California is ushering in the new year with hundreds of new laws on drunk driving, workplace sexual harassment, public release of police body camera footage and more.
Here are 15 new laws that you might hear about in 2019. All laws went into effect on Jan. 1, unless otherwise noted.
On the road
Regional Measure 3: Bay Area voters approved in June 2018 this measure to increase tolls on state-owned bridges by $1 increments to fund nearly $4.5 billion in traffic and public transportation improvements. Tolls rose $1 on Jan. 1 and will rise by another dollar in 2022 and again in 2025. Visit sfcta.org/revenue/RM3 to learn more about how that money will be spent.
Assembly Bill 1274: Owners of cars eight model-years old or less will not need a smog check. Owners of cars that are seven or eight-model years old will pay an annual $25 fee under this bill, passed in 2017.
AB 516: This bill, which the legislature passed in 2016, requires car dealers to provide temporary license plates. This makes it harder for drivers with temporary plates to evade tolls or parking fees. Counterfeiting a temporary license plate is now a felony.
Senate Bill 1046: This bill, which the legislature passed in 2016, requires repeat offenders, or drivers who cause injury, convicted of drunk driving to install in their car an ignition interlock device, which is a breathalyzer-style device that prevents the car from starting if that person has been drinking.
SB 822 (effective date to be determined): Legislators passed this bill to counter the federal government’s walkback of net neutrality rules, which prevent internet service providers from slowing speed or charging more of consumers who use a lot of data. SB 822 would have gone into effect on Jan. 1, but the feds and broadband industry sued California over the legislation. The state has put its implementation on hold pending resolution of the case, as The New York Times reported.
SB 1001 (effective July 1, 2019): People who interact with Californians online will be forbidden from deceiving that person to sell goods or services, or influence their vote in an election.
SB 901: One stipulation of this wide-ranging bill by Napa’s state Sen. Bill Dodd would give state utility regulators the power to pass along a utility’s wildfire recovery costs to customers. The bill states those costs must be “just and reasonable,” but does not elaborate further.
SB 833 (effective July 1, 2019): A newly established state Office of Emergency Services will be required to create voluntary guidelines for warning the public about an emergency, and share them with each city and county. Grant funds are available for those who choose to follow the guidelines. This bill, co-sponsored by Dodd, was drafted with an eye toward preparing Californians for the next big firestorm.
AB 1797 (effective July 1, 2019): Home insurers will be required every other year to provide an estimate of how much it would cost to rebuild or replace a policyholder’s residence. Some policyholders still use outdated, low estimates to determine how much coverage to buy, legislative records show. Many realize this is an issue after a wildfire.
SB 100: This bill sets a series of benchmarks for California to become totally reliant on carbon-free electricity by 2045. California is the second state, behind Hawaii, to make such a commitment.
AB 1884: Full-service restaurants can no longer give diners plastic straws, unless they ask for them.
Police and courts
SB 1421: Some police officer personnel records and investigations that law enforcement agencies make into their officers are now public record. This law, which is retroactive, applies to situations in which an officer discharges their gun, seriously injures a person, or is found to committed a sexual assault or perjury.
AB 748 (effective July 1, 2019): Police will be required to release video and audio recordings of incidents in which an officer discharges their gun, or kills or seriously injures someone. This law, which is retroactive, covers the release of police body cameras, dashboard cams, 911 calls, surveillance footage collected by officers and more. Such records will be available 45 days after the incident, with some exceptions.
SB 820: Secret settlements when employees sue employers for sexual assault or harassment are banned.
SB 1300: Nondisparagement agreements that prohibit employees from discussing sexual harassment or other illegal acts in the workplace are banned. Any such existing agreements are now voided.
Editor's note: This has been modified to correct who is covered by the provisions of Senate Bill 1046 on drunken driving.