California Leads the Way

By GAYLE JO CARTER January 21, 2019

Over 1,000 new laws will take effect in California this year, including many that are causes women have long championed and that will have a major impact on women, our children and the issues we care about.  A fitting end to Governor Jerry Brown’s leadership.

A few notable examples:


Juvenile Justice

Sweeping new laws bar juveniles younger than 16 from being tried as adults, even for murder, and keep children under 12 out of the criminal justice system unless they are charged with murder or rape.

Gun Control

Eliminates fees for requesting gun violence restraining orders and allows law enforcement officers who confiscate guns under the programme to seize ammunition as well.

Domestic Violence and Firearms

Anyone convicted of a misdemeanour domestic violence offence after January 1, 2019 is prohibited from possessing a firearm for the rest of their lives.

Guns and mental health

A lifetime firearm ban goes into effect in 2020 for anyone who has been hospitalised for a mental health issue more than once in a year.

Conceal Carry Weapon Permit Training

Gun owners with a concealed carry license are required to undergo a minimum of eight hours of training and demonstrate proficiency and safety on the shooting range. Before, concealed carry weapon applicants could get their permit without ever shooting a gun.

Long Gun Restrictions

Anyone younger than 21 is prohibited from purchasing a long gun, such as a rifle or shotgun, from a licenced firearms dealer. However, the law includes an exemption for law enforcement officers, members of the military and anyone who possesses a valid, unexpired hunting license.

Drunk Driving Ignition Interlock Devices

Californians found guilty of driving under the influence are required to temporarily install breathalysers in their vehicles to get their driver’s licences back.  The bill was endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Police Transparency

Allows public access to police records in use-of-force cases, as well as investigations that confirmed on-the-job dishonesty or sexual misconduct.

Bail Reform

On October 1, 2019, California will replace its money-based bail system. The passage of Senate Bill 10 mandates state courts replace the current bail system with an algorithmic risk-assessment system to determine whether defendants can be released pre-trial.



The minimum wage rises to $12 for companies with 26 or more employees and $11 for smaller businesses as California phases in a $15 base hourly wage.

Criminal History and Applications for Employment

Employers will be allowed to ask an applicant, or another source, about a particular conviction of the applicant, if:

  • Employers are required to obtain information regarding a particular conviction of the applicant, regardless of whether the conviction has been expunged, judicially ordered sealed, statutorily eradicated or judicially dismissed following probation.
  • The applicant would be required to possess or use a firearm in the course the job.
  • The applicant with a particular conviction is prohibited by law from holding the position sought, regardless of whether the conviction has been expunged, judicially ordered sealed, statutorily eradicated or judicially dismissed following probation.
  • Employers are prohibited by law from hiring an applicant who has that particular conviction, regardless of whether the conviction has been expunged, judicially ordered sealed, statutorily eradicated or judicially dismissed following probation.

Board of Directors Equality

California becomes the first state to require publicly held corporations to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019 and two or more by 2021.

Overtime for Agricultural Workers

Mandates overtime payment for agricultural workers [working for employers who hire more than 25 workers] in their salaries. This regulation will slowly increase the wages for extra hours for agricultural employees over a period of four years.

Breastfeeding at Work

Requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or place for breastfeeding that is not a toilet.

Protection Against Lawsuits in Cases of Harassment Complaints

Protection to people from the threat of a defamation lawsuit when a sexual harassment allegation to an employer is “based on credible evidence” and without malice. The law was passed after the state’s defamation laws were identified as sometimes deterring victims and witnesses from making complaints or communicating information about harassers to others. Also, it protects companies with knowledge of the harassing activity and allows them to warn other potential employers without the threat of a defamation lawsuit.

Confidentiality Agreements

Spurred by the #MeToo movement, another new law bans private and public employers, including the state Legislature, from reaching secret settlements over sexual assault, harassment or discrimination.

Gender Identity
Californians can also list their gender as “nonbinary” on their driver’s licenses, designated with the letter “X.”


Plastic Straw Ban

Restaurants statewide will give out single-use straws only upon request of customers. It applies to full-service dining establishments but exempts fast food restaurants. Restaurants violating the law could be fined $25 daily for violations, or a maximum of $300 per year.

Healthy Child Drinks in Restaurants

Children’s meals in restaurants that come with a drink must have a “healthy” beverage as the drink default option, such as milk, water, sparkling water or flavoured water with no added natural or artificial sweeteners.

Climate Change

California’s utilities must generate 60 percent of their energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2030, which is 10 percent higher than a previous mandate. Lawmakers set a goal of phasing out electricity from fossil fuels by 2045.

Air pollution

Raises the vehicle age requirement to get a smog check from 6 years old to 8 years old, but requires a $25 smog abatement fee for 7- and 8-year-old vehicles. The existing $12 fee for vehicles 6 years old and under remains in place.

Ocean Protection

The Trump administration is barred from expanding oil drilling off the California coast by blocking new pipelines and other supporting construction in state waters.

Join the Aspire mailing list and receive news, opinion pieces, and articles

Your personal details are safe with us. See our Privacy Policy for more information.

    Type the characters below