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New Year ushers in new laws

January 3, 2012

One of the state’s new laws for 2012 will allow eligible female employees to take four months of pregnancy disability leave. Photo courtesy metrocreativeconnections

A bevy of new laws will go into effect in California in 2012. Several of the new laws address homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues while others deal with carrying a handgun, illegal immigration and Internet sales tax. In all, more than 750 new laws are slated to go into effect on Jan. 1 or July 1.
Locally, there are some fee increases at the county level, such as for filing California Environmental Quality Act documents. Filings for Negative Declarations or Mitigated Negative Declarations will increase from $2,044 to $2,101.50 and Environmental Impact Reports will rise from $2,839.25 to $2,919. Fees for birth and death certificates from the county have also risen.
Beginning on Jan. 1, children under age 8 must be buckled into a car seat or booster seat and they must ride in the back seat. And, children 8 or older who are not tall enough for the seat belt to fit properly must also ride in a booster or car seat. A child who is under 8 years old but is 4 feet, 9 inches or taller may ride in the back seat with a lap/shoulder belt.
This new age and height requirement has been raised from the previous requirement that children remain in a booster seat until the age of 6 or until they weighed 60 pounds.
Also affecting some California drivers is a generous pardon offered by the state. The California Legislature has mandated a one-time amnesty period for overdue traffic tickets that allows for a single payment of 50 percent of the outstanding balance on certain violations, per Assembly Bill 1358. Only traffic tickets that were due to be paid before Jan. 1, 2009 are eligible. Parking tickets, driving under the influence, and reckless driving cases are not eligible.
The program runs from Jan. 1 to June 30.
Going into effect in the summer of 2012, out-of-state Internet retailers with a presence in California must collect California sales tax on transactions.
There is a law that will, with some exceptions, make it illegal to openly carry an unloaded handgun.
Another law, Senate Bill 299, will allow eligible female employees to take four months of pregnancy disability leave.
California will also became the first state in the nation to require a prescription for obtaining any drug containing dextromethorphan, an ingredient found in many popular over-the-counter cough suppressants, including Robitussin, NyQuil and Dimetapp.
Governor Jerry Brown and legislators are addressing illegal immigration with education. A new bill would allow students who have entered the country illegally to receive financial aid from private financiers at public colleges.
There is also a list of new laws in the state addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality and history.
SB 48, also known as the FAIR Education Act states, “This bill would update references to certain categories of persons and additionally would require instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.”
There are also laws to combat gay bullying. Brown signed AB 9 Seth’s Law, a bill named in memory of Seth Walsh, in October and it will go into effect in July 2012. Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi, committed suicide last year, reportedly after enduring bullying in school for being gay.
Other laws affecting LGBT citizens include anti-harassment and equal access at state universities and colleges and mandating non-discrimination policies for employers with large-dollar state contracts. Another new law allows gay couples that were married in California, but are now living in another state, to divorce each other if the state they currently reside in rejects the couple’s request for separation.
There are several new laws that will affect specifically transgender people, or those who identify with the gender other than the one they were born with. New laws will provide protection in education, housing and employment for gender identity and expression. AB 887 “requires an employer to allow an employee to appear or dress consistently with the employee’s gender expression, in addition to with the employee’s gender identity.”
Another bill will make it easier for transgender Californians to get a court petition to change their gender on official documents.
New laws in other states include a ban on happy hour in Utah; mandatory legal worker verification in Alabama and Georgia; while Kansas, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas will require voters to present photo identification; and Florida’s taking control of its school lunch program by allowing more Florida-grown food to be served to students.
The new law in Utah will ban drink specials at bars and restaurants, essentially banning happy hour.
In Nevada, fire performers and apprentices must apply to the state fire marshal for certificate of registration.

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