New Laws for 2021

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

January 15, 2021

With 2020 thankfully in the rearview mirror, Californians are faced with over 300 new laws for 2021, as lawmakers in Sacramento apparently kept working even as their constituents were ordered to stay at home and locked out of their jobs and businesses for the State’s coronavirus pandemic response.

This is not new for the Golden State, as every year residents are faced with hundreds of new laws to learn about and learn how to comply with. Here are some of the new laws for 2021 taken from a report by Capital Public Radio:

• Senate Bill 793 bans the sale of flavored tobacco products, from vape cartridges to menthol cigarettes. The bill was reportedly passed after a nationwide outbreak of lung injuries allegedly linked to e-cigarettes and cannabis vape products in 2019. However, a campaign was launched to overturn this law via voter referendum, so its enactment has been delayed. Opponents have until Jan. 21 to get the needed signatures.

• SB 885 requires health plans to cover medically necessary treatment for all recognized mental health and substance abuse disorders, expanding existing coverage of just nine specific mental health issues.

• SB 1237 allows certified midwives to be able to practice independently, without a doctor’s oversight.

• SB 852 requires the California Health and Human Services Agency to produce and distribute affordable generic prescription drugs in partnerships with drug manufacturers. In essence, the State would enter the pharmaceutical business.

• SB 1383 gives workers at small businesses job protection if they take time to care for a family member, and expands the types of situations that are eligible for protected leave, including domestic partners, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and your in-laws. It also expands protections to businesses with just five or more employees.

• AB 2257 exempts certain professions — musicians, writers, landscape architects and numerous others — from AB 5, the controversial law that affected the so-called “gig economy” — contract workers. (Ride share drivers won exemption from AB5 at the November Election.)

• AB 2992 expands the ban on employers taking action against employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or other crimes that cause physical or mental injury when they take time off for judicial proceedings or seek medical attention or related relief.

• AB 979 requires publicly held corporations based in California to include at least one director from “under-represented communities” on its board by the end of 2021. The law requires companies to add at least one board director who is African American, Latinx, Asian American, Native American, Pacific Islander or who identifies as LGBTQ before Dec. 31, 2021. California has some 674 publicly held companies.

• SB 973 requires companies of 100 or more employees to annually report pay data by gender, race and ethnicity. The bill’s author, State Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) said this was an important step toward “closing the pay gap.”

• AB 1185 allows counties to implement “sheriff’s review boards” or an inspector general to oversee the department and launch investigations. The boards can be set up by County supervisors or by countywide vote.

• AB 1506 requires State-led investigations into police shootings of unarmed civilians and, starting in 2023, requires the State Department of Justice to review use of force policies upon the request of local law enforcement agencies. State investigators must issue public reports on every case investigated.

• AB 1076 requires the State to automatically clear records for arrests that did not result in conviction after the statute of limitations has passed, and those around probation and jail once the sentence is completed. It applies to individuals arrested or convicted after Jan. 1, 2021.

• AB 685 requires employers to notify workers of potential worksite COVID-19 exposures, report outbreaks to public health departments and gives Cal-OSHA more authority to enforce pandemic safety violations in the workplace.

• SB 1159 creates a “disputable presumption” that death or illness related to COVID-19 is an occupational injury eligible for worker’s compensation benefits. The law covers COVID patients from July 6, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2023.

• AB 376 creates a “Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights” that sets minimum standards for student loan companies and a student loan ombudsman “to advocate for borrowers.” Mostly goes into effect July 1, 2021.

• SB 346 is a 2010 law that limited the amount of copper that can be in automobile brake pads to 5% at the start of 2021, and 0.5% by 2025. It now takes effect and because of the rule, Chevrolet will not be able to sell its high performance 2021 Camaros in California.

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