New Year, equals new laws
While the last week of the year is primarily used for returning unwanted gifts, those same gifts will cost a little more the next four Christmases in California.
As of Jan. 1, sales and use tax statewide increased by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) as part of the voter approved Proposition 30, which raised sales tax to prevent deeper education cuts by the State. The new law means sales tax will increase in every County and City across the State. The following is a list of the new sales tax rates in our area: Exeter (8%), Lindsay (8%), Farmersville (8.5%), Woodlake (8%) and unincorporated communities (8%). The higher tax rate will apply for four years through Dec. 31, 2016.
Prop. 30 was passed in addition to more than 800 bills signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. Many of the new laws revolve around what we can do behind the wheel. The following is a summary of some of the new driving laws that took effect on Jan. 1, 2013:
• Driving Under the Influence (AB 2020, Pan). The law no longer allows a person who has been arrested and is suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs, the option of a urine test. Prior to this change, a person had the option of submitting either urine or blood to determine the drug content of their blood.
• Charter-Party Carriers of Passengers (AB 45, Chesbro). This new law prohibits underage drinking in charter-party carriers (limos, buses, etc.) and makes the carrier and driver responsible for communicating this to their passengers. The law also requires a designee, who is at least 25 years of age, to be present whenever there are passengers who are under 21 years of age on board the vehicle and alcohol is being transported. The designee shall be responsible for ensuring the rules are followed, and the safety of the underage passengers throughout the duration of the trip.
• Electronic Wireless Communications (AB 1536, Miller). This law allows California drivers to use hands-free technology to talk and text while driving. This will require the use of a device that is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send or listen to a text-based communication. The device is required to also be used in a voice-operated, hands-free manner to be in compliance with the law.
• Financial Responsibility and Insurance (AB 1708, Gatto). Drivers will now have the option of providing proof of insurance and registration on an electronic device (smartphone, tablet, etc.), when it is requested by law enforcement.
• Autonomous Vehicles (SB 1298, Padilla). This new law allows driverless cars to be operated on public roads for testing purposes, provided that each vehicle has a fully licensed and bonded operator in the driver’s seat to take control if necessary. The bill also instructs the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern the licensing, bonding, testing and operation of autonomous vehicle technology.
• Emergency Services: Seniors (SB 1047, Alquist). Similar to an AMBER Alert, the CHP would activate a “Silver Alert” upon request if a person, age 65 or older, is reported missing to a law enforcement agency and that agency determines that certain criteria is met. The criteria includes: the person is missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances or the law enforcement agency believes the person is in danger due to age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions; the person is in the company of a potentially dangerous person; or there are other factors indicating that the person may be in peril. Finally, there is information available, if given to the public, may assist in the safe recovery of the missing person.
• Driver License (AB 2189, Cedillo). This law allows a driver’s license applicant who provides satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the United States is authorized under federal law, but who is not eligible for a social security account number, is eligible to receive an original driver’s license if he or she meets all other qualifications for licensure.
• Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems (SB 1303, Simitian). This new law establishes consistency in the operations of red-light enforcement cameras throughout the state by requiring governmental agencies to follow specified guidelines regarding intersections, signage, and the notice to appear.
• License Plate Obstruction or Alteration (AB 2489, Hall). This new law prevents the altering and positioning of license plates from its original markings and clarifies the penalty imposed for obscuring the readability of license plates.
• Child Passenger Restraints (AB 1452, Hill). Hospitals, clinics, and birthing centers will now be required to provide and discuss contact information regarding child safety seat requirements, installation, and inspection to parents and caregivers upon discharge of a child, if the child is less than eight years of age.
There are also two new laws related to recreational off-highway vehicles. One (AB1595, Cook) defines an off-highway motor vehicle to include a recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV) and establishes additional requirements governing its safe operation. The other law (AB 1266, Cook), which goes into effect July 1, 2013, prohibits a passenger in an ROV from riding in a seat location not designed and provided by the manufacturer. It also prohibits operation of the ROV if the passenger is not seated with both feet on the floorboard and able to grab the occupant handhold with the seat belt and shoulder belt or safety harness fastened.
The following is a list of several other laws which have significance in our area. For complete information on chaptered bills enacted in 2012, please refer to the Legislative Counsel website at www.LegInfo.ca.gov.
Assembly Bills Signed Into Law
AB 216 - Voters, residency confirmation. This bill would permit a county elections official, in lieu of mailing a residency confirmation postcard, to contract with a consumer credit reporting agency or its licensees to obtain change-of-address data. If the county elections official contracts with a consumer credit reporting agency or its licensees, this bill would require the county elections official, based on the change-of-address information received, to send a specified forwardable notice to the registered voter to enable the voter to verify or correct the address information. If the voter responds to the forwardable notice, or otherwise verifies in writing his or her new residence address, this bill would require the county elections official, as appropriate, to correct or cancel the voter’s registration.
AB 278 - California Homeowner Bill of Rights. Halts the “abusive tactics” of loan servicers and protects struggling homeowners who are trying, in good faith, to renegotiate their mortgages.
