If you were keeping track of your state government, you probably noticed that this year’s legislative session was busy. There were numerous bills proposed and passed in both the House and Senate, and Governor Gavin Newsom signed many of these into law at the end of September.
The new laws will affect all businesses across the state, but some will particularly impact public entities. We’ve prepared this breakdown to help you and your organization prepare for the coming changes with minimal challenges. These laws affect seven main areas:
- COVID-19 Policies
- Health and Safety
- Law Enforcement
- Open Meetings
The new COVID-19 policies will affect all businesses in the state. They include extensions to emergency response protocols and changes to sick leave policies. Public health agencies, in particular, will see some changes in their procedures with AB2693.
- AB 1751: Extends the existing law that COVID-19 illness is presumptively compensable under workers’ compensation for emergency response employees until January 2024.
- AB 152: Extends existing law that entities with 26 or more employees are required to offer supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19 illness through Dec. 31, 2022. State grants may be available to small businesses and non-profit organizations to help cover the costs of employee sick leave.
- AB 2693: Extends the existing requirement for employers to provide notice to employees of potential exposure to COVID-19 until Jan. 1, 2024. Employers are no longer required to provide written notice; they can now simply display notice for employees. Additionally, employers are no longer required to give notice to public health agencies.
Health and Safety
There were a handful of laws passed regarding general health and safety in different ways. These laws will affect businesses and public entities alike, particularly cemeteries, county courts, public health centers and social services.
- AB 351: Building on the Cemetery and Funeral Act, this bill requires the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau to license and regulate human composting as a form of burial. The act will commence on Jan. 1, 2027, and affect primarily cemeteries and public health departments.
- AB 988: Designed to raise funds to support call centers and mobile crisis teams attached to the new 988 mental health crisis hotline. There will be an 8-cent charge for every active phone line, with the proceeds funding the 988 hotline. Public health centers and social services responsible for staffing the call centers and mobile crisis teams may be affected by these changes.
- SB 1338: Creates CARE Court — a court framework in every county — to compel people with serious mental illness into housing and medical treatment. This proposal was spearheaded by Gov. Gavin Newsom in an attempt to offer mental health support to citizens, especially those who are homeless. This law will affect county courts and social services.
- AB 2243: Requires the California OSHA office to revise heat illness and wildfire smoke standards by December 2025.
These bills focus mainly on the role of law enforcement officers in California, but also touch on citizens’ rights and reporting hate crimes. Law enforcement and first responder organizations will be most affected by these new laws.
- SB 1127: Builds on the existing law requiring injured employees’ process to file claims and rights to receive compensation. For specified firefighters and peace officers who claim illness or injury related to cancer, this bill increases the number of compensable weeks to 240 from the date of injury without time limitations. It also provides that specified members of law enforcement or first responders with certain injuries or illnesses will receive compensation after 75 days if a claim is not rejected, instead of the standard 90 days.
- AB 2147: Establishes the Freedom to Walk Act, allowing law enforcement officers to stop a pedestrian for jaywalking only when a “reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision.”
- SB 731: As of July 1, 2023, this bill will expand criminal record relief for all felonies if an individual is no longer serving a probationary sentence, is not currently involved in another case and it has been at least three years since the date of their arrest.
- AB 655: Requires background checks for peace officer candidates, including inquiry into whether the candidate has engaged in any hate group, hate group activity, or public expressions of hate.
- AB 2229: Adds to existing law that law enforcement officers must be evaluated by a medical doctor and psychologist to meet specific minimum standards. This bill adds an evaluation of existing bias to those minimum standards; specifically “bias against race or ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.”
- SB 960: Under this law peace officers are no longer required to be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. They must only be legally authorized to work in the U.S.
- AB 485: Requires local law enforcement agencies to publicly post hate crime reports on their website on a monthly basis.
Changes to employment laws will have a widespread impact on businesses in the state. Small or rural public entities will need to pay close attention to SB 951 and AB 1041, which relate to employee leave and compensation. These may affect staffing and budgets for small entities.
