New California Laws Taking Effect on January 1st

December 28, 2016

As we near the end of 2016, 898 new laws will go into effect in 2017.  Here are some of the important ones that you should know:

Minimum Wage 

California’s minimum wage will increase from $10/hour to $10.50/hour for businesses with over 25 employees. For businesses with fewer employees, the law will delay the wage increases by one year, and they will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. It is expected for minimum wage to gradually increase to $15/hour by 2022.

Equal Pay

An employer cannot pay a woman less than her male colleagues because of her prior salary.

Parental Leave

All K-12 and community college employees, including classified workers and community college faculty, will receive up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

Assault Weapons

More restrictions were added to strengthen California’s already tough gun laws. First, those who own magazines that hold more than 10 rounds will be forced to give them up starting January 1. In addition to this, buyers must go through background checks before purchasing ammunition. Buyers will also be barred from buying new weapons that have a device known as a bullet button, which allows a shooter to quickly dislodge the magazine using the tip of a bullet. Bullet buttons were originally developed to get around California’s previous assault weapons ban which prohibited new rifles with magazines that can be detached without the aid of tools.

Handgun Storage

Law enforcement officers will now have to follow the same rules as civilians by securely storing handguns out of plain view, in a lockbox or trunk, if the guns are left unattended in the vehicle.


Powdered alcohol is now illegal to possess, sell or make. Barber shops and beauty salons are now allowed to legally serve small amounts of wine or beer to their customers as long as it’s free and served before 10pm.

Sexual Assault

Sexually assaulting an severely intoxicated or unconscious person will become a crime ineligible for probation, resulting partially as a result of the verdict from Brock Turner’s court trial. The law clarifies that “a victim cannot consent to sex while unconscious or incapacitated by drugs, alcohol or medication”, and ensures a mandatory prison sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious person.

Texting While Driving

California’s current ban on texting while driving has been updated to prohibit the use of any hand-held device that distracts the driver, not just texting. Devices can still be used if they are mounted or voice-operated and hands-free.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting

A new law authorizes the Department of the California Highway Patrol to develop guidelines relating to lane splitting that would ensure the safety of drivers. Lane splitting is defined as driving a two-wheeled motorcycle between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane.

Gender-neutral bathrooms

All single-toilet bathrooms in businesses and public agencies are required to be gender neutral.

School Mascots 

California public schools will be banned from using the name “Redskins” for school mascots or sports teams since American Indians regard the term as offensive.

Child Safety Seats

Children under the age of 2 must be in rear-facing child restraint systems until they either weigh 40 or more pounds or are 40 or more inches tall.

Animal Care and Safety

The new law now allows individuals to break into vehicles when an animal’s “safety appears to be in immediate danger of specified harm” and the owner couldn’t be found. Individuals are then required to contact law enforcement and wait for them to arrive.


Businesses can stock EpiPens which allows pharmacies to dispense them to colleges, private businesses, and other venues that have a plan in place for using them. EpiPens are devices used to treat people undergoing life-threatening allergic reactions.

Hunger and Homelessness in College

A new law requires community colleges to make shower facilities available to homeless students. Another law requires public and private colleges the offer food service to apply to participate in a state-funded program that provides meals to the homeless. The goal of these two laws is to provide food and clean water to homeless students who often don’t have a reliable way to store or prepare food since they do not have permanent housing.

Building Safety

As a result of a balcony collapse killing six young people in Berkeley in 2015, the state is trying to better monitor potential safety issues. In order to do this, a new law requires better information-sharing between state and local agencies about contractors, convictions, and legal settlements. Also, a working group will have one year to decide whether or not changes are needed to state building codes after several structure failures.

Right-to-Try/ Right-to-Die 

Terminally ill California patients will now have the ability to legally use experimental drugs that do not yet have full regulatory approval. It also authorizes health plans to cover investigational drugs, although doesn’t require it, and protects physicians from disciplinary action if they recommend these drugs when other treatment options have been exhausted.

Human Trafficking

Minors, or those under the age of 18, cannot be charged with prostitution and will instead be treated as victims of human trafficking. It’s “one of several human trafficking-related bills that include raising the age kids can testify outside a courtroom from 13 to 15, protecting victims’ names from disclosure and mandating that they have access to county services”.

Voting and Marked Ballots

A new law allows voters to take “ballot selfies” and will permit individuals to take photos of their completed ballots and share them as they choose to.

Contributor: Smruthi Sriram
Sources: Kron 4 News, Mercury News, Google Images