mounted body cameras.

The state can no longer collect DNA from suspected criminals arrested for non-serious felonies, particularly non-violent drug crimes.

Vehicular manslaughter charges can now be filed up to a year after the identification of a motorist involved.

Child witnesses to violent crimes who are 13 years-old or under may now testify in trials via video, instead of being present in court.

Those Awful Hoverboards and Electric Skateboards

Those scourges of modern civilization, hoverboards and electric scooters and skateboards, can now legally go wherever bicycles are permitted, including bike paths and roads.

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