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Declarations of Existing Law in California Statutes

What does ‘This section is declaratory of existing law’ mean?

By Chris Micheli, January 22, 2022 11:07 am

In California statutes, readers may come across the following or a similarly-worded phrase: “This section is declaratory of existing law.” What does that mean? Basically, it is an effort by the Legislature to provide retroactive effect to a change in the law made after the original statute’s enactment.

As readers might imagine, there are general principles applied by the judiciary in this state to determine whether, and to what extent, the judicial branch will give full effect to these legislative statements. The general rule is that the judiciary will apply such a statement, but that will not occur in all instances.

There are over 180 instances of the phrase being used in California law. The following are some different examples taken from different Codes:

Business and Professions Code Section 6062 dealing with admission to the practice of law states: “The amendments to this section made at the 1997–98 Regular Session of the Legislature shall be applicable on and after January 1, 1997, and do not constitute a change in, but are declaratory of, existing law.”

Civil Code Section 1714.45 dealing with obligations imposed by law states: “This section is intended to be declarative of and does not alter or amend existing California law, including Cronin v. J.B.E. Olson Corp. (1972), 8 Cal. 3d 121, and shall apply to all product liability actions pending on, or commenced after, January 1, 1988.”

Civil Code Section 1917.005 relating to shared appreciate loans states: “This section is declaratory of existing law.”

Code of Civil Procedure Section 762.090 relating to defendants in quiet title actions states: “This section does not constitute a change in, but is declaratory of, existing law.”

Education Code Section 35160.2 relating to powers and duties of school districts states: “This section shall be interpreted to be declaratory of existing law.”

Government Code Section 6502.7 relating to joint powers agreements states: “The provisions of this section are declaratory of existing law and do not limit any authority which already exists.”

Government Code Section 12940 dealing with unlawful employment and housing practices states: “The provisions of this subdivision are declaratory of existing, except for the new duties imposed on employers with regard to harassment.”

Government Code Section 27388.1 dealing with fees to county recorders states: “The Legislature finds and declares that subparagraph (D) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a), as added by the act adding this subdivision, reflects the original intent of the Legislature in enacting this section and is therefore not a change in, but is declaratory of, existing law.”

Government Code Section 26720.5 relating to fees paid states: “This section is declaratory of existing law, and the enumeration in this section of fees to be waived shall not be construed to limit the power of the court to waive fees in other instances.”

Government Code Section 53060.4 relating to general powers and duties common to local agencies states: “The Legislature finds and declares that these provisions do not constitute a change in, but are declaratory of, existing law.”

Government Code Section 64622 relating to commercial linkage fees states: “This section is declaratory of existing law and shall not be construed or interpreted as creating new law or as modifying or changing existing law.”

Health and Safety Code Section 11365 dealing with offenses and provisions of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act states: “This subdivision is declaratory of existing law as expressed in People v. Cressey (1970) 2 Cal. 3d 836.”

Health and Safety Code Section 17929 dealing with the regulation of buildings used for human habitation states: “This section is declaratory of existing law.  Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the application of existing law.”

Health and Safety Code Section 25215.1.15 dealing with metal-containing jewelry states: “The Legislature finds and declares that the addition of this section during the 2007-08 Regular Session of the Legislature is declaratory of existing law.”

Health and Safety Code Section 50150 relating to housing agency and department responsibilities states: “It is declaratory of existing law as to those roles and responsibilities, and shall not be construed as creating additional responsibilities.”

Insurance Code Section 1871.6 relating to false and fraudulent claims in insurance cases states: “This section is declaratory of existing law and shall not be interpreted to limit the applicability of Section 781 of the Penal Code to any other criminal provisions.”

Labor Code Section 4904 dealing with payment and assignment of workers’ compensation claims states: “The amendments made to this section by the act adding this subdivision are declaratory of existing law, and shall not constitute good cause to reopen, rescind, or amend any final order, decision, or award of the appeals board.”

Penal Code Section 422.56 relating to civil rights definitions states: “This definition is declaratory of existing law.” In addition, it states: “This subdivision does not constitute a change in, but is declaratory of, existing law under In re M.S. (1995) 10 Cal.4th 698 and People v. Superior Court (Aishman) (1995) 10 Cal.4th 735.”

Penal Code Section 30510 dealing with assault weapons states: “This section is declaratory of existing law and a clarification of the law and the Legislature’s intent.”

Public Resources Code Section 21168.7 relating to limitations in environmental quality states: “Sections 21168 and 21168.5 are declaratory of existing law with respect to the judicial review of determinations or decisions of public agencies made pursuant to this division.”

Public Utilities Code Section 366.1 dealing with requirements for the Public Utilities Commission states: “The Legislature finds and declares that the provisions in this subdivision are consistent with the requirements of Section 360.5 and Division 27 (commencing with Section 80000) of the Water Code, and are therefore declaratory of existing law.”

Public Utilities Code Section 366.2 dealing with requirements for the Public Utilities Commission states: “The Legislature finds and declares that this subdivision is consistent with the requirements of Division 27 (commencing with Section 80000) of the Water Code and Section 360.5 of this code, and is therefore declaratory of existing law.”

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 827.11 dealing with the records of wards and dependent children states: “This section is declaratory of existing law and is not intended to impose a new program or higher level of service upon any local agency. It is intended, however, that this restatement of existing law should engender a renewed sense of commitment to engaging foster parents in order to provide quality care to children and youth in foster care.”

Welfare and Institutions Code Section 16818 dealing with local health care budgeting states: “This section is declaratory of existing law and shall not be interpreted to constitute a new mandate.”

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