New California Laws in 2020

The 33 New California Laws for 2020 that You Need to Know

From new statewide rent control, to new limits on police use of deadly force, to an increase in the minimum wage, to a new requirement to have health insurance, and so much more, Californians will see some major changes and updates to the laws in 2020.

Did you know that every year, the state of California creates about 1,000 new laws? This year it was actually closer to 1,200! Luckily, most of them do not have a major impact on our lives, but here’s 33 that may be very significant to you. For each new law we also provide related links to our Legal Guides so you can learn more about each area of law.

Keep in mind there’s also new local and federal laws, which we won’t get into here. How to make sense of all of it? You can start by reading our new book, Law is Not for Lawyers (It’s for Everyone): Empower Yourself with the Basics of Law and Civics. Make it a new years resolution!

New Housing Laws

1. Statewide Rent Control

California is the 2nd state to pass statewide rent control. It caps rent increases to no more than 5% plus inflation each year, for buildings which are more than 15 years old. See more at our Guide to Rent Control in California.

2. Evictions from Foreclosed Property

If a tenant is being evicted from a foreclosed property, the landlord must give 90 days notice to end a month-to-month tenancy. To remove a tenant from a foreclosed property where the tenant is on a lease with a specified time period (for example, 1 year), the tenant has the right to stay through the end of the lease.1Keep Californians Housed Act; Section 1161b of the Code of Civil Procedure See more about Rights for Tenants Being Evicted.

3. Even Easier Granny Flats

Current law as of 2016 makes it easier for homeowners to get a permit to put in a “granny flat” or accessory dwelling unit. The new law removes even more roadblocks. See our Guide to Laws for Homeowners in California.

New Work Related Laws

4. Minimum Wage Increase

The minimum wage for California workers increases to $13/hr for businesses with 26 or more employees; and $12/hr for businesses with 25 or fewer employees. However, many cities have even higher minimum wages than these.

5. Many Independent Contractors May Now Be Employees

Potentially millions of workers who were considered “independent contractors” (aka “freelancers“) will now be considered employees instead. This can affect many things including the control a company has over a worker, and the benefits required to be provided to the worker. It may also lead to many companies simply dropping California workers altogether. See more at What’s the Deal with the New Gig Worker Law (AB5)?

6. Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Existing law requires sexual harassment prevention training only for supervisors at companies with 50 or more employees. The new law requires such training for all employees at companies with 5 or more employees. See our Guide to Laws about Discrimination and Harassment at Work in California.

7. Sexual Harassment Claim Time Limit Extension

A new law extends the time limit to file a sexual harassment claim against an employer from 1 to 3 years.

8. No More Forced Arbitration

Arbitration is a way to resolve legal disputes outside of the court system. Employers and large companies generally prefer arbitration rather than the courts for many reasons (such as that it keeps sexual harassment complaints out of the public eye). A new California law prohibits employers from requiring new employees to agree to arbitration clauses as a condition of their employment. Thus, employees have the right to opt out of these clauses. See more employee laws.

New Health & Healthcare Laws

9. Health Insurance Requirement

Although the federal government repealed the “individual mandate,” California has now passed its own requirement for residents to maintain health insurance. The penalty for failing to have health insurance is at least $695 per year. See our Guide to Laws about Health and Healthcare.

10. New Food Handler Requirements

A food handler must obtain a food handler card from a specified training provider after completing a food handler training course and examination that covers specified topics, including foodborne illness and food contamination.

Food handlers who are employed by certain facilities, including public and private school cafeterias, and organized camps, are no longer exempt from these requirements.

By January 1, 2021, the food handler training course must include instruction relating to major food allergens and symptoms of allergic reactions.

Also, food servers or preparers are no longer allowed to use latex gloves. This is because some people are allergic to latex.

See our Guide to Laws about Health and Healthcare.

11. Easier Birth Control

Women no longer need to consult with a doctor to get birth control. See our Guide to Reproductive Rights.

New Gun Laws

12. Gun Violence Restraining Orders Expansion

Current law allows family members and law enforcement to request a gun restraining order to take guns away from someone thought to be a danger to themselves or others. Starting in September 2020, this will be extended to employers, co-workers, and teachers. See our Guide to Laws about Weapons.

13. Semiautomatic Gun Restriction

Existing law restricted handgun purchases to one per month. The new law will also restrict semiautomatic weapons to one per month.

