California State Capital in Sacramento, CA

California's capital in Sacramento, CA. (Signal Photo/Alondra De La Cruz)

California Governor Gavin Newsom has concluded the 2020-2021 legislative session on Friday, October 8 by signing over 30 bills presented by senators and assembly members from throughout the state.

On the Office of Governor’s website, Newsom discussed the importance of the passing of legislation as well as how it will impact how the state will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In a time when the state and country are more divided than ever, this legislative session reminds us what we can accomplish together. I am thankful for our partners in the state Legislature who furthered our efforts to tackle the state’s most persistent challenges – together, we took action to address those challenges head-on, implementing historic legislation and the California Comeback Plan to hit fast forward on our state’s recovery,” explained Newsom.

The California Comeback Plan mentioned by Newsom refers to the $100 billion plan aimed at addressing multiple challenges that Newsom’s administration has deemed to be a priority.

These challenges include providing relief to those most impacted by COVID-19, addressing homelessness and housing affordability throughout the state, creating more opportunities for students in public schools, creating new infrastructure throughout the state, and addressing climate change and the effects it has on the state.

While these points of discussion have been deemed a priority by Newsom’s administration, it has not limited the topics to be addressed in the recently signed bills.

Here is a glimpse into a few of the bills recently signed by Newsom.

AB 237

This bill enacts the Public Employee Healthcare Protection Act. This would prohibit a covered employer from failing or refusing to pay for or maintain health coverage or other medical coverage for an enrolled employee and their dependents if the employee chooses to participate in an authorized worker’s strike.

AB 237  defines a “covered employer ”as“ any public employer, as specified, that offers health care or other medical coverage for non-occupational injuries or illness to its employees.”

The Public Employee Healthcare Protection Act would also require covered employers to restore the health or other medical care premiums, contributions, or out of pocket expenses paid by employee due to the failure of the employer to ensure that the employee and their dependents maintained full coverage during the duration a strike.

AB 1346

This bill creates the requirement for the state board to adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations prohibiting engine exhaust and emissions from new small off-road engines (SORE) by July 1, 2022.

Small off-road engines are defined by the state board as “The small off-road engine (SORE) category consists of off-road spark-ignition engines that produce 19 kilowatts gross power or less (25 horsepower or less), including lawn and garden, industrial, logging, airport ground support, and commercial utility equipment, golf carts, and specialty vehicles.”

AB 1346 also will require that the state board identifies and, as much as possible, make available funding for commercial rebates or similar incentive funding in order to further promote the transition to zero emission small off-road engines.

AB 1084

AB 1084 requires that retail department stores physically located in California and employing over 500 employees in locations selling childcare items or toys maintain a gender-neutral section or area within the store.

How the areas and sections are labeled will be left the discretion of the businesses. The areas and sections must however offer a reasonable selection of toys and/or childcare items on display, regardless of what gender they were traditionally marketed towards.

Beginning January 1, 2024, retail department stores that fail to meet comply with AB 1084 will be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $250 for the first offense and $500 for later violations.

SB 98

This bill allows for a duly authorized representative of any news outlet to enter closed areas in situations where peace officers have closed off an immediate area surrounding an emergency field command post, creating a police line, or creating a rolling closure at a demonstration, march, protest, or rally where individuals are taking part in constitutionally protected activities.

In addition to granting access to closed areas, SB 98 also prohibits peace officers, as well as other law enforcement, from intentionally assaulting, impeding, or hindering, a duly authorized representative from gathering, receiving, or processing information with the intent to distribute to the public.

SB 98 also prohibits duly authorized representatives who are in the process of gathering, receiving, or processing information from being cited for the failure to disperse, a violation of mandated curfew, or a violation of others specified law.

SB 274

SB 274 requires any local agency with an internet website to email a copy of, or a link to, an agenda or any documents constituting the agenda packet to an individual upon that individual’s request.

If it is found that it is not possible to provide the requested material via email, it is required that the legislative body send the requested documents by mail.

SB 654

Prior to SB 654, in cases regarding child custody, courts would give weight to the wishes of children when granting or modifying custody or visitation, under the condition that the child was at an age where they would be able to demonstrate the capacity to make an intelligent preference.

SB 654 prohibits courts from allowing a child to address the court regarding custody or visitation in the presence of the potential guardian’s parties unless the court deems that doing so is in the best interest of the child while also stating the reasons for that finding on record.

Existing law states that “when an allegation about a parent relating to a history of abuse or substance abuse by the parent has been brought to the attention of the court in the current proceeding, the court to state its reasons in writing or on the record if the court makes an order for sole or joint custody to that parent.” However, SB 654 adds to this by requiring the court to provide reasoning on record or in writing if an order for unsupervised visitation is given for that parent.

A full list of bills that Newsom has signed to conclude the 2020-2021 legislative session can be found on the Office of Governor’s website. In addition to this, individuals interested in the full text of any given bill can find it here.

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