New Year, New Laws

Ten New Laws Authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO In 2021 Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) authored ten new laws, including making California a permanent vote-by-mail state, improving the process for community college students to transfer to a California State University or University of California campus, phasing out the sale of new gas-powered landscape equipment, and making it easier for Californians to cancel their subscriptions online. 

Elections

Assembly Bill 37 makes California a permanent vote-by-mail state beginning January 1, 2022. In addition to mailing every active registered voter a ballot, AB 37 also makes permanent the requirement that counties give every voter the opportunity to track their ballot as it moves through the mail system and as elections officials process it. Finally, the bill incorporates the following accommodations to facilitate voting by mail: allows counties to begin processing returned vote-by-mail ballots earlier; and extends the deadline for receipt of vote-by-mail ballots so voters are not disenfranchised by potential Postal Service delays. In addition, AB 37 sets minimum vote-by-mail ballot drop-off location requirements to ensure that voters have convenient options for returning their ballots.

Assembly Bill 796 improves the California New Motor Voter program to ensure its continued success registering eligible Californians to vote. The bill updates the timeline by which the Department of Motor Vehicles must process voter registrations and track, monitor, and report processing data. Additionally, the Secretary of State must appoint a taskforce to monitor implementation and report on the effectiveness of the program.

Higher Education

Assembly Bill 928, the Student Transfer Achievement Reform (STAR) Act of 2021, transforms the college transfer process from the student perspective to ensure more community college students successfully transfer to a four-year university. These reforms include removing barriers to the successful but underutilized Associate Degree for Transfer and implementing a single lower division general education pathway that meets transfer admission to both the California State University and University of California systems.

Assembly Bill 1111 requires the California Community Colleges to adopt a common course numbering system so that comparable community college classes have the same course number. Additionally, $10 million in the state budget supports the creation of this new numbering system, which will reduce confusion and make it easier for students to transfer to a four-year university.

Environment

Assembly Bill 1346 phases out the sale of highly polluting small gas-powered engines such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers beginning in 2024. Assemblymember Berman secured $30 million in state funding to ease the transition to zero emission equipment for small landscaping businesses.

Assembly Bill 1010 requires licensed architects to study zero net carbon design so future buildings are greener. Architects must complete five hours of continuing education training on zero net carbon design every two-year licensing period beginning January 1, 2023.

Assembly Bill 1219 reauthorizes the Natural Heritage Preservation Tax Credit program. Beginning January 1, 2022, the state, local governments, and qualified non-profits may acquire conservation, park, or habitat land at a reduced cost by offering the landowner a state tax credit. Under this program, a willing landowner may choose to donate land to a state, local government, or non-profit organization, and upon approval by the Wildlife Conservation Board, receive a 55 percent tax credit against their state personal or corporate income tax.

Online Subscription Cancellation 

Assembly Bill 390 makes it easier for Californians to cancel their subscriptions online without having to jump through hoops and ensures that consumers are better informed about when and how much they will be charged for their subscriptions. California will become the first state to require businesses to notify consumers before free trials and promotional offers lasting longer than 31 days expire. Businesses will also have to notify customers before their annual subscriptions automatically renew, joining only a handful of states that require these renewal reminders.

Health

Assembly Bill 541 addresses disproportionately high smoking rates among people in treatment for addiction. Beginning January 1, 2022, treatment programs will be required to assess patients for tobacco use and offer or refer them to treatment to quit tobacco.

Victim Protection

Assembly Bill 1143 protects victims of harassment from arbitrary legal barriers that have prevented Californians from securing legal protection from their harasser. Beginning January 1, 2022, the courts may authorize alternative means of service of a petition for a civil harassment restraining order if the victim of harassment is unable to serve the respondent personally.

Budget Accomplishments:

After several years of advocating for community college students' basic needs such as housing, food, and mental health services, Assemblymember Berman secured $30 million in annual state funding for every community college campus to establish a basic needs center and hire a basic needs coordinator.

Assemblymember Berman also secured funding and language in the 2021-22 State Budget to create an Office of School-Based Health Programs within the California Department of Education. The new office will be operational by January 1, 2022, and support schools in providing greater access to health care services on campus, while schools draw down more federal dollars.