School gardens, space flight, Facebook passwords, predatory lenders, suspicious irrigation equipment and reporting elder abuse are all the subject of new laws taking effect in the new year.
More than 800 Senate and Assembly bills were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown during 2012 and will go in effect throughout California on Jan. 1, 2013.
In addition to AB1616, the California Homemade Food Law (The Inyo Register, “Officials prepared to help cottage food businesses,” Dec. 22, 2012), laws that spread across 29 different categories of the state’s constitution will bring new regulations to California’s citizens, be they young or old, businesses large and small or state and local governments.
Here are summaries of just a few of these new laws:
• AB 2367, School Gardens: Sale of Produce, gives the green thumbs up to schools to sell produce from their school gardens as long as health and safety requirements are met.
• AB 2020, Driving Under the Influence, narrows options for persons who have been arrested and are suspected of driving under the influence. They no longer have the choice of a urine test. Now, a blood test will determine blood drug content.
• AB 1536, Electronic Wireless Communications, gives the greenlight to California drivers to legally talk and text while driving but only if they use “hands-free technology specifically designed for voice-operated, hands-free operation to dictate, send or listen to a text-based communication.”
• SB 1047, Emergency Services: Seniors, calls for the activation of a “Silver Alert” upon request if a person, age 65 or older, is legitimately reported missing under unexplained or suspicious circumstances or if law enforcement believes the person is in danger.
• AB 1844, Social Media Privacy, states that employers can’t demand that existing or prospective employees turn over their personal user names, passwords and other information related to social media accounts. Nor can they fire or discipline workers for refusing to divulge that information. This law doesn’t apply to information related to employer-issued electronic devices and doesn’t prevent employers from investigating workplace misconduct.
• AB 1708, Driver License, gives California drivers another greenlight. They may now show proof of insurance using Smart phones or other mobile electronic devices and, of course, old-school paper proof-of-insurance cards will still work, too.
• AB 40, Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Reporting, requires that suspected elder abuse resulting in “serious bodily harm,” occurring in a long-term care facility, be reported to local law enforcement within two hours of observation. Even if no bodily injury occurs, suspected abuse must be reported by phone and in writing within 24 hours of observation.
• AB 2269, Under Pupil Instruction, Labor History Month, hereafter dubs the month of May as Labor History Month and encourages school districts to commemorate that month with pertinent educational activities and lessons.
• AB 278, California Homeowner Bill of Rights, comes to the rescue of “struggling homeowners who are trying, in good faith, to renegotiate their mortgages.” It is aimed at putting a halt to the “abusive tactics” of “loan servicers.”
• AB 340, Pension Reform Law, requires “current state employees and all new public employees to pay for at least 50 percent of their pensions … eliminating barriers that have prevented the increase of employee contributions.”
• AB 2284, Irrigation, Illegal Narcotics Growing Abatement, sanctions “law enforcement to pull over vehicles on forest roads with visible irrigation supplies to question the driver.” It is aimed at cutting off the water supply to illegal marijuana agricultural enterprises.
• AB 2402, Department of Fish and Game, renames DFG as the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and makes related changes, such as to fee and permit structures and to funding and research programs. For the conservation-minded, rest assured that all supplies bearing the DFG stamp will still be used up, not tossed.
• AB 2243, Commercial Space Travel Liability, includes a sky-is-the-limit caveat which necessitates that space-flight companies get a signed statement from each flight participant, warning that there is “limited civil liability for bodily injury sustained as a result of the inherent risks associated with space flight activities.”
• AB 2274, Vexatious Litigants, permits courts to dismiss meritless lawsuits which are “filed only for the purpose of harassment or delay” and it closes a loophole that allowed “vexatious litigants” to avoid closer scrutiny of their lawsuits.
• AB 2368, School Police and Security Departments, authorizes governing school boards to establish a school police department and employ peace officers to ensure the safety of the district’s staff, students and property, as entities that are supplementary to city and county law enforcement agencies.
With more than 700 additional new pieces of legislation to peruse, Earl Warren, 14th Chief Justice of the United States from 1953-1969, reminds citizens that however much or little life is legislated, “it is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.”