New California Laws in 2021

It was an interesting year in the California legislature. While the number of new laws overall was significantly reduced compared to other years, of most interest are the numerous employment-related bills signed by Governor Newsom that carry with them a strong focus on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. All hope, of course, that the early promise of the new vaccines will ultimately shorten their relevance. Also included in this summary are some of the major changes affecting employers with California operations (including private practice physicians) in the new year.

Unless otherwise stated, all the laws discussed below took effect on January 1, 2021.

Enroll in Paperless Billing
CAP members can now sign up for paperless billing and enjoy the ease and convenience of managing their account online. Log in to your CAP member account and select "Setup Paperless Billing" to enroll.

Allied Healthcare Professionals
AB 890 (Wood, D-Santa Rosa) – Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners

Authorizes nurse practitioners who meet certain education, experience, and certification requirements to perform, in certain settings or organizations, specified functions without standardized procedures. Requires the Board of Registered Nursing, by regulation, to define minimum standards for a nurse practitioner to transition to practice without standardized procedures. Establishes the Nurse Practitioner Advisory Committee to advise and give recommendations to the BRN on matters relating to nurse practitioners. Specifies that nurse practitioners performing certain functions without standardized procedures in listed settings are eligible to serve on medical staffs and are subject to peer review. Requires the Department of Consumer Affairs' Office of Professional Examination Services to perform an occupational analysis to assess competencies and to develop a supplemental examination for nurse practitioners, if needed, based on the assessment.

SB 1237 (Dodd, D-Napa) – Scope of Practice of Nurse-Midwives

Authorizes a certified nurse-midwife to attend cases of low-risk pregnancy, as defined, and childbirth and to provide prenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum care, including family-planning services, inter-conception care, and immediate care of the newborn, as specified and as approved by the Board of Registered Nursing. Authorizes a certified nurse-midwife to practice with a physician and surgeon under mutually agreed upon policies and protocols that delineate the parameters for consultation, collaboration, and referral, and transfer of a patient's care, as specified. Requires certified nurse-practitioners not under supervision of a physician and surgeon to provide specified disclosures and to obtain a patient's written consent. Requires the Board of Registered Nursing to appoint the Nurse-Midwifery Advisory Committee, as specified, to make recommendations to the board.


SB 1447 (Bradford, D-Los Angeles) – Small Business Income Tax Credit

For each taxable year beginning on or after January 1, 2020, and before January 1, 2021, allows a qualified small business employer, as defined, that receives a tentative credit reservation, a credit in an amount equal to $1,000 for each net increase in qualified employees, up to $100,000 for any qualified small business employer.

Confidential Information

AB 2520 (Chiu, D-San Francisco) – Access to Medical Records

Requires a healthcare provider, as specified, to provide an employee of a nonprofit legal services entity who is representing a patient, a copy of medical records that are relevant to specified public benefit programs at no charge.

AB 2655 (Gipson, D-Carson) – Invasion of Privacy: First Responders

Makes it a misdemeanor for a first responder, as defined, who responds to the scene of an accident or crime to capture the photographic image of a deceased person for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or a genuine public interest. Requires an agency that employs first responders to notify those first responders of the prohibition.

COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

AB 685 (Reyes, D-San Bernardino) – Required Reporting of COVID-19 Imminent Hazard to Employees

Allows Cal/OSHA to issue Orders Prohibiting Use to shut down entire worksites, or specific worksite areas, that expose employees to an imminent hazard related to COVID-19. The law also enables Cal/OSHA to issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers 15 days’ notice before issuance.

Employers must immediately (within one business day of the notice of potential exposure) provide written notification to all employees at a worksite of potential exposures, COVID-19-related benefits and protections, and the disinfection and safety measures that will be taken at the worksite in response to the potential exposure.

In addition, employers must also notify local public health agencies of outbreaks within 48 hours of becoming aware of the “outbreak,” which is defined as three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among employees who live in different households within a two-week period.

AB-685 sunsets on January 1, 2023.

AB 1577 (Burke, D-Inglewood) – Income Taxes as It Relates to the Federal CARES Act 

For taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2020, excludes from gross income, for state income tax purposes, any covered loan amount forgiven pursuant to the federal CARES Act and its subsequent amendments in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act and the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020.

AB 1710 (Wood, D-Santa Rosa) – Pharmacy Practice and Vaccines

Authorizes a pharmacist to independently initiate and administer any COVID-19 vaccines approved or authorized by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as specified.

AB 2537 (Rodriguez, D-Pomona) – Personal Protective Equipment — Healthcare Employees

Requires public and private employers of workers in a general acute care hospital, as defined, to maintain a stockpile of personal protective equipment, as specified, to supply those employees who provide direct patient care or provide services that directly support personal care with the personal protective equipment, as specified, and to ensure that the employees use the personal protective equipment supplied to them.

SB 275 (Pan, D-Sacramento) – Personal Protective Equipment — Employers

Requires the Department of Public Health to establish a personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpile, as specified, and requires CDPH to establish guidelines for the procurement, management, and distribution of PPE. Requires healthcare employers, as defined, to establish a PPE inventory sufficient for at least 45 days of surge consumption.

SB 1159 (Hill, D-San Mateo) – Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19 Critical Workers

Defines “injury” for an employee to include illness or death resulting from the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) under specified circumstances, until January 1, 2023, and creates a disputable presumption, for purposes of awarding workers’ compensation benefits. This presumption, as created by the Governor’s executive order, was set to expire on July 5, 2020. SB 1159, however, extends this presumption beyond July 6, 2020, for firefighters, peace officers, fire and rescue coordinators, and certain kinds of
healthcare and health facility workers, including in-home supportive services providers who provide services outside their own home. Employees of an employer of five or more employees are also eligible for the disputable presumption up to January 1, 2023, if their workplace has experienced an “outbreak” of COVID-19 infections.

