By William J. “Jim” Priest, Sigrid Asmundson, Jordan E.A. Ferguson and Krysten Steele.

California’s legislators were busy throughout 2015, passing new bills that will affect the way public agencies operate. On the books are more than 50 new laws covering issues such as drought, community revitalization, medical marijuana, telecommunications and infrastructure finance.

Trying to keep up with these new laws can be overwhelming for public agency leaders. Some of these laws made headlines, while others were passed with relatively little acknowledgment. To assist you as we enter the new year, Best Best & Krieger, LLP compiled a summary of the 2015 legislation that significantly impacts public agencies. This summary is designed to brief you on the basics of each new law, but is not an exclusive list of all new legislation adopted last year. While not all of the changes take effect in 2016, it is important for you to be aware of these laws and plan for when they do become effective.

As with any legal issue, we encourage you to contact your attorney for additional information. Happy New Year!

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AB 1 – Drought: local governments: fines. Prohibits a city, county, or city and county from imposing a fine under any ordinance for a failure to water a lawn or having a brown lawn during a period for which the Governor has issued a proclamation of a state of emergency based on drought conditions.

AB 2 – Community revitalization authority. Authorizes certain local agencies to form a community revitalization authority within a community revitalization and investment area, as defined, to carry out provisions of the Community Redevelopment Law in that area for purposes related to, among other things, infrastructure, affordable housing and economic revitalization.

SB 21 – Political Reform Act of 1974: gifts of travel. Requires a nonprofit organization that regularly organizes and hosts travel for elected officials, as specified, and that pays for these types of travel for an elected state officer or local elected officeholder, to disclose the names of donors who, in the preceding year, both donated to the nonprofit organization and accompanied an elected officer or officeholder for any portion of the travel, as specified. The bill requires a person who receives a gift of a travel payment from any source to report the travel destination on his or her statement of economic interests. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.

SB 34 – Automated license plate recognition systems: use of data. This bill imposes specified requirements on an “ALPR operator” as defined, including, among others, maintaining reasonable security procedures and practices to protect ALPR information and implementing a usage and privacy policy with respect to that information, as specified. The bill imposes similar requirements on an “ALPR end-user,” as defined. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.

AB 57 – Telecommunications: wireless telecommunication facilities. Provides that a collocation or siting application for a wireless telecommunications facility is deemed approved if the city or county fails to approve or disapprove the application within the reasonable time periods specified in applicable decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, all required public notices have been provided regarding the application, and the applicant has provided a notice to the city or county that the reasonable time period has lapsed. This bill contains other existing laws.

AB 69 – Peace officers: body-worn cameras. Requires law enforcement agencies to consider specified best practices when establishing policies and procedures for downloading and storing data from body-worn cameras, including, among other things, prohibiting the unauthorized use, duplication, or distribution of the data, and establishing storage periods for evidentiary and non-evidentiary data, as defined.

SB 88 – Water.
Authorizes the State Water Resources Control Board to order consolidation with a receiving water system where a public water system, or a state small water system within a disadvantaged community, consistently fails to provide an adequate supply of safe drinking water. This bill also authorizes the Board to order the extension of service to an area that does not have access to an adequate supply of safe drinking water so long as the extension of service is an interim extension of service in preparation for consolidation.

SB 107 – Local government. Current law dissolved redevelopment agencies and community development agencies as of Feb. 1, 2012, and provides for the designation of successor agencies to wind down the affairs of the dissolved redevelopment agencies and to, among other things, make payments due for enforceable obligations and to perform obligations required pursuant to any enforceable obligation. This bill provides that any action by the Department of Finance, that occurred on or after June 28, 2011, carrying out the Department’s obligations under the provisions described above constitutes a Department action for the preparation, development, or administration of the State budget and is exempt from the Administrative Procedures Act.

AB 169 – Local government: public records. If a local agency, except a school district, maintains an Internet resource, including, but not limited to an Internet website, Internet web page, or Internet web portal, which the local agency describes or titles as “open data,” and the local agency voluntarily posts a public record on that Internet resource, then this bill requires the local agency to post the public record in an open format that meets specified requirements, including, among others, that the format is able to be retrieved, downloaded, indexed, and searched by a commonly used Internet search application.

AB 219 – Public works: concrete delivery. Current law defines “public works,” for purposes of requirements regarding the payment of prevailing wages for public works projects, to include, among other things, the hauling of refuse from a public works site to an outside disposal location with respect to contracts involving any state agency. This bill expands the definition of “public works” for these purposes to include the hauling and delivery of ready-mixed concrete, as defined, to carry out a public works contract, with respect to contracts involving any state agency or any political subdivision of the State.

SB 239 – Local services: contracts: fire protection services. With certain exceptions, this bill permits a public agency to exercise new or extended services outside the public agency’s jurisdictional boundaries pursuant to a fire protection contract, as defined, only if the public agency receives written approval from the local agency formation commission in the affected county. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.

AB 243 – Medical marijuana. Requires the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the State Department of Public Health, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the State Water Resources Control Board to promulgate regulations or standards relating to medical marijuana and its cultivation, as specified. The bill also requires various state agencies to take specified actions to mitigate the impact that marijuana cultivation has on the environment.

AB 266 – Medical marijuana. Enacts the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act for the licensure and regulation of medical marijuana and establishes, within the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, under the supervision and control of the director of Consumer Affairs. The bill would require the director to administer and enforce the provisions of the Act.

SB 272 – The California Public Records Act: local agencies: inventory. Requires each local agency, except a local educational agency, in implementing the California Public Records Act, to create a catalog of enterprise systems, as defined, to make the catalog publicly available upon request in the office of the person or officer designated by the agency’s legislative body, and to post the catalog on the local agency’s Internet website.

AB 277 (& SB 493) – Legislation narrows use of at-large elections to elect public officials. AB 277 codifies the holding in Jauregui v. City of Palmdale (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 781 to prohibit the use of at-large elections in a political subdivision if it would impair the ability of a protected class to elect their chosen candidates or otherwise influence the outcome of an election. The definition of “political subdivision” has been amended to expressly include a charter city, charter county, or charter city and county.

AB 313 – Enhanced infrastructure financing districts. Requires, after the adoption of a resolution of intention to establish a proposed district, the legislative body to send a copy of the resolution to the public financing authority. This bill would revise the duties of the public financing authority after the resolution of intention to establish the proposed district has been adopted, so that the public financing authority, instead of the legislative body, will perform the specified duties related to the preparation, proposal, and adoption of the infrastructure financing plan and the adoption of the formation of the district.

SB 331 – Public contracts: local agencies: negotiations.
Enacts the Civic Reporting Openness in Negotiations Efficiency Act to establish specific procedures for the negotiation and approval of certain contracts valued at $250,000 or more for goods or services by cities, counties, cities and counties, or special districts that have adopted a civic openness in negotiations ordinance, defined as an ordinance imposing specified requirements as part of any collective bargaining process undertaken pursuant to the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act. The Act requires the designation of an independent auditor to review and report on the cost of any proposed contract.

SB 374 – Local agency design-build projects: transit districts.
This bill specifies that the definition of a local agency authorized to use the design-build method of project delivery includes the San Diego Association of Governments. The bill defines projects, as it pertains to the San Diego Association of Governments, to include development projects adjacent, or physically or functionally related, to transit facilities developed by the association.

SB 383 – Civil actions: objections to pleadings.
Requires a demurring party in certain civil actions, before filing the demurrer, to engage in a specified meet-and-confer process with the party who filed the pleading demurred to. This is for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached as to the filing of an amended pleading that would resolve the objections to be raised in the demurrer. The bill prohibits a party from amending a complaint or cross-complaint more than three times in response to a demurrer filed before the case is at issue, except as specified.

AB 401 – Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program. Requires the State Water Resources Control Board, no later than Jan. 1, 2018, in collaboration with the State Board of Equalization and relevant stakeholders, to develop a plan for the funding and implementation of the Low-Income Water Rate Assistance Program, which includes specified elements. The bill permits the board to consider existing rate assistance programs authorized by the commission in developing the plan and authorizes the plan to include recommendations for other cost-effective methods of offering assistance to low-income water customers.

AB 402 – Local agency services: contracts.
Establishes a pilot program, until Jan. 1, 2021, for the Napa and San Bernardino commissions that permits those commissions to authorize a city or district to provide new or extended services outside both its jurisdictional boundaries and its sphere of influence under specified circumstances. This bill contains other related provisions.

SB 415 – Voter participation. Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, this law prohibits a political subdivision, as defined, from holding an election, other than on a statewide election date, if holding an election on a non-concurrent date has previously resulted in voter turnout for a regularly scheduled election in that political subdivision being at least 25 percent less than the average voter turnout within the political subdivision for the previous four statewide general elections, except as specified. This bill contains other related provisions.

SB 493 (& AB 277) – Legislation narrows use of at-large elections to elect public officials. SB 493 authorizes the legislative body of a city with a population of fewer than 100,000 people to adopt an ordinance that requires the members of the legislative body to be elected by district without submitting the ordinance to the voters for approval.

SB 533 – Cities and counties: sales and use tax agreements. Repeals a specified prohibition of the Bradley-Burns Uniform Local Sales and Use Tax Law and instead prohibits, on or after Jan. 1, a local agency from entering into any form of agreement that would result, directly or indirectly, in the payment, transfer, diversion, or rebate of Bradley-Burns local tax revenues to any person, as defined, for any purpose, if the agreement results in a reduction in the amount of Bradley-Burns local tax revenues that, in the absence of the agreement, would be received by another local agency and the retailer continues to maintain a physical presence within the territorial jurisdiction of that other local agency, with specified exceptions.

AB 552 – Public works contracts: damages. Among other things, this bill provides that a public works contract, entered into on or after Jan. 1, that contains a clause expressly requiring a contractor to be responsible for delay damages, as defined, is not enforceable unless the delay damages have been liquidated to a set amount and identified in the public works contract. Under the bill, these provisions do not apply to specified state agencies. The bill also makes findings and declarations related to public contracts.

SB 555 – Urban retail water suppliers: water loss management. This bill requires each urban retail water supplier, on or before Oct. 1, 2017, and on or before Oct. 1 of each year thereafter, to submit a completed and validated water loss audit report for the previous calendar year or previous fiscal year as prescribed by rules adopted by the Department of Water Resources on or before Jan. 1, 2017, and updated as provided. The bill requires the Department to post all validated water loss audit reports on its website in a manner that allows for comparisons across water suppliers and to make these reports available for public viewing.

SB 570 – Personal information: privacy: breach.
Current law requires a person, business, or agency that is required to issue a security breach notification to meet specific requirements, including that the notification be written in plain language. This bill additionally requires the security breach notification to be titled “Notice of Data Breach” and to present the information under prescribed headings. The bill prescribes a model security breach notification form, as specified.

AB 594 – Political Reform Act of 1974: campaign statements. Recasts the requirements for filing pre-election statements and repeals other reporting requirements, including supplemental pre-election statements and supplemental independent expenditure reports. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.

AB 622 – Employment: E-Verify system: unlawful business practices. Expands the definition of an unlawful employment practice to prohibit an employer or any other person or entity from using the E-Verify system at a time or in a manner not required by a specified federal law or not authorized by a federal agency memorandum of understanding to check the employment authorization status of an existing employee or an applicant who has not received an offer of employment, except as required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds.

SB 643 – Medical marijuana. Sets forth standards for a physician and surgeon prescribing medical cannabis and requires the Medical Board of California to prioritize its investigative and prosecutorial resources to identify and discipline physicians and surgeons that have repeatedly recommended excessive cannabis to patients for medical purposes or repeatedly recommended cannabis to patients for medical purposes without a good faith examination, as specified. The bill requires the Bureau of Medical Marijuana to require an applicant to furnish a full set of fingerprints for the purposes of conducting criminal history record checks.

SB 664 – Water: urban water management planning. This bill requires an urban water supplier to include within its plan, beginning Jan. 1, 2020, a seismic risk assessment and mitigation plan to assess the vulnerability of each of the various facilities of a water system and mitigate those vulnerabilities. This bill also authorizes an urban water supplier to comply with this requirement by submitting a copy of the most recently adopted local hazard mitigation plan or multi-hazard mitigation plan under specified federal law that addresses seismic risk.

AB 744 – Planning and zoning: density bonuses. Current law prohibits a city, county, or city and county from requiring a vehicular parking ratio for a housing development that meets specified criteria in excess of specified ratios. Notwithstanding the above-described provisions, this bill additionally prohibits, at the request of the developer, a city, county, or city and county from imposing a vehicular parking ratio, inclusive of handicapped and guest parking, in excess of .5 spaces per bedroom on a development that includes the maximum percentage of low- or very low-income units, as specified, and is located within 1/2 mile of a major transit stop, as defined, and there is unobstructed access to the transit stop from the development.

SB 761 – Advertising: Internet private residence rental listings: notice. Requires a hosting platform, as defined, to provide a specific notice to an occupant listing a residence for short-term rental on a hosting platform that states, among other things, that, if the occupant is a tenant, listing the room, home, condominium, or apartment may violate the lease or contract and could result in legal action by the landlord, including possible eviction.

AB 809 – Local initiative measures: ballot printing specifications. Current law requires that the ballots used when voting on a proposed county, city, or district ordinance submitted to the voters as an initiative measure have printed on them specified text relating to the proposed ordinance and dictates the placement of that text. This bill also requires that, if the ordinance proposes to impose a tax or raise the rate of a tax to be levied, the ballot include in the statement of the ordinance the amount of money to be raised annually and the rate and duration of the tax to be levied.

AB 848 – Alcoholism and drug abuse treatment facilities. Current law requires the State Department of Health Care Services to license adult alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities, as defined. This bill authorizes an adult alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility that is licensed under those provisions to allow a licensed physician and surgeon or other health care practitioner, as defined, to provide incidental medical services, as defined, to a resident of the facility at the facility premises under specified limited circumstances.

AB 851 – Local government: organization: disincorporations. Current law authorizes a local agency that is conducting proceedings for the incorporation of a city, formation of a district, change of organization, a reorganization, a change of organization of a city, or a municipal reorganization to propose the adoption of a special tax on behalf of the affected city or district in accordance with this procedure. This bill additionally authorizes a local agency conducting proceedings for the disincorporation of a city to propose the adoption of a special tax on behalf of an affected city in accordance with the above-described procedure.

AB 852 – Public works: prevailing wages.
Expands the definition of “public works,” for the purposes of provisions relating to the prevailing rate of per diem wages, to also include any construction, alteration, demolition, installation, or repair work done under private contract on a project for a general acute care hospital, except on a project for a rural general acute care hospital with a maximum of 76 beds, when the project is paid for, in whole or in part, with the proceeds of conduit revenue bonds, as defined, that were issued on or after Jan. 1, 2016. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.

AB 856 – Invasion of privacy. Expands liability for physical invasion of privacy to additionally include a person knowingly entering into the airspace above the land of another person without permission, as provided.

AB 901 – Solid waste: reporting requirements: enforcement. The California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989, administered by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, generally regulates the disposal, management, and recycling of solid waste. This bill revises specified provisions by, among other things, 1.) requiring recycling and composting operations and facilities to submit specified information directly to the Department, rather than to counties, 2.) requiring disposal facility operators to submit tonnage information to the Department, and to counties only on request, and 3.) deleting the requirement for counties to submit that information to cities, regional agencies and the Department.

AB 952 – Local government: vacancies. Provides that if a city council fills a vacancy in an elective office by appointment, and that vacancy occurred in the first half of the term of office and at least 130 days prior to the next general municipal election, the person appointed to fill the vacancy holds office until the next general municipal election at which a person is elected to fill that vacancy, and thereafter, until the person elected is qualified.

AB 953 – Law enforcement: racial profiling. Enacts the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, which, among other changes, revises the definition of racial profiling to instead refer to racial or identity profiling, and makes a conforming change to the prohibition against peace officers engaging in that practice.

AB 990 – Political Reform Act of 1974: advertisement disclosures.
The Political Reform Act of 1974 imposes various disclosure statement requirements with respect to advertisements supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot measure. This bill requires that disclosure statements be printed in no less than 14-point bold, sans serif type font. The bill requires that an advertisement supporting or opposing a candidate that is paid for by an independent expenditure include a disclosure statement with specific content and, if the advertisement is mailed, it requires that the disclosure statement be located within a quarter of an inch of the recipient’s name and address and be contained within a box that meets prescribed criteria.

AB 1020 (& AB 1461) – Expanded options for voter registration. AB 1020 authorizes persons to pre-register to vote in an election if that person is at least 16 years of age and makes other voter registration changes applicable to local elections officials.

AB 1077 – Mutual water companies: open meetings.
Prohibits a mutual water company from meeting solely in an executive session without holding a meeting. The bill requires notice of a meeting to be given to an eligible person at least four days prior to the meetings. The bill also requires a board of directors of a mutual water company to allow an eligible person to personally attend a meeting of the board, if the eligible person gave the board at least 24 hours advance written notice of his or her intent to personally attend the meeting.

AB 1119 – Public utilities: municipal corporations: rights of way. Requires a municipal corporation, before using any street, alley, avenue or highway within any other municipal corporation or county, to request of the municipal corporation or county that has control over the street, alley, avenue or highway to agree with it upon the location of the use and the terms and conditions to which the use shall be subject. This bill contains other related provisions and other existing laws.

AB 1164 – Water conservation: drought tolerant landscaping. Prohibits a city, including a charter city, county, and city and county, from enacting or enforcing any ordinance or regulation that prohibits the installation of drought tolerant landscaping, synthetic grass or artificial turf on residential property, as specified. The bill additionally states that this is an issue of statewide concern. This bill contains other related provisions.

AB 1191 – Quimby Act: fees. This bill defines the term “fee,” as used in the Quimby Act with regard to the expenditure of fees, to include any interest income generated from a fee charged and collected pursuant to that Act. The bill provides that these provisions are declaratory of current law.

AB 1194 – Mental health: involuntary commitment. Under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, when a person, as a result of mental health disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled, he or she may, upon probable cause, be taken into custody and placed in a facility for 72-hour treatment and evaluation. This bill provides that, when determining if a person should be taken into custody pursuant to specified provisions, the individual making that determination shall consider available relevant information about the historical course of the person’s mental disorder if the individual concludes that the information has a reasonable bearing on the determination, and that the individual shall not be limited to consideration of the danger of imminent harm.

AB 1222 – Tow trucks
. Current law makes it a misdemeanor for the owner or operator of a tow truck to stop at the scene of an accident or near a disabled vehicle for the purpose of soliciting an engagement for towing services, either directly or indirectly, or to furnish any towing services, unless summoned to the scene, requested to stop, or flagged down by the owner or operator of a disabled vehicle, or requested to perform the service by a law enforcement officer or public agency pursuant to that agency’s procedures. This bill applies those provisions to a towing company.

AB 1303 – Subdivision Map Act: map expiration dates. Extends, by 24 months, the expiration date of any approved tentative map or vesting tentative map that was approved on or after Jan. 1, 2002, and not later than July 11, 2013, within a county that meets certain criteria, except as specified. The bill additionally requires the extension of an approved or conditionally approved tentative map or vesting tentative map, or parcel map for which a tentative map or vesting tentative map was approved on or before Dec. 31, 2001, upon application by the subdivider at least 90 days prior to the expiration of the map, as specified.

AB 1461 (& AB 1020) – Expanded options for voter registration
. AB 1461 requires the Secretary of State and Department of Motor Vehicles to establish the California New Motor Voter Program. Under this program, the DMV is required to electronically provide to the Secretary of State the records of a person issued an original or renewal driver’s license or state identification card. That person is automatically registered to vote unless s/he affirmatively declines to be registered to vote or is deemed to be ineligible to vote.

AB 1533 – Infrastructure financing
. The Bergeson-Peace Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank Act makes findings and declarations, provides definitions and authorizes the board to take various actions in connection with the bank, including the issuance of bonds, as specified. This bill, among other things, revises the definition of economic development facilities to include facilities that are used to provide goods movement and defines goods movement-related infrastructure. The bill revises the definition of port facilities to specifically reference airports, landports, waterports and railports.

AB 1544 – Political Reform Act of 1974: behested payments
. The Political Reform Act of 1974 provides for the comprehensive regulation of campaign financing and related matters, including campaign contributions, as defined. This bill provides that the provision relating to payments made by a government agency exclusively governs a payment by a governmental agency that is made principally for legislative or governmental purposes at the behest of a candidate who is an elected officer, and consequently the payment is not subject to the reporting requirement that applies generally to payments made for legislative, governmental, or charitable purposes.

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Asmundson_Sigrid-c1Sigrid K. Asmundson is of counsel in Best Best & Krieger’s Municipal Law practice group in the firm’s Sacramento office. She serves as general and special counsel to multiple public agencies providing advice on various aspects of local governance including the Brown Act, conflict of interest, election laws, redevelopment agency dissolution, affordable housing and disclosure of public records. She can be reached

Priest_William-c1William J. “Jim” Priest is of counsel in the Municipal Law practice group of Best Best & Krieger LLP in the firm’s Ontario office. He frequently advises clients on issues regarding the Brown Act, the Public Records Act and similar laws. In addition, his areas of focus include public finance, elections, land use, ethics, public works and telecommunications law. He can be reached at

Ferguson_Jordan-c1Jordan Ferguson is an associate in Best Best & Krieger’s Los Angeles office. A member of the Municipal Law and Special Districts practice groups, Ferguson is well-versed in the issues of emerging technologies and the sharing economy, conflicts of interest, free speech regulations, privacy rights, the Brown Act, public safety regulations and elections law matters. He can be reached at

Steele_Krysten-c1Krysten Steele is a paralegal in the Municipal Law practice group of Best Best & Krieger LLP. Her work as a paralegal focuses on municipal law, public policy and ethics compliance and litigation.