Car seats, shark fins, tanning beds, booze, epilepsy

As California rings in the New Year, a fresh batch of laws will go into effect. Get ready to strap in your kids, avoid openly carrying guns, watch those tanning booths and savor the last round of shark fin soup.

Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store for the state starting on Jan. 1:

The first half of the long-contested California DREAM act goes into effect, qualifying undocumented students attending California’s public institutions of higher education for privately-funded financial aid. (AB 130; Cedillo, D-Los Angeles)

Public schools must now include positive lessons on the LGBT community and their contributions, as well as Native Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders and people with disabilities. (SB 48; Leno, D–San Francisco).

A watered-down incarnation of the card-check bill earlier this year protects farm workers from employers preventing them from holding a fair secret ballot election.  The new law also states that if the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) sets aside an election due to employer misconduct, that union will still be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative. (SB 126; Steinberg, D- Sacramento)

Employers can no longer use consumer credit reports in their assessments when hiring or promoting an employee, except in certain situations (for example hiring for a managerial position requiring the handling of bank accounts). (AB 22; Mendoza, D-Artsesia)

The Wage Theft Protection Act creates new misdemeanor penalties for employers who willfully steal worker wages. Employers must also provide workers, at time of hiring, with a written notice of their pay rate and basis (for example, hourly or commission) and give information on any changes within 7 days. (AB 469; Swanson, D- Alameda)

Health and Safety
It is now a misdemeanor to carry an exposed and unloaded handgun while in any public place. Handguns are old hat anyways, it’s all about the pepper spray. (AB 144; Portantino, D–La Cañada Flintridge)

Alcohol joins the list of items banned from purchase at self check-out stands (which includes the likes of cigarettes and spray paint), a measure to combat underage drinking. (AB 183; Ma, D- San Francisco)

The sale of any product containing dextromethorphan to a minor is now prohibited, a cough suppressant found in several over-the-counter medication that can induce hallucinatory experiences at certain dosages. (SB 514; Simitian, D-Palo Alto)

Tanning beds are also now barred to anyone under 18. That irreparable skin damage will have to wait until after high school. (SB 746; Lieu, D-Torrance)

California-trained non-medical school employees can now provide emergency assistance to students with epilepsy experiencing a seizure. Though met with surprising opposition by the California School Nurses Organization calling for more trained personnel on campuses, with school funding running thin, trained volunteers are a necessary option for student safety.  (SB 161; Huff, R-Diamond Bar)

A couple new laws improve access to syringes and needles to help reduce the spread of communicable diseases. Cities and counties can authorize pharmacists to furnish up to 30 hypodermic needles and syringes without a prescription until Jan. 15, 2015, while the Department of Public Health may allow certain entities to provide hypodermic needles and syringe exchange services in areas the DPH finds conditions exist for the rapid spread of HIV. (SB 41; Yee, D-San Francisco)/ (AB 604; Skinner, D-Berkeley)

Animal Rights
It is now illegal to sell live animals along the street, highway, public right-of-way, in a parking lot, carnival, or boardwalk. (SB 917; Lieu, D-Torrance)

Instead, visit a local animal shelter, and make a contribution to spay and neuter services, which can now be checked off on income tax forms. (AB 564; Smyth, R-Santa Clarita)

Another hot button issue from last session: The sale and possession of shark fins is now illegal except in permitted scientific and commercial purposes. But, restaurants can possess and sell shark fins purchased before Jan. 1, 2012 until Jan. 1, 2013. (AB 376; Fong, D- Cupertino)

Impounding a vehicle at a sobriety checkpoint is now prohibited if the driver’s only offense is not having their license. The law hopes to combat the previous misuse of sobriety checkpoints set up in Hispanic communities targeting people ineligible to receive a license. (AB 353; Cedillo, D-Los Angeles)

The California Vehicle Code now requires children up to 8 years old and under four-foot-nine to use a child safety seat while riding in a car, an increase of the previous requirement of 6 years of age. (SB 929; Evans, D- Santa Rosa)

The environment review process under the California Environmental Quality Act [CEQA] is now shortened for “leadership projects” in an attempt to improve the job market (namely, to build a football stadium in Los Angeles). To qualify, a project must cost more than $100 million, cannot result in any additional net emissions of greenhouse gases, must create high-wage, highly skilled employment, and provide permanent and construction-related jobs. (AB 900; Buchanan,D-Alamo; Gordon, D-Menlo Park; Steinberg, D-Sacramento)

2010 laws
Though first passed in 2010, starting this January the California Fostering Connections to Success Act will extend foster care eligibility from 18 to 21 years old. (AB 12; Beall, 2010, D-San Jose)

Another 2010 law going into effect allows courts to revoke a person’s driver’s license up to 10 years (current law only allows three years) for three or more DUIs within a 10-year period. (AB 1601; Hill, 2010, D- San Mateo)

Lastly, a new law inspired by last year’s city of Bell scandal, in which administrators awarded themselves exorbitant salaries, defrauding the city of millions of dollars: In order for local officials to collect compensation for simultaneous or serial meetings, a clerk or member of the legislative body must verbally announce any compensation or stipend an official will receive as a result of a second meeting. (AB 23; Smyth, R-Santa Clarita).

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