(Spoiler alert:  Today’s blog has nothing to do with mediation!)

Once again, the California Legislature was hard at work. They passed 807 laws. As in past years, some are good while others make one wonder about the motivation behind them. Below is a synopsis of some of them. All of them may be found at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pdf/BillsEnactedReport2015.pdf

First- the Assembly:

Previously, one riding a bicycle at night was required to have a red reflector at the rear which would be visible for 500 feet. AB 28 now requires that “… a bicycle operated under those circumstances be equipped with a red reflector or a solid or flashing light red light with a built in reflector….” This new bill is based on a finding that in California in 2012 there were 123 cyclist fatalities of which 27 percent occurred between 9:00p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

For those crossing the Golden Gate Bridge by foot or bicycle, AB 40 provides that there shall be no toll until January 1, 2021. (Is this an incentive to get out and exercise more?)

AB 87 now prohibits a party from using a peremptory challenge to remove a potential juror from a trial based on “… an assumption that the prospective juror is biased merely because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or similar grounds.”

AB 162 is one of those that makes one wonder: It requires that a study be made on wrong way driving. “This bill would require the Department of Transportation, in consultation with the Department of the California Highway Patrol, to update a 1989 report on wrong-way driving on state highways to account for technological advancements and innovation, to include a review of methods studied or implemented by other jurisdictions and entities to prevent wrong-way drivers from entering state highways, and to provide a preliminary version of the report to specified legislative committees on or before December 1, 2015, and the final report on or before July 1, 2016.”

The next newly enacted law is for all of us pet lovers: AB 192 authorizes the DMV to issue, renew or transfer Pet Lover’s specialized plates and to allocate the funds from such plates to the Veterinary Medical Board for disbursement “… by a nonprofit organization selected by the board to fund grants to providers of no-cost or low cost animal sterilization services….”

All of our professional teams in California will now have larger payrolls. Under AB 202 (initiated by Lorena Gonzalez, D- San Diego, a former Stanford cheerleader), cheerleaders are now to be deemed employees rather than independent contractors. They will now be entitled to collect minimum wage, overtime, and work under standards that comply with the California Labor Code, the Unemployment Insurance Code, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Let’s give a cheer to our cheerleaders! Hooray!!!

AB 432 now includes the term “electronic signature” within the definition of “signature” as that term is used in the California Code of Civil Procedure. In addition, a court order bearing an electronic signature is now effective.

Another law for us pet lovers: AB 494 now allows a court to extend a restraining order or protective order to include staying away from and/or not harming the pets within the care, custody or possession of the petitioner.

Several years ago, the legislature enacted expedited jury trial procedures. AB 555 makes certain changes in that law, including allowing each party up to 5 hours to conduct voir dire and present its case, making them mandatory in limited civil cases with certain exceptions, and authorizing a jury of 8 or fewer with one alternate.

Hover boards have been in the news lately, and were all the rage over the holiday season. AB 604 requires that their users wear a helmet and be at least 16 years old. The bill also requires that the “electrically motorized boards” be equipped with safety equipment and be used only on roads having a speed limit s 35mph or less.  I certainly hope this provision is aimed at preventing them from catching on fire!

In 2017, when you watch a baseball game, you will see something missing. AB 768, effective December 1, 2016, prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco products on the baseball field of a stadium during a professional baseball game or practice!

AB 856 prohibits the invasion of privacy by drones.

Our former cheerleader, Ms. Gonzalez also initiated a bill, AB 949 which “… requires

[that] the California Interscholastic Federation, in consultation with the State Department of Education, to, no later than July 1, 2017, develop guidelines, procedures, and safety standards for the purpose of classifying competition cheer as an interscholastic sport, ….”

The Senate was also busy. Here is some of what it was up to.

SB 178 now requires a government entity to have a search warrant to compel the production of or to search an electronic device containing information. In short, one’s emails, text messages, internet search history et cetera are off limits without a search warrant except in emergency and other specified exceptions.

In 2014, in California, a full time working woman earned approximately 86 cents to every dollar earned by a full time working male. To eliminate this disparity, SB 358 now prohibits a wage differential based on gender where both are doing “substantially similar work” within the same establishment.  The bill also prohibits an employer from taking any action against an employee who seeks to enforce this new law such as asking her co-employees how much they are earning.

For those attorneys who sue on book accounts, the statutory fees are now  “…not to exceed the lesser of $960 for book accounts that are maintained for personal, family, or household purposes of a natural person, and $1,200 for book accounts that are maintained for all other purposes, or 25% of the principal obligation owing on the contract, as applicable.” (SB 363)

The “meet and confer” process has now come to demurrers (aka motions to dismiss). SB 383 requires the demurring party   in certain situations to engage in this process prior to filing the demurrer and prohibits the plaintiff from amending more than 3 times in response to a demurrer filed before a case is at issue.

Pursuant to SB 387, our annual bar dues will be the same as last year: $315. More importantly, this bill extends the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act and the California Open Records Act to all meetings of the state bar, including its sections and committees, with certain exceptions.

SB 600 extends the Unruh Civil Rights Act to non-citizens or to all persons regardless of citizenship, primary language or immigration status. “…[T}he Unruh Civil Rights Act, provides that all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are entitled to full and equal accommodations in all business establishments regardless of their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation.”

Last but not least (My congratulations to you if you are still reading this quite lengthy blog!) is Section 55 of SB 491 which amends Section 27400 of the Vehicle Code to now prohibit the wearing of earplugs, earphones, earbuds et cetera inserted in, or resting on both ears or a headset covering both ears while driving except in certain situations. For all of those using earphones/earbuds for your mobile phone while driving- beware!

Happy New Year!

… Just something to think about.



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