Healthcare Plans Reimbursement

AB 2157 (Wood, D-Santa Rosa) – Healthcare Coverage — Independent Dispute Resolution Process

Makes changes to the independent dispute resolution process established by AB 72 (Bonta, 2016), which limited the ability of out-of-network physicians to bill patients for non-emergent services provided at an in-network facility and established an interim payment rate for those services. Requires the procedures established by the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance for independent dispute resolution to include a process for each party to submit into evidence information that will be kept confidential from the other party and to specify that a de novo review of the claim dispute shall be conducted.

Prescribing and Dispensing

SB 852 (Pan, D-Sacramento) – Generic Prescription Drugs 

Requires the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) to enter partnerships, to increase patient access to affordable drugs, including entering into partnerships to produce or distribute generic prescription drugs as specified. Subject to appropriation by the Legislature, requires CHHSA to submit a report to the Legislature on or before July 1, 2023, assessing the feasibility and advantages of directly manufacturing generic prescription drugs and selling generic prescription drugs at a fair price.

Professional Licensing

AB 2273 (Bloom, D-Santa Monica) – Special Faculty Permits — Foreign Medical Graduates

Under current law, any person who meets certain eligibility requirements may apply for a special faculty permit that authorizes the holder to practice medicine, without a physician’s and surgeon’s certificate, within a medical school and certain affiliated institutions. This bill authorizes the holder of a special faculty permit, a visiting fellow, and a holder of a certificate of registration to practice medicine at an academic medical center.

AB 3330 (Calderon, D-Whittier) – Department of Consumer Affairs — Regulatory Fees

Beginning April 1, 2021, increases the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) fee from $6 annually to $11 and subsequently, beginning April 1, 2023, decreases the fee to $9.

Public Health

AB 2077 (Ting, D-San Francisco) – Hypodermic Needles and Syringes

Permits the sale of hypodermic needles and syringes to adults 18 years of age and older without a prescription and extends the sunset on current law authorizing a physician or pharmacist to furnish to adults, and for adults to obtain, hypodermic needles and syringes for personal use without a prescription until January 1, 2026.

Reporting Requirements

AB 2821 (Nazarian, D-North Hollywood) – Richard Paul Hemann Parkinson’s Disease Program 

Extends, until January 1, 2022, the operation of the Richard Paul Hemann Parkinson’s Disease Program, which, among other things, requires the State Department of Public Health to collect data on the incidence of Parkinson’s disease in California, as specified, and requires a hospital, facility, physician and surgeon, or other healthcare provider diagnosing or providing treatment to Parkinson’s disease patients to report each case of Parkinson’s disease to the department, as prescribed.

Reproductive Health

AB 2014 (Maienschein, D-San Diego) – Statue of Limitations for Medical Misconduct of Misuse of Sperm, Ova, or Embryos

Amends statute of limitations for filing a criminal complaint for crimes involving unlawful use or implantation of sperm, ova, or embryos from three years after the commission of the offense to one year after the discovery of the offense or within one year after the offense could have reasonably been discovered.

Workforce and Labor Issues

AB 1947 (Kalra, D-San Jose) – Employment Violation Complaints File Time Requirement

Extends the time that workers have to file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner for retaliation based on the exercise of workplace rights under the Labor Code from six months to 12 months from the time they believe a violation occurred and authorizes attorneys’ fees for a worker who prevails on a whistleblower claim.

AB 2017 (Mullin, D-S. San Francisco) – Employee Sick Leave for Kin Care

Current law requires an employer that provides sick leave for employees to permit an employee to use at least half of the employee’s accrued and available sick leave to attend to the illness of a family member (“kin care”). This bill amends the kin care law to provide that the designation of the sick leave is at the “sole discretion” of the employee. AB 2017 does not require employers to provide any additional paid time off — it simply clarifies who designates which type of sick leave is used when an employee uses a sick day.

AB 2143 (Stone, D-Santa Clara) – Settlement Agreements in Employment Disputes

Amends existing law prohibiting the use of no-rehire provisions in settlement agreements of employment-related disputes, except if the employer has made a good faith determination that the aggrieved party engaged in sexual harassment/assault, to allow an exception, permitting a no-rehire provision if the aggrieved party has engaged in criminal conduct. In order for the sexual harassment/sexual assault/criminal conduct exception to apply, an employer must have documented the conduct before the aggrieved party filed the claim against the employer. As with the prior law, no-hire agreements are permissible where there has been no claim against the employer in court, before an administrative agency, in an alternative dispute resolution forum, or through the employer’s internal complaint process.

AB 2992 (Weber, D-San Diego) – Employment Practices: Leave Time

Prohibits an employer from discharging, or discriminating or retaliating against, an employee who is a victim of crime or abuse for taking time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief, as prescribed.

SB 1383 (Jackson, D-Santa Barbara) – California Family Rights Act; Job-Protected Family Leave

Expands the California Family Rights Act to make it an unlawful employment practice for any employer with five or more employees to refuse to grant a request by an employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period to bond with a new child of the employee or to care for themselves or a child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner, as specified, and specifies that an employer who employs both parents of a child must grant leave to each employee. 

Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Public Affairs Analyst. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to