oHappy New Year! I hope that everyone has remained healthy and safe!!!!

As usual, the  California  Legislature kept busy in 2020 passing many laws although not as many as in past years. It enacted only 372 laws and many of them dealt with various forms of needed relief stemming from the pandemic.

As we all are suffering from pandemic fatigue, rather than focus on those pandemic related new laws, I prefer to look at what else the legislature did. The full list of new laws, (including those discussed below) can be found by clicking onto “Bills Enacted 2020 (.pdf)” at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/newLawTemplate.xhtml

In previous legislative sessions (and signed by the governor), a statute was enacted requiring  publicly held corporations having their principal offices in California to have a certain number of women on their boards of directors (at least  two  women on boards of  five  and at least three women on boards of six or more directors.)  AB   979 requires these same corporations to have at least one  member from an “underrepresented community” by the close of 2021 and to have at least two such directors on boards of  between 4 and 9  members on boards of  by the close of 2022. That term is defined as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The first violation may result in a fine of $100,000! (Wow!)

AB 1864 renames the Department of Business Oversight to the “Department of Financial Protection and  Innovation” and enacts “…the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL) to strengthen consumer protections by expanding the ability of the department to improve accountability and transparency in the California financial system and promote nondiscriminatory access to responsible, affordable credit, among other purposes. “ This new law extensively sets out the rights and remedies of the consumer in California.

The subject of AB 1867 is small employer family leave mediation. Under current California law, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse a grant for leave of up to 12 work  weeks of unpaid protected leave  by an eligible employee in any 12-month period for family care of medical leave.  But sometimes, that leave request is denied and so a dispute arises. This new law, in an effort to resolve that dispute, requires the California Department of Housing and Fair Employment

 “…to create a small employer family leave mediation pilot program, as prescribed. The pilot program would authorize a small employer or the employee to request all parties to participate in mediation through the DFEH’s dispute resolution division within a specified timeframe, after notice. The bill would prohibit an employee from pursuing civil action until the mediation is complete if an employer or employee requests mediation, as prescribed. The bill would toll the statute of limitations for the employee, including for additional related claims, from receipt of a request to participate in the program until the mediation is complete. These provisions of the bill would be repeated on January 1,2024.”

AB 2143 modifies a law that was enacted last year regarding settling employment disputes. That law prohibits such a settlement agreement from containing a provision that prohibits,  prevents or otherwise restricts the complaining employee from working for that employer or its affiliate. This new law now provides the caveat that the aggrieved employee must have filed the initial action in good faith for this prohibition to apply.

AB 2723  amends Code of Civil Procedure Section 664.6 to now allow that the attorney alone can sign  either the stipulation for judgment or the request that the court retain jurisdiction over the matter  to enforce the terms of the settlement. Prior case law had required that the actual parties sign such stipulations determining that the signatures of the attorneys alone was not sufficient. The amended statute also provides that should the attorney sign such stipulation without the authority of her client to do so, without good cause, she will be subject to professional discipline.

Pursuant to AB 3362, the license fees for active attorneys for 2021 will be  reduced from $438  to $395! And inactive attorneys will pay only $97.50 (what a bargain!). I guess the legislature realized that the pandemic and working  from home has impacted the ability of many attorneys to earn a living this past year.

On a lighter note, SB 573  requires any animal shelter, animal control agency, rescue group, SPCA etc.  to microchip a dog or cat before allowing the owner to retrieve her four-legged  friend  or allowing the dog or cat to be adopted by a new owner.

And speaking of dogs and cats,  AB 2152   now prohibit a pet store from selling a   dog or cat. Under previous law, a pet store could sell a dog or cat if it obtained our four-legged friend from an animal control agency, SPCA, shelter, rescue group etc. (but NOT an animal mill!). This new law now prohibits the pet store from selling animals even obtained from these groups. Rather the pet store is now authorized to provide display space to these groups to showcase  the animals for adoption. The pet store can collect no more than $500  for providing such space.

SB 592 creates a new source for being called for jury service. Up until now, the  courts used either driver license information or voter registration lists  from which to draw their  jury pools. This new law now provides that  the list of resident state tax filers may now also  be used. In fact, as of January 1, 2022 and once all duplications are purged, this new list is to be deemed an  inclusive list of a representative cross section of the population along with the other two lists.

And last but certainly not least, under existing law, a person could break into an unattended motor vehicle to save an animal or a child under six years of age. If the purpose is to save an animal, that person was exempt from civil liability for  trespass or property damage to the motor  vehicle  and criminal liability for removing the animal caused by rescuing the animal.  AB 2717  statute now extends that civil and criminal law exemption  to a person rescuing a child under six years of age or younger from an unattended vehicle under circumstances that could lead  one to reasonably believe that the child is suffering or could become disabled or die if left in the vehicle.

As you can see, the legislature this past year only passed about a fraction of the number of laws passed in previous years  and they were not nearly as “strange” as in past years. But the good news is that despite the pandemic and stay at home orders, the legislature did do its job. Life did go on.

Happy New Year… may it be much much better that 2020!

…. Just something to think about.

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