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Thursday, December 31, 2015

California Passed A Lot of New Laws This Year. Here Are the Ones You Should Know.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 at 12:07 PM

click to enlarge Where the magic happens. - PHOTO CINDY/FLICKR
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It was a busy year for California’s legislature, which signed 807 bills into law in 2015. Some were almost laughably niche (Spanish moss was designated the state’s official lichen), while others were game changers (doctors can now prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients). 

Today, the Los Angeles Times published a handy rundown of the new laws, conveniently sorted by category. You should check it out in its entirety, but in the meantime here are some of the most important, interesting, and relevant for us San Franciscans.


*A ban on the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horns, which sparked debate about the cultural heritage of such items, especially in SF's Chinatown. Our fair city reportedly ranks #2 in the nation for illegal ivory imports. While shops in Chinatown say they obey preexisting state and federal laws around ivory sales, the Chronicle noted that merchants there are savvy about labeling ivory as bone...or plastic...or anything other than illegal ivory. 

*Law enforcement must obtain a search warrant before looking at your private emails, text messages, and GPS data. Kind of surprising this law didn’t exist already, but it’s nice to know it’s there now.

*Police or family members can seek a restraining order that bans someone they deem “dangerous” from possessing a firearm for 21 days. Unfortunately, the law probably won’t apply to police officers themselves.

*Law enforcement agencies must issue annual reports on cases in which use of force resulted in injury or death. In the wake of the Dec. 2 Mario Woods shooting, the San Francisco Police Department added the additional requirement that officers must make a report to their superiors whenever a gun is pointed at a person.

*By 2018, law enforcement agencies must have a system whereby they report data on the perceived race and ethnicity of those they stop, the reason for the encounter, and the outcome. Supervisor Malia Cohen wants to take that law one step further locally by also recording sex and gender identity.

*The California Highway Patrol can now issue “Yellow Alerts” on electronic freeway signs to get the public’s help in apprehending hit-and-run drivers.

*Motorized skateboards can ride wherever bikes can ride. This includes hoverboards, although as SF Weekly recently reported, there’s considerable confusion locally about which traffic laws these devices must follow.

*Short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb must notify hosts that if they are renters, using the site could violate their lease agreements. In San Francisco, Airbnb hosts must register with the city.

*The cost of getting your political petition up and running will jump from $200 to $2,000 to discourage “frivolous proposals" (such as the "kill the gays" ballot initiative).

*California’s labor code will no longer use the word ”alien” to describe immigrants.

*Cheerleaders for professional sports teams are now considered employees rather than independent contractors. As such, they’re entitled to minimum wage, workers’ comp, and other benefits. If this can happen, it’s only a matter of time before Uber and other “sharing economy” companies must do the same, right? Maybe, maybe not.



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Jeremy Lybarger

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