- SB 1044: Prohibits an employer from taking “adverse actions” against employees who do not report to work or leave a worksite during emergency conditions. It also states employers cannot prevent employees from accessing their cell phones during emergency conditions.
- AB 1949: Requires five days of unpaid bereavement leave per employee for all businesses or entities with five or more employees.
- SB 951: Extends the current formula for calculating disability payments through Jan. 1, 2025. Periods of disability starting on or after Jan. 1, 2025, will be calculated with a new formula that increases weekly benefit amounts based on wages.
- AB 1041: Extends the allowable use of employee leave under the California Family Rights Act to include caring for “designated person.” This person can be any blood-related family member or someone whose relationship with the employee is equivalent to a family member.
- AB 1655: Makes Juneteenth (June 19) an official state holiday.
- AB 1801: Makes Genocide Remembrance Day (April 24) an official state holiday.
- AB 1003: Makes punishable by law the intentional theft of wages and gratuities exceeding $950 for one employee, $2,350 collectively by two or more employees, or by an employer in any consecutive 12-month period. In the past infractions at this level were considered misdemeanors, but they are now considered felony grand theft.
- AB 2188: Effective Jan. 1, 2024, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees in regards to hiring, termination, penalization, or conditions of employment based on an employee’s use of cannabis off the job and outside of the workplace. Tests used for pre-employment screenings and to measure current impairment on the job are still allowed.
- SB 1162: Requires employers with 15 or more employees to include pay scales in new job postings and all employers to furnish pay scales to existing employees who request them.
Among the environmental bills passed, many were aimed at reducing carbon emissions and fighting global warming. They propose limitations and requirements that will affect all businesses, but one goes a step further. City districts and parks and recreation departments should pay attention to AB 1757, which proposes restoring the environment as a way to reduce carbon emissions.
- AB 1279: Named the California Climate Crisis Act, this bill declares the state will reach zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2045, and maintain zero emissions thereafter.
- SB 1020: Sets targets to reach existing policy that 100% of retail electricity will be fueled by renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2045. This bill requires that the state reach 90% supply by 2035 and 95% by 2040. Additionally, all state agencies must source their energy from 100% renewable sources by 2035.
- AB 1757: Requires the Natural Resource Agency to work with specified entities to develop a plan for “nature-based climate solutions” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by Jan. 1, 2024. These solutions would include actions such as planting trees, restoring wetlands and scaling up public landscaping and urban forestry efforts.
The governor also signed a handful of laws pertaining to public schools and school districts. This includes policies about ethics training, suicide prevention, and protecting children from abuse.
- AB 2158: Extends the existing law that requires “local agencies” to partake in mandatory ethics training every two years to include officials in school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools.
- AB 452: Requires school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to annually inform parents of California’s firearm storage and access laws.
- AB 58: Requires local education agencies to review and update their student suicide prevention policies and incorporate newly identified best practices by Jan. 1, 2025. It also encourages education agencies to train teachers in suicide prevention starting in the 2024-25 school year.
- AB 2085 and AB 2274: Changes requirements for “mandatory reporters” in reporting child abuse and neglect as well as statutes of limitations for reporting.
- SB 931: Authorizes fines if the Public Employment Relations Board finds that an employer violated provisions meant to prevent deterring union memberships or employee organizations.
Finally, there was one law of note that affects meetings for all local agencies.
- AB 2449: Extends until Jan. 1, 2026, the existing provision that local agencies may continue holding teleconference meetings that comply with previous provisions for open meetings via teleconferencing. Most significantly, public posting and public access is not required at remote attendance locations.
Be Prepared for Change
The most recent legislative session will create changes for public entities, large and small. Although most don’t take effect immediately, entities should start preparing now for these adjustments.
If you have any questions or concerns about how these laws will affect your entity, reach out to us! We’d be happy to help you protect what matters most.