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Another Part of the Job: Understanding and Implementing Changes to California Law

Author: Erin Clausen
Date: 2/2/2024 3:19 PM

The Office of the Clerk-Recorder is responsible for a wide variety of duties, almost all of which must adhere to state laws and regulations. This means that another important function of the department is understanding exactly how California's newest laws impact our services.

When we rang in a new year January 1, California introduced a wide range of new and updated laws that touch on many different aspects of life in this state. Among the most noteworthy changes:

- improvements in camping reservation systems

- protections for cannabis users outside of work

- the prohibition of the term 'excited delirium' by coroners

- enhanced penalties for child sex trafficking

- reforms in concealed carry weapon regulations

- updates to conservatorship laws

- the legalization of cruising

- the introduction of Ebony Alert for missing Black children and young women

- significant wage increases for fast-food workers

- stricter fentanyl trafficking penalties

- bans on gas-powered outdoor equipment sales

- the equalization of penalties for hate symbols

- facilitation of low-income housing by religious institutions and nonprofit colleges

- a minimum wage increase, mobile opioid treatment access

- the invalidation of noncompete agreements post-employment

- expanded paid sick leave provisions​

While the changes listed above are intriguingly diverse, here at the Clerk-Recorder’s Office we are charged with the implementation of new and updated laws that impact our services, from recording official records to how elections are conducted.

This year, there was a notable update to the laws that govern Fictitious Business Name filings. Previously, all filings required a home address to be listed for the business owners (registrants). The updated law now allows registrants to list a business mailing address instead, allowing the County Clerk to eliminate personal information from the public record and provide more privacy and security to the public regarding home addresses and searchability.

In another big update, the State legislature passed a law that allows for notaries public to register to perform Remote Online Notarization, though it does not take effect until January 1, 2030, or when the Secretary of State’s office certifies the completion of technology to administer the program.

A big step forward for property owner protection, AB 1345 puts limitations on exclusive listing agreements. Homeowners looking to sell their home can sometimes be presented with exclusive right to list agreements between the real estate agent and the homeowner to provide the agent or broker the exclusive right to market and sell the home. Recently, a predatory practice of offering homeowners cash up front to enter a 40-year exclusive right to list agreement has been targeting unsuspecting and cash-strapped homeowners. The agreements offer between $300 to $5,000 to give the exclusive listing rights for the property if it is sold within the agreement time frame, which carries a penalty of a percentage of the value of the property if the contract is canceled or a different real estate agency is used. This new law makes it unlawful to present for recording or attempt to record an exclusive listing agreement lasting longer than 12 months.

On the Elections side, 21 different bills affected dozens of sections of legislative code. In one example, AB 292 made changes to EC 13502 and added Section 13502.5, which spelled out new language that must be printed directly onto the nonpartisan Presidential Primary ballots of voters registered as No Party Preference; the language outlines how NPP voters can request a party ballot if they choose.

In another example of updated code, EC 2201 now stipulates the requirements for canceling voter registration in several specific cases, including death – which makes sense, on the face of it. The required steps include sending a written notice to the newly deceased, which can come across as making perhaps a little less sense. Per the code:

(c) (1) Between 15 and 30 days, inclusive, before canceling a person’s registration for the reasons specified in paragraphs (2), (3), (5), or (6) of subdivision (a), the county elections official shall send a forwardable notice by first-class mail, including a postage-paid and preaddressed return form, to the person.

(A) The notice shall be provided in the person’s preferred language if the county is required to provide translated ballots in that language pursuant to Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. Sec. 10503).
(B) The notice shall include a statement substantially similar to the following:

“IMPORTANT NOTICE. Your voter registration record is scheduled to be canceled on [date]. This cancellation is due to information the [county name] County elections office has received indicating your ineligibility to vote in that county due to a change of residence, death, mental incapacity to vote, or a prison commitment pursuant to Sections 2208, 2209, 2210, or 2211 of the California Elections Code, as applicable.

If you believe this cancellation is an error, please notify our office within 15 days from the date of this notice either by returning the attached postage-paid postcard or by calling [county elections office phone number] toll free.

If we do not receive your response to this notice, you may be required to reregister to vote in the next election or to vote using a provisional ballot. You can find more information about voter eligibility rules on the Secretary of State’s internet website at [URL] or voter hotline at [phone numbers]. You can also check your current registration status at [URL].”

In short, a new year brings many new laws – these are just a handful of examples – and understanding and implementing the relevant laws and changes to code are another part of the job here at the office of your SLO County Clerk-Recorder.