Some New Laws for the New Year
New laws governing young drivers, homeowners associations, the marketing of fish and the sale of puppies take effect with the new year.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed 729 bills into law in 2005. That was fewer new laws than in any year since at least 1967.
Lawmakers took a number of actions to protect the privacy of Californians. They made it a crime to use e-mail ruses to try to dupe people into revealing private information. They also increased penalties for paparazzi who go too far in their pursuit of photographs of celebrities.
Legislators also took actions aimed at youths, including restricting provisional driver’s license holders from being on the road after 11 p.m. and restricting minors’ access to violent video games and body piercing.
A number of environmental measures also will take effect. They encourage the recycling of batteries and restrict the use of mercury in thermostats, the use of pesticides at schools and the disposal of waste by large ships.
And as in several recent years, the new laws include one that toughens the treatment of sex offenders.
Two of the consumer protection laws that received the most attention were slated to take effect at the beginning of the year but have been delayed as business groups challenge them in court. One would ban junk faxes; the other would prohibit the sale of violent video games to children.
Here is a selection of the laws that take effect today:
Baby-sitters -- Allows foster parents to hire a baby-sitter to watch a foster child for less than 24 hours without the health screening, fingerprinting and background checks usually required of foster-child caregivers. (SB 358 by Sen. Jack Scott, D-Altadena)
Batteries -- Requires stores that sell rechargeable batteries to take them back for recycling, reuse or safe disposal starting in July. Grocery stores and stores with less than $1 million in annual sales are exempt. (AB 1125 by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills)
Boat fees -- Increases boat registration fees, due every two years, from $10 to $20. (SB 255 by Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch)
Body piercing -- Makes it an infraction, punishable by a $250 fine, to pierce the body of someone younger than 18 without the consent of a parent or guardian. (AB 646 by Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster)
Dogs -- Allows local governments to pass ordinances regulating breeding, spaying and neutering of specific dog breeds. (SB 861 by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough)
Domestic partners -- Allows registered domestic partners to transfer property from one to the other without triggering a reassessment that could increase property taxes. (SB 565 by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco)
Driving -- Bans people who are at least 16, but younger than 18, from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the first year they hold provisional driver’s licenses. (AB 1474 by Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia)
Health insurance -- Requires health insurers to explain in writing why they have denied an individual coverage or granted coverage at a rate higher than standard. (AB 356 by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Alameda)
Human trafficking -- Makes trafficking of people for forced labor or services a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison. Would also allow victims of human trafficking to sue for damages. (AB 22 by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View)
Incest -- Amends a 1981 law so that people who sexually assault family members younger than 14 are treated the same as those who assault children who are unrelated. The old law allowed child molesters to avoid prison time if their victim was a family member. (SB 33 by Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta)
Internet hunting -- Outlaws the remote killing of animals over the Internet, as well as businesses that offer the shