New state laws in 2013

State of California Capitol

After braving through the Mayan Apocalypse, next up for Californians is a new year and a new batch of laws. Free college textbooks, driver’s licenses for select undocumented immigrants, extended tax breaks for the film and television industry and no more carrying shotguns out in the open are among hundreds of laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that take effect Jan. 1. 


To ease the often overwhelming costs of higher education, select popular college textbooks are set to become available as free online downloads. More than 50 common textbooks for University of California, California State University and California Community College students should be posted in an online database by the start of the 2013-2014 school year. (SB 1052/1053; Steinberg, D-Sacramento) 

For California colleges that take in $10 million in sports revenue annually—USC, UCLA, Stanford and UC Berkeley—athletes become eligible for added financial assistance if they suffer career-ending injuries and lose a sports scholarship or if they stop qualifying for NCAA sports before earning their degree. Every year, thousands of athletes suffer career-ending injuries and lose their chance to play, according to a report by the NCAA. (SB 1525; Padilla, D-Los Angeles) 

After a string of controversial tuition hikes in recent years, the UC and Cal State Boards of Regents must now consult with student groups before deciding on increases, along with providing reasons they deem the increases necessary. (AB 970; Fong, D-Cupertino) 

Internet privacy 

A new law bars employers from asking employees and prospective employees to provide their passwords for social media and email accounts. The practice became popular during the background check process for potential new hires. (AB 1844; Campos, D-San Jose) 


Young undocumented Californians will be eligible for driver’s licenses beginning next year if they qualify for a new federal work program. Gov. Brown’s signing of the law followed in the steps of President Obama’s decision to stop deporting young undocumented immigrants if they meet certain requirements, including if they are 30 years old or younger and came to the United States by the age of 16. Estimates indicate that 400,000 undocumented immigrants in California could qualify for driver’s licenses. (AB 2189; Cedillo, D-Los Angeles) 


Juveniles convicted to lifetime prison stints in California have a chance at early release after serving 25 years in prison if they show signs of remorse and spend time in rehabilitation programs. Supporters of the bill argued that the U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences teenagers to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The new law affects approximately 300 California inmates who were sentenced as teens. (SB 9; Yee, D-San Francisco) 

Gun rights 

A new bill outlaws openly carrying shotguns and rifles on the streets and malls of California cities. The bill is a response to gun rights activists who take long guns to coffee shops and other places as an expression of their right to bear arms, according to the Los Angeles Times. It gathered greater momentum this year after mass shootings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater and a Sikh temple in Milwaukee. A similar law last year banned the open carrying of handguns. The new bill does not apply to hunters, law enforcement personnel and others with specified licenses. (AB 1527; Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge) 

Gov. Brown also approved sawed-off shotguns as movie- and TV-set props. Otherwise, sawed-off shotguns are illegal in California. (AB 1559; Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge) 


The governor extended tax breaks to the film and television industry for two more years, making shows and movies filmed in California eligible for as much as $200 million in breaks, according to the Los Angeles Times. (AB 2026; Fuentes, D-Sylmar; SB 1197; Calderon, D-Montebello) 

Another new law blocks registered sex offenders from being hired as representatives for child actors. Those who work with child actors will be required to submit their names for background checks. (AB 1660; Campos, D-San Jose) 

Gay rights 

Gov. Brown outlawed gay conversion therapy practices on minors— efforts by therapists to convert minors’ sexual orientation. However, the law has been delayed pending a federal appeals trial. The law’s constitutionality is being debated by judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. (SB 1172; Lieu, D-Torrance) 


For parents who decide not to have their children vaccinated, they’ll need a signed waiver from a doctor verifying that they were warned of risks and benefits associated with opting out of vaccinations before registering their children for school. (AB 2109; Pan, D-Sacramento) 


Homeowners on the brink of losing their homes gained stronger protections, with state legislators banning banks from practicing “dual tracking”—renegotiating mortgage payments with struggling homeowners while simultaneously pursuing foreclosure against the homeowner. (AB 278/ SB 900; Eng, D-Alhambra and Leno, D-San Francisco)