Last week, hundreds of new laws came into effect in California. Most of these laws are especially important to members of the state Senate and Assembly so that they can justify their salaries and perquisites. This year, some of these laws seem to have come into existence in order to bolster the state budget or to ensure that the state remains politically correct. A few may actually be needed.
On the road
In addition to the new fuel taxes, California vehicle owners will have to pay a value-based Transportation Improvement Fee, which will be added to the current vehicle registration fee. For cars with a value of less than $5,000, the fee is $25; for those in the $5,000 to $24,999 range, $50; $25,000 to $34,999, $100; $35,000 to 59,999, $150; and over $60,000, $175.
Bus safety is coming into line with automobile safety under a law authored by Sen. Jerry Hill that takes effect immediately. Bus drivers must inform “unbuckled” passengers to buckle up. If a passenger refuses, there is a $20 fine for a first offense, $50 for repeat offenses.
DUI rules become more strict for drivers under the banner of “ride hail” companies like Uber and Lyft. They can be cited for drunk driving if they have a blood-alcohol count of 0.04 percent. But, another law becomes a bit more lenient. Senator Steven Bradford’s bill allows drivers to obtain a single business license to drive anywhere in California, instead of the patchwork of permits required by various municipalities.
When authorities checked the name and date of birth of active holders of “disabled” placards against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, they found nearly 35,000 matches. New legislation requires the DMV to conduct quarterly audits of applications and to work with other agencies to verify the necessity for the permits. Moreover, current holders of such placards are required to reapply every four years.
The new laws governing the legalization of recreational marijuana have restrictions regarding road safety. While driving or even riding on California streets and highways, it is illegal to smoke or consume marijuana. First-time violation of the law is punishable with a $70 fine. Many law-enforcement officers believe that the law is not strict enough to protect the public safety.
California will phase in a new law over the next three years to clearly identify hazardous chemicals on all products from household cleansers to industrial products. Sen. Ricardo Lara, who authored the bill, stated, “The science is clear, and we have seen the data about how cleaning product chemicals affect parents, children, people with pre-existing conditions, and workers who use these products all day, every day.” His mother worked as a house cleaner.
Under a new law, farm animals can not be given antibiotics without a veterinarian’s prescription. Sen. Jerry Hill introduced this bill because the unnecessary use of antibiotics has been linked to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant diseases that affect about 2 million Americans each year and lead to around 23,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The AIDS “epidemic” in the United States is believed to have begun in California nearly 40 years ago. For decades, people who tested positive for HIV — the virus that causes the AIDS condition — could be charged with a felony in the Golden State for exposing a partner to the illness. That policy ends in 2018.
California schools have been required to provide reduced-cost lunches to children from low-income homes. Under a new law, schools cannot deny a lunch to a child whose parents haven’t paid the meal fee.
A new law governing the transportation of school children on buses and other means of transportation has been ushered in by the death of Paul Lee, a special-needs student who died after being left unattended for several hours in a bus on a hot day. The Paul Lee School Bus Safety Law requires school buses to have a child safety alert system that ensures that the driver will not leave a bus while any children are still onboard.
Because of a bill carried by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, middle schools and high schools in districts where at least 40 percent of students come from households that are under the federal poverty threshold are required to stock half their campus restrooms with free menstrual products. In an effort to keep poor students attending classes during their menstrual periods, Garcia created a “Tampon Barbie” to demonstrate the “medical necessity” for the accommodation.
• Beginning this year, traditional polling places will no longer be used. Ballots will be sent and cast by mail. Eventually, this will be the statewide method of voting, and four counties — Sacramento, San Mateo, Napa, and Nevada — will join Madera County in the initial phase of the shift to the new system.
• The state will now charge a fee to people who want to refinance a mortgage or make certain other real estate transactions. The $75 fee will be spent on providing low-cost housing to people in the state. At least that is the announced intention.
• During an interview with a potential employee, the employer will no longer be allowed to ask, “How much did you make at your last job?”
• A new law guarantees “gender neutrality” in the Golden State. Beginning in September, applicants for a new driver’s license will not be limited to the binary choice of male or female. The state will recognize transgender, intersex, or some other alternative to male/female on certain documents.
• California is one of the few states that provides diaper-changing stations in women’s restrooms. However, beginning 2018, these facilities must also be installed in restrooms for men in theaters, restaurants, and certain other buildings.
• The lowly bedbug did not escape the critical eye of the state’s lawmakers. Starting this year, all landlords must provide information about bedbugs to apartment renters. They must also present information about how to identify and report the presence of the pests, and they must follow new rules if an infestation is found.
• There are more than 200 other new laws. Let’s hope that neither you nor I break too many of them.
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Jim Glynn may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.