New Laws for the New Year

From making California into a sanctuary state to banning marijuana use while driving, hundreds of new California laws were signed by Governor Brown last year. Here’s a sampling of laws that became effective January 1.

  • Optometrists’ scope of practice: AB 443 alleviates pressure on the health care system and makes eye care more accessible by broadening the scope of practice for optometrists. Specifically, the law expands the types of eye diseases optometrists can treat, broadens treatment options for glaucoma, and allows optometrists to test patients for diabetes and administer flu, shingles, and pneumonia vaccines after receiving additional training.
  • Sanctuary state: SB 54 makes California a sanctuary state, no longer allows the police to ask people about their immigration status, and limits state and local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. The law also provides workers with protection from immigration enforcement while on the job.
  • “Ban the box”: AB 1008 prohibits employers from inquiring about or considering job applicant criminal record prior to offer.
  • Salary history: AB 168 prohibits employers from asking job applicants for previous salary history.
  • Minimum wage increase: SB 3 raises the minimum wage from $10.50 to $11 for businesses with 26 or more employees; and from $10 to $10.50 for employees of businesses with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Marijuana recreational use: Proposition 64 makes it legal for adults 21 and older to buy marijuana for recreational use from a licensed dispensary. The state is issuing commercial licenses for cannabis cultivation, manufacture, testing labs, distribution, and retail sale.
  • Marijuana and driving: SB 65 bans smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving or riding in a car.
  • End of “meal shaming”: SB 250 enacts the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act to ensure schools do not delay or deny food or publicly shame students whose parents have unpaid school meal fees.
  • New parent leave extension: SB 63 enacts the New Parent Leave Act, which expands job-protected new-parent leave to workers at businesses with 20 or more employees (previously 50-plus).
  • Dental benefits and Medi-Cal: The 2017–18 state budget restores full dental benefits to adult Medi-Cal patients.
  • Swimming pool safety requirements: SB 442 updates the Swimming Pool Safety Act, increases the requirements for safety devices on residential pools and spas in California, and applies when a permit is issued for a new or remodeled swimming pool and spa, as well as existing pools that are part of the sale of a home.
  • Ammunition laws: Proposition 63 regulates ammunition sales and transfers by requiring they be conducted through a licensed ammunition vendor, and bans importing ammunition bought outside California without first shipping it to a licensed vendor.
  • Harassment prevention training requirements: SB 396 specifies that supervisor harassment training provided every two years for employers with 50 or more employees must now include discuss of harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. The law also requires employers to display a poster on transgender rights.
  • Transportation funding: SB 1, which last year raised gas and diesel taxes, also raises vehicle fees for drivers registering (or renewing registrations for) their vehicles starting Jan. 1.
  • General contractors’ liability for wage claims: For certain private construction contracts, AB 1701 imposes liability on the general contractor for any unpaid wages, benefits, or contributions that a subcontractor owes to a laborer who performed work under the contract.

For more details on California’s new laws, visit the Governor’s website at

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