Courtesy Jeremy B. White,, December 16, 2016

Every Fall, Gov. Jerry Brown’s time is consumed by what could best be described as legislative triage.

He sifts through the hundreds of bills sent to his desk and decides which ones will become law. This year, the Legislature sent Brown 1,059 pieces of legislation, 898 of which the governor deemed worthy of his signature. He vetoed 159 and let two become law without signing them.

On Jan. 1 we’ll start seeing the results. What follows is a list of the laws taking effect Jan. 1 (some of them passed in prior years but were designed to kick in on Jan. 1, 2017).

Mascot names

Cheering for the “Redskins” is officially a thing of the past in California as of Jan. 1. Passed back in 2015, Assembly Bill 30 gave public schools until 2017 to ditch a mascot now widely denounced as racist and insensitive to Native Americans. The four remaining California high schools using the mascot have complied: two of those schools now cheer for the “Tribe,” one roots on the “Reds” and one has ditched a mascot altogether.

Welfare payments

After years of trying to erase a welfare rule they said punishes poor people, Democrats finally succeeded in repealing a policy known as the “maximum family grant” that bars women who get pregnant while on welfare from drawing additional benefits. As of Jan. 1, women in that situation can apply for benefits to cover the new child. They can also apply to cover children who are still minors and were previously excluded.

Minimum wage

Increases in the minimum wage will kick in gradually over the next few years, realizing a deal to eventually boost the pay floor to a nation-leading $15 an hour. As of Jan. 1, California’s minimum wage goes to $10.50 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees.

Assault weapons

As part of a package fortifying California’s already-tough gun laws, Senate Bill 880 and Assembly Bill 1135 sought to ban guns that circumvent a previously passed assault weapon law with reloading devices called “bullet buttons.” California bars purchasing, semi-automatic, centerfire rifles or semi-automatic pistols that lack a fixed magazine and have one of a number of features that include a protruding pistol grip or a folding or telescoping stock. If you already own one, you’ll need to register it with the California Department of Justice.

Park names

For all you Yosemite National Park fans mourning the hotel formerly known as the Ahwahnee, there is Assembly Bill 2249. After a concessionaire decided to rename the famous building the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, lawmakers looked for a way to ensure it wouldn’t happen again – at least at a state park. The bill they came up with doesn’t affect the Yosemite dispute, but it bars businesses who win state park concession contracts from trademarking names associated with the park.


The fatal 2015 collapse of a balcony in Berkeley spurred legislators to examine how the state vets building contractors. The result was Senate Bill 465, which compels the California Department of Industrial Relations and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health to tell the Contractors State License Board when the state punishes wayward builders. The measure, watered down amid heavy lobbying from the building industry, also requires contractors to tell the licensing board about past convictions for felonies or other crimes that could affect their work.

Gun loans

Another component in the gun bill sought to crack down on gun lending. Assembly Bill 1511 outlaws most gun loans, though it makes exceptions for hunting guides and for a limited number of loans to family members.

Prostitution decriminalization

Sex workers under the age of 18 are victims, not criminals – that mantra guided several criminal justice bills this year. Among those signed into law was Senate Bill 1322, which bars law enforcement from arresting minors for prostitution or loitering with intent.


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