Legal Alerts Jan 05, 2021

New Public Agency Laws on Safety, Finance, Contracting and More

Part 1: New Laws Impacting California Public Agencies for 2021

With the unique challenges that 2020 brought, California lawmakers passed bills that addressed both the State’s ongoing problems, as well as laws responsive to the public health and economic crisis brought by COVID-19 and social justice issues. Public agencies in California were not immune to these critical problems and, as such, some of the new laws directly impact how local government agencies, including cities, counties and special districts, operate.
 
In our annual Legal Alert series, Best Best & Krieger LLP provides California public agencies with summaries of some of the most critical legislation to ensure they stay in compliance while working to serve their communities. All laws went into effect Jan. 1, unless otherwise noted. Where previous Legal Alerts on any new law or groupings of laws, links are provided to those.

Public Safety

AB 1945 Emergency services: first responders
This measure defines “first responder” as a state or local public agency employee who provides emergency response services. Previously, public safety dispatchers were classified as office and administrative support staff. Given the level of training, the duties performed and the on-the-job stress that dispatchers experience, this measure now broadens the classification of first responder to include public safety dispatchers. AB 1945 does not confer a benefit change to dispatchers, but ensures that they will receive priority access to any COVID-19 treatments that are developed.  

New Macro Cell Tower Emergency Generator Law in California - AB 2421 Land use: permitting: wireless communications: emergency standby generators

AB 846 Public employment: public officers or employees declared by law to be peace officers
Penal Code section 13519.4 prohibits peace officers from engaging in racial or identity profiling, and mandates Peace Officer Standards and Training courses to educate and reduce the practice of racial profiling by officers. However, studies show that POST courses, though necessary, may not be sufficient to reduce racial profiling. A recent report by the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board found that Black drivers in California were stopped by police 2.5 times the per capita rate of whites, and searched three times as often. This bill addresses the issue of racial profiling by shifting the focus away from officer training to the recruitment practices of local law enforcement agencies. The new law requires that job descriptions used to hire officers emphasize the skills of community interaction and problem solving over the militaristic aspects of the position. The bill also requires that the mental and physical evaluation of an officer identify any implicit and explicit bias against race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion or disability that would adversely affect the exercise of an officer’s powers.
 
AB 1196 Peace officers: use of force
In response to the violent death of George Floyd, AB 1196 was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gipson and co-authored by members of the California Black, Latino, LGBTQ and Asian and Pacific Islander legislative caucuses. The measure makes it illegal for law enforcement agencies to authorize the use of carotid restraint holds, or choke holds, by officers.
 
SB 1003 Skateboard parks: other wheeled recreational devices: safety and liability
In 2015, Health and Safety Code section 115800 was amended to include the riding of “other wheeled devices” in skateboard parks as a hazardous recreational activity, and gave qualified immunity to public entities if certain requirements were met. However, that amendment had a sunset date of Jan. 1, 2020, and said that, absent deletion or extension of this date, the statute would revert to its original application to skateboards alone. As the sunset date was not timely addressed, this measure amends section 115800 to again extend its provisions to cover “other wheeled recreational devices.” Other wheeled devices include non-motorized bicycles, scooters, inline skates, roller skates or wheel chairs used for recreational purposes. The amended section took immediate effect, covers any claim for injuries that occur on or after its enactment and does not include a sunset date.

Brown Act

AB 992: Open Meeting Laws and Social Media - AB 992 Open meetings: local agencies: social media

Political Reform Act

AB 2151 Political Reform Act of 1964: online filing and disclosure system
Under The Political Reform Act of 1974, a local government agency may require filings to be made online or electronically. This measure requires a local agency, when it receives a campaign finance disclosure filing in a hard copy, post the filing on its website within 72 hours. It also says that the filing must be available 4 years after the date of the election related to the filing. The local filing officer is required to redact any street name, building number and bank account number disclosed in the filing. 

Public Finance

SLONs Authorization Extended for California Special Districts - AB 2107 Local government: securitized limited obligation notes

SB 1386 Local government: assessments, fees, and charges: water: hydrants
Enacted in 1996, Proposition 218 limits a local government’s ability to impose, increase and extend property-related fees. This measure is a response to a class action suit filed in 2020 against 81 water agencies that alleged that the charging of ratepayers for water supplied for fire protection violated Proposition 218. The language of the measure is modeled on an unpublished decision in favor of water agencies, Glendale Coalition for Better Gov’t v. City of Glendale. The measure amends Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act to declare that water service is a property-related service separate from fire service, and water hydrants are public improvements included in the definition of water as set forth in the 1997 Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act. The measure provides that fees or charges for the aspects of water service related to hydrants and the water distributed through them, may be fixed and collected as a separate fee or charge, or included in other rates and charges fixed by a public agency. This measure allows water agencies to spread the cost to ratepayers without requiring a vote to increase taxes.

Public Contracting

AB 2231 Public works
California law generally requires that workers employed on a publicly funded project be paid prevailing wages. However, private development projects are exempt from this requirement if a state or political subdivision only provides a subsidy that is de minimis (lacking significance) in the context of the project. The common understanding has been that a subsidy of less than 2 percent of the project cost would be considered de minimis. This measure incorporates the requirement into the statute. A public subsidy is now considered de minimis if it is both less than $600,000 and less than 2 percent of the total project cost. A public subsidy for single-family residential projects is de minimis if it is less than 2 percent of the total project cost, regardless of the total amount of public funding. The new law will take effect on July 1, 2021.
 
AB 2311 Public contracts: skilled and trained workforce requirement: notice
This measure amends Public Contract Code section 2600 and provides that, when a public entity is required by law, or prefers to obtain an enforceable commitment that a bidder, contractor or other entity use a skilled and trained workforce to complete a contract or project, the public entity must include a notice in all bid documents and construction contracts that the project is subject to that requirement. The measure also adds section 2600.5, which says that the failure of a public entity to provide notice does not excuse the entity from the requirement, nor excuse a bidder, contractor or other entity from the obligation, to use a skilled or trained workforce if the requirement is imposed by law.
 
AB 2765 Public works: prevailing wages
This measure complements AB 2231 by expanding the definition of public works to broaden the payment of prevailing wage rates to workers. Previously, conduit bonds were not considered to be a public subsidy for determining the application of public works laws. By including into the definition of public works the construction, alteration, demolition, installation or repair work done under private contract for a charter school project that utilizes proceeds of conduit revenue bonds, this measure requires that prevailing wage rates will be paid to workers on these projects. The measure exempts charter schools that have an average daily attendance of 80 students or less, and applies to conduit bonds issued on or after Jan. 1, 2021.

Employment

AB 2967 Public Employees’ Retirement System: contracting agencies: exclusion from membership
This bill was enacted in response to a California city that decided to establish its own fire authority, and exclude new firefighters from its CalPERS contract to minimize costs. This bill ensures that a public agency cannot amend its CalPERS contract to exclude groups of employees that were previously included under the contract. However, a contract that already excludes groups of employees may be amended to clarify the exclusion without expanding its reach.
 
Coming Up:


Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts, facts specific to your situation or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information herein.

New Laws 2021 Roundup

New Laws 2021 Roundup

Best Best & Krieger LLP provides annual updates on legal developments that impact California public agencies and businesses. Find all the updates here!

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