Follow the rules
New (and wacky) California laws you may have missed
New state laws regarding gun control, labor issues, gender-neutral bathrooms and recreational marijuana dominated headlines over the last several months.
All the publicity means people probably know how much weed they can carry (up to an ounce) are familiar with new rules for “transportation network companies” (i.e., Uber, which now requires criminal background checks for drivers), and know that minimum wage is on the rise (to $10.50 in 2017 for companies with more than 26 employees, and incrementally until it reaches $15 an hour in 2022).
But those are just a few of the laws that recently hit the books in California. In fact, there are about 900 new laws in the state, including regulations ranging from selfies to Shamu to sipping champagne while getting a shampoo. The majority went into effect on New Year’s Day.
Here’s a rundown of some of the more interesting and esoteric laws you may have missed:
• It’s now legal for good Samaritans to smash automobile windows in order to rescue pets from hot vehicles. Assembly Bill 797—known as the “Right to Rescue Act”—specifies that citizens must observe the animal in distress, call the police, do no more damage than necessary to extricate the pet and wait for first responders to arrive afterward. As long as those requirements are met, the rescuers can’t be charged with a crime or held liable for damages incurred by setting Fido free.
• One new law (AB 1322) is opening a lot of eyes—and lips—to an old tradition. Barbershops and salons can now offer their clients complimentary beer or wine, a practice that many establishments have carried on—harmlessly, but apparently illegally—for years. The adult beverages must be free, served before 10 p.m., and limited to 12 ounces of beer or 6 ounces of wine. According to the state’s Business and Professions Code, free booze with service was previously limited to limousines and hot-air balloons.
• At a time when a reality TV star has ascended to the country’s highest office, it’s perhaps unsurprising that two new laws deal directly with celebrities. First off, there’s AB 1687, which allows people featured on the Internet Movie Database and similar websites to demand their age and date of birth be removed from those sites. Backers of the law hope that it will protect entertainment-industry professionals—and most specifically actors—from age discrimination.
Another law, AB 1570, requires all autographed items sold in California for more than $5 to also include a signed and dated certificate of authenticity. This certificate must be printed in at least 10-point boldface type, and the dealer must keep a copy of the certificate on file for at least seven years.
• For better or worse, “ballot selfies” are now legal in California. This caused some confusion on Election Day in November, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law in September, but it didn’t take effect until last week. So, voters who took a snapshot in the voting booth last year in California were breaking the law, but they’re not likely to feel any repercussions; the Sacramento Bee reports that nobody has ever been prosecuted for violating the 125-year-old rule that made sharing a marked ballot a crime.
• On New Year’s Day, California became the first state to ban public schools from using “Redskin” as a mascot or team name. The Los Angeles Times reported in October that the law affects four schools—in Merced, Calaveras, Tulare and Madera counties—that still used the name, which is widely considered a blatant racist epithet toward Native Americans. (The National Football League, apparently, still has no problem with it.)
• After years of controversy, fueled largely by the 2013 documentary Blackfish, California became the first state to ban the breeding of killer whales and use of them in entertainment shows. The law was signed last year and takes effect in June. San Diego’s SeaWorld—which will keep the 11 whales it already has in captivity—will continue to do educational presentations, but the days of making these great beasts pose for pictures while high-fiving toddlers are over.
• “Denim is a sturdy cotton twill fabric [whose] history is interwoven with California history from the 1850s through today,” reads part of the text of the appropriately numbered AB 501, which establishes denim as the official fabric of California. The fabric joins the saber-toothed cat (the official state fossil) and benitoite (a gemstone) as obscure state symbols.
• Last year, Gov. Brown also signed into law Senate Bill 1138, which declares the first Friday of May as Space Day. It’s a fitting legacy for a man dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” back in the 1970s, and who last month railed against a threat by President-elect Donald Trump to shut down NASA’s Earth Science division by declaring, “If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite.”