Hundreds of new California laws take effect in 2008, including many signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, some that he simply declined to veto, and a few that were passed in previous years but structured for delayed activation. What follows is a random selection of interesting changes to the rules of the game we call life in California. Henceforth:
Personal Identification Implants No one may coerce, compel, or require anyone else—such as an employee-to undergo subcutaneous implantation of a tracking device, even though rice-grain sized radio-frequency units are now available. SB 362.
Social Insecurity Numbers Certain state and local agencies may display only the last four digits of social security numbers. California’s Office of Privacy Protection must determine if—and if so, when—SSN use by colleges is strictly necessary. Also, January 1, 2008 is the deadline for all employers to comply with an existing law that prohibits employers from displaying more than those last four digits on employee pay stubs. AB 1168.
Presidential Election The California primary moves up from June to the first Tuesday in February. SB 113.
At a Minimum California’s minimum wage increases to $8 an hour. AB 1835.
Exempt from Overtime Pay The minimum hourly compensation for computer professionals who are exempt from overtime regulations plunges to $36. In order to qualify as exempt employees, the computer pros must also do work that is primarily intellectual or creative. SB 929.
Age Discrimination Labor laws were revised to clarify that employers may not discriminate against workers because they are older than their colleagues, but favoring an older individual over a younger one is not a violation.
Iran InvestmentsThe California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which together control a reported $338 billion, are prohibited from investing in foreign companies that engage in defense or nuclear-related business with Iran. AB 221.
Closing Boxes Residential hotels must provide individual, locking mail boxes for each unit. AB 607.
Cover Bands So that concert goers will not be deceived, tribute bands must show that they have the right to use the name of a famous recording group. AB 702.
Hush Hush Sex crime victims are added to those whose names and addresses are not subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act. SB 449.
Parents of Gangsters Courts can order parents of gang members to attend parenting classes. AB 1291.
Health Care Whistleblowers Whistle-blowing doctors who complain to government agencies about unsafe patient conditions in healthcare facilities are protected from retaliation. In fact, health facilities may not retaliate against anyone who complains to a government agency or participates in an investigation. AB 632.
Military Leave Employers with 25 or more workers must allow up to 10 days off, without pay, to spouses of combatants who are on leave from military deployment. AB 392.
Disability Payments An employee may collect temporary disability payments over the course of five years instead of just two, though the maximum number of weeks for which the employee may collect the benefit is still 104. AB 338.
Stem Cells Intellectual property standards have been established for award recipients under the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Act. SB 771.
Money Smarts April is official Financial Literacy Month. ACR 40.
Gift Cards Recipients of gift cards may redeem them for cash when there is less than $10 remaining on the card. SB 250.
The Whole Cost Environmental benefits and costs are added to the criteria for the procurement of motor vehicles by state and local government. AB 236.
When Driving is Murder Anyone renewing or applying for a driver’s license must sign a declaration acknowledging that they may be charged with murder if anyone is killed as a result of their driving under the influence. AB 808.
Driving While Phoning Drivers are forbidden to talk on the phone while they drive unless they use a hands-free system, effective July 1, 2008. SB 1613.
Teen Driving While Phoning People under 18 may not use wireless telephones while driving, not even those equipped with hands-free devices. However, teens on phones will only be cited if they are stopped for some other violation, like speeding. SB 33.
Smoking with Minors It is an infraction to smoke in a motor vehicle containing a minor under the age of 18, but the traffic stop has to be made for another offense. SB 742.
Traffic School No Defense Courts may no longer dismiss charges of driving under the influence, reckless driving, and other serious traffic violations as a result of an offender’s completion of driver-safety courses. AB 645.
Bike Lights Cyclists must use lights while riding anywhere after dark, including sidewalks, bikeways, or highways. AB 478.
Idling Diesels The minimum fine for idling a commercial diesel vehicle for more than five minutes increases to $300. (Certain exceptions apply.) AB 233.
Smog Tech Fees for vehicle registration and smog abatement will be raised temporarily to fund the development of alternative fuel-vehicle technologies. AB 118.
Manganese Airs The state must identify areas where particulate manganese is at dangerous levels in the air. AB 294.
Better Fluorescents, Please The California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act mandates tougher efficiency standards for general purpose lights by the end of 2008. It also limits the amount of mercury in fluorescent bulbs to levels permitted by the European Union, starting in 2010. AB 1109.
Raw Milk It is forbidden to sell raw milk which has more than ten coliform bacteria per milliliter. AB 1735.
What’s in the Bottle? Bottled water packaging must list the water’s source, and contact information for a report on its quality. SB 220.
Phthay What? The use of certain phthalates in toys designed for children under three is prohibited, and manufacturers replacing the compounds must use the least toxic alternative. Chemicals used to dissolve or to increase the flexibility of plastic, phthalates have been associated with hormonal effects and damage to the organs of lab animals. AB 1108.
Pharmaceutical TrashThis year, the state government must start developing model programs for disposing of unused prescription drugs in a safe and environmentally sound manner. SB 996.