Politics & Government

California’s new laws: What changes in 2014

Bills that crossed Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk in 2013 encompassed policy topics from bullets to bike safety. In some cases Brown signed legislation that enshrined key Democratic goals, reflecting the strength of robust Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

 A few of those bills, including one hiking the state minimum wage and one requiring cars to stay at least 3 feet away from bicyclists, won’t take effect for a few months. But that still leaves plenty of substantial measures that become operative state law today. Here’s a look at some highlights.


Driver’s licenses

AB 60 accomplishes something immigrant advocates have sought for years – driver’s licenses for immigrants who are in the country illegally. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will spend this year designing the licenses, which will become available by Jan. 1, 2015.


AB 4 pushes back on a federal program requiring local law enforcement to detain arrested immigrants. Now jails can hold immigrants for federal immigration enforcement only if they have committed serious or violent crimes, as defined by the law.

Immigrant attorneys

Playing off of the legal case of Sergio Garcia, who was brought to California illegally as a child and later passed the state’s bar exam on his first try, AB 1024 allows undocumented immigrants who pass the California bar to practice law.

Immigrant workers

AB 263 and SB 666 both prohibit employers from punishing or retaliating against workers on the basis of their immigration status.


Hydraulic fracturing

SB 4 seeks to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a gas-harvesting practice that involves blasting a mix of pressurized water and chemicals underground. Rules taking effect at the start of 2014 mandate groundwater monitoring, require neighbors to be notified of new wells and have energy companies publicly disclose the fracking chemicals they use.

Lead ammunition

AB 711, which cites the health risk to wildlife in banning lead ammunition, won’t be fully implemented until July 2019. In the meantime, the state’s Fish and Game Commission will get to work on a framework for phasing out lead bullets.



AB 154 allows medical professionals such as nurse practitioners to perform a type of early abortion if they have received the necessary training. Qualified professionals can now enroll in the requisite training program.


The sole survivor of a trio of scope-of-practice bills, SB 493 expands what pharmacists can do to include administering vaccines, performing patient assessments and ordering toxicity tests, among other functions.


AB 1308 removes a requirement, long decried by midwives, that a physician be present to supervise a birth. Doctors had stayed away despite that rule, citing insurance liability risks.


Transgender students

AB 1266 allows transgender students to use the school facilities and join school teams aligned with their gender. A referendum challenge could stall or ultimately repeal the law; county registrars are in the process of verifying signatures.

Standardized tests

With schools at work implementing the national Common Core standards, AB 484 nixes the existing Standardized Testing and Reporting assessments in favor of tests aligned with the new guidelines. Students across the state will take the incoming Common Core-related tests by the end of the 2014-2015 school year, and the scores will be used to evaluate schools the following year.


Domestic workers

Dubbed the “Domestic Worker Bill of Rights” by supporters, AB 241 entitles housekeepers, nannies and other in-home laborers to overtime pay. The final version contains fewer worker guarantees than the original, which offered such protections as meal breaks.

Athlete compensation

Responding to complaints that California’s worker’s compensation system pays benefits to out-of-state athletes, AB 1309 requires pro athletes to have spent a minimum chunk of their career playing for California teams if they want to submit a claim to the state’s fund.

Charter cities

SB 7 seeks to guarantee a prevailing wage, higher than the minimum wage, to workers on public works projects. Some California cities have charters exempting them from prevailing wage requirements for such jobs, and SB 7 penalizes those cities by denying them state construction money. Charter cities can still use state funds awarded prior to Jan. 1, 2015, so some cities may spend 2014 weighing whether to alter their charters.


SB 54 dictates that petroleum refineries ensure that trained, skilled workers comprise an escalating share of their contractor and subcontractor workforce. Due to their qualifications, the skilled workers command higher pay.


Purchase reporting

Passed in 2011, AB 809 allows the Department of Justice to retain data about rifle and shotgun purchases; until now, the agency has been able to hold onto information only about handgun transactions. The law is intended to let cops know what they’ll be up against and to bolster a program that confiscates guns from people barred from owning them, such as the dangerously mentally ill and convicted criminals.

Gun capacity

AB 48 makes it illegal to buy or own “conversion kits” that give guns semi-automatic capability and to purchase a large-capacity magazine in California.

Gun storage

AB 500 requires a gun owner, in a household inhabited by someone prohibited from owning a gun, to lock up any firearms.

Gun checks

Intended to shore up safeguards against dangerous people buying guns, SB 127 requires a therapist told of “a serious threat of physical violence” to quickly tell authorities, and requires the authorities to notify the Department of Justice within 24 hours.

Crime and punishment/public safety


SB 606 brought movie stars Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner to Sacramento, where they testified for a measure barring photographers from aggressively seeking shots of kids.

Youth athletics

AB 465 allows community youth sports teams to request a background check before taking someone on as a coach.

Limo safety

Responding to a pair of deadly limousine fires in 2013, SB 109 requires limo drivers to instruct passengers on safety features. Other provisions requiring limos to have at least two doors and at least one push-out window that functions as a safety exit kick in July of 2015 or 2016, depending on whether the car is a new model or an old one that needs to be retrofitted.

Parolee GPS

Paroled sex offenders may think twice before removing court-ordered tracking devices: under SB 57, severing those GPS trackers will mean another 180 days of incarceration.

Distracted driving

Hands-free doesn’t mean scot-free: SB 194 prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using their cellphones to compose or read text messages, even if the teens are using a voice-activated feature.

HOV, just for me

Low-emission and zero-emission car owners, rejoice: You can drive in the HOV lane, even if you’re the only one in the car, through 2019 thanks to AB 266 and SB 286.


AB 351 bars California agencies and the state National Guard from helping the federal government detain or prosecute people under a controversial post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism law. The bill offered the rare spectacle of a prominent liberal senator, Mark Leno, presenting a bill on behalf of far-right conservative Tim Donnelly.


Food stamps

AB 191 links signing up for Medi-Cal benefits to enrolling in food stamps via Cal Fresh, bolstering the author’s goal of expanding access for the many low-income Californian households eligible for both programs.

Mattress recycling

Trying to figure out how to dispose of that old mattress? SB 254 creates a mattress recycling program, funded by a fee on buying mattresses (one Republican opponent dubbed it a “sleep tax”). An industry group must convene and build the program by July 1, 2015.

Kings’ court

SB 743 addresses a tight National Basketball Association-imposed deadline for Sacramento to build the Kings a new arena by expediting the environmental review and eminent domain process.

Distillery tastings

Smaller craft distilleries will now have more of an incentive to offer liquor tasting events: starting in 2014, AB 933 allows them to charge for the privilege of sampling their product.

Veteran students

SB 290 allows veterans who were stationed in California before their discharge or intend to settle here to obtain in-state tuition at public committee colleges or California State University schools.

Plumbing prerogative

Going into effect a few years after it was passed, 2009’s SB 407 requires homeowners doing renovations to homes built before 1994 to install water-efficient toilets and faucets.

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