AB 317 - Mobile homes. The bill would revise the above-described document to include language advising prospective homeowners that if they do not occupy the mobilehome as their principal residence, those homeowners may be no longer subject to any local ordinances, rules, regulations, or initiative measures limiting or restricting rent in mobilehome parks.
AB 340 - Pension Reform Law. Requires current state employees and all new public employees to pay for at least 50 percent of their pensions and establishes this as the norm for all public workers in California. Eliminates state-imposed barriers that have prevented local governments from increasing employee contributions. Bans abusive practices used to enhance pension payouts.
AB 970 - University of California and California State University, system-wide student fees. Establishes requirements and timeframes for the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) regarding the approval and implementation of student fee increases, and requires the segments to report annually on their use of student fee revenues.
AB 1083 - Health care coverage. Reforms California’s small group health insurance laws to enact the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). This bill eliminates preexisting condition requirements and establishes premium rating factors based only on age, family size and geographic regions, except for grandfathered plans. New guaranteed issue provisions and the rating provisions are tied to those provisions in the ACA.
AB 1436 - Voter Registration. Allows same-day voter registration, giving Californians the right to vote with a provisional ballot if the conditional voter registration is deemed effective. Same-day registration will be permitted once the Secretary of State certifies California’s new statewide voter database, VoteCal.
AB 1451 - High school athletics, California High School Coaching Education and Training Program. This bill would include a basic understanding of the signs and symptoms of concussions and the appropriate response to concussions within the description of training. The bill would authorize concussion training to be fulfilled through entities offering free, online, or other types of training courses.
AB 1452 - Vehicles, child passenger restraints. Adds a requirement to the existing Booster Seat Law that parents be notified about where, and at no cost, the child passenger restraint system can be inspected and proper installation instruction can be given.
AB 1616 - Food safety, cottage food operations. California Homemade Food Law. Clears the way for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to begin selling homemade food products to stores, restaurants and directly to the public. Read California Homemade Food Law for more.
AB 1844 - Social media privacy. Prohibits employers from demanding user names, passwords or any other information related to social media accounts from employees and job applicants. Employers are banned from discharging or disciplining employees who refuse to divulge such information under the terms of the bill. This restriction does not apply to passwords or other information used to access employer-issued electronic devices. The new privacy law is not intended to infringe on employers’ existing rights and obligations to investigate workplace misconduct.
AB 1971 - Theft of junk, metals, and secondhand materials. Increases the penalty for those trying to sell or those accepting stolen metals and second hand material from $250 to $1,000.
AB 2284 - Irrigation. Illegal Narcotics Growing Abatement. Allows law enforcement to pull over vehicles on forest roads with visible irrigation supplies to question the driver. Law aims to stop irrigation of illegal marijuana grows.
AB 2348 - California Birth Control Law. Allows registered nurses statewide to start handing out drugs, including birth control, without a doctor’s signature and without the patient seeing a doctor.
AB 2367 - School gardens, sale of produce. Allows schools to sell produce from their school gardens as long as existing health and safety requirements are met.
AB 2368 - School security, security departments, school police departments. This bill would authorize the governing board of a school district to establish a school police department under the supervision of a school chief of police, and would authorize the employment of peace officers, as defined, to ensure the safety of school district personnel and pupils, and the security of the real and personal property of the school district. The bill would also express the intent of the Legislature that only a school district security department is supplementary to city and county law enforcement agencies and is not vested with general police powers.
AB 2370 - Mental retardation. Change official term to “intellectual disabilities.”
AB 2386 - Employment and housing discrimination, sex, breastfeeding. Expands the definition of “sex” under the Fair Employment and Housing Act to include breastfeeding. New law says that if an employer holds it against a female because she breastfeeds or might breastfeed, it is a form of gender or sex discrimination.
AB 2410 - California Elective Office Felony Conviction Law. Permanently bans elected officials and others from running for elective office in California if they are convicted of a felony involving a violation of the public trust.
AB 2537 - Pupil discipline, suspensions and expulsions. Clarifies that possessing an imitation firearm, over-the-counter medicine or student’s prescription medicines are not “zero tolerance” offences that automatically require expulsion. Eliminates an existing $500 fine imposed on a principal who fail to notify law enforcement of certain crimes allegedly committed by students.
Senate Bills Signed Into Law
SB 900 - California Homeowner Bill of Rights. Halts the “abusive tactics” of loan servicers and protects struggling homeowners who are trying, in good faith, to renegotiate their mortgages.
SB 1108 - English learners, reclassification. Requires the California Department of Education to analyze the way school districts reclassify English learners and recommend to the Legislature and state board any changes necessary to improve education in California.
SB 1145 - Animal fighting. Increases fines for animal fighting.
SB 1349 - Social media privacy. Prohibits public and private postsecondary educational institutions from requiring students, prospective students and student groups to disclose user names, passwords or other information about their use of social media. The new privacy law does not affect the institution’s right to investigate or punish student misconduct.
-SOURCES: www.californiality.com; www.leginfo.ca.gov; http://www.chp.ca.gov