Existing law bans people under 21 years old from buying a gun, unless they have a hunting license. The new law bans people under 21 from buying a semiautomatic, even if they have a hunting license. See our Guide to Laws about Weapons.

New Education Laws

14. Suspending or Expelling Students

Existing law said that students in kindergarten or grades 1 through 3 may not be suspended. Starting July 2020, this will apply to 4th and 5th grades; and July 2020 through July 2025, to 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. These rules will apply to charter schools starting July 2020. See our Guide to Laws for Students.

15. School Meals

Under the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017 (actually passed in 2019), a student may not be denied a meal of the student’s choice because of the fact that the student’s parent or guardian has unpaid meal fees. The school must also ensure that the student is not shamed or treated differently from other students. See our Guide to Laws for Students.

New Criminal Justice and Privacy Laws

16. Police Use of Deadly Force

Existing law said that law enforcement could use deadly force when it was “reasonable” to do so. Now, police can use deadly force only when it’s “necessary in defense of human life.” See more at our Guide to Police Conduct.

17. Reporting Childhood Sexual Abuse

Existing law allowed people to report childhood sexual assault until age 26. The new law extends this to age 40. See more at our Guide to Laws about Sex and Sexual Violence.

18. Rape Kits

Rape kits must now be tested within 120 days (4 months). See more at our Guide to Laws about Sex and Sexual Violence.

19. Sex Deepfakes

Californians can now sue if someone makes a fake video or photo (aka “deepfake”) that shows them in a sex act. See our Guide to Laws about Sex and Sexual Violence.

20. Drones & Privacy

Using a drone or other electronic device to spy on someone in a private place is now clearly illegal. See more at our Guide to Laws about Privacy.

21. Prosecution of Children

As of January 2020, children under 12 years of age cannot be prosecuted for crimes except for murder or sexual assault. Instead, they will be sent to mental health or rehabilitation programs. See our Guide to Laws for People Accused of Crimes.

New Consumer Laws

22. New Rights in Your Personal Information

Consumers will now have various rights to their personal information, including the right to find out what personal information a company has about them, and to get that info deleted. See more at our Guide to the California Consumer Privacy Act.

23. Restriction on Predatory Lending

Existing law capped interest rates on payday or installment loans of up to $2,500, but no cap after that. The new law caps interest rates on such loans of $2,500 to $9,999 at an annual rate of 36%. See our Guide to Consumer Laws.

24. Real Plates and Silverware at Food Festivals

The health code required food vendors at fairs, festivals, farmers markets, or other community events to provide single-use or disposable utensils to customers. Now it is no longer a violation of health code to provide reusable or regular silverware, plates, and other items. See our Guide to Laws for Restaurants.

New Environmental and Animal Rights Laws

25. Smoking & Vaping Ban in State Parks & Beaches

It is now illegal to smoke and vape in state parks and beaches, except for parking lots. See our Guide to Smoking and Vaping Laws.

26. Animal Tested Products Ban

Cosmetic products with any ingredients that have been tested on animals are now banned in California. See our Guide to Animal Rights.

27. Fur Trapping Ban

Trapping animals for their fur is now illegal. See our Guide to Animal Rights.

28. No More Lions, Tigers, or Bears in the Circus

It is now illegal for a circus to use any animal other than a domestic cat, domestic dog, or domesticated horse. This means bears, tigers, elephants, monkeys or other wild animals cannot be used for such entertainment. See our Guide to Animal Rights.

29. No More Oil Pipes on State Land

California has now prohibited new oil drilling projects from laying pipes or other infrastructure on state owned land. See our Guide to Laws about the Environment.

30. Ban on Microbeads

As of January 2020, it is illegal to sell products with plastic microbeads in California. These have been used in products such as facial scrubs, soaps, and toothpastes, and have been found in waterways. See our Guide to Laws about the Environment.

31. Eating Roadkill

A new law says that by 2022 you will be able to collect and potentially eat certain wild animals which were accidentally killed in traffic collisions. The law directs the California Fish and Game Commission to develop a program to issue permits to collect an animal carcass. See our Guide to Animal Rights.

New Laws for Voters

32. Using a Phone or Tablet in the Voting Booth

Elections officials now may not prohibit you from using any handheld electronic device, such as a smartphone, cell phone, or tablet, iPad, etc, to help you vote. See our Guide to Voting Rights.

33. Same Day Voter Registration

Existing law required voters to register to vote at least 15 days prior to an election. Now, voters can register and vote on the same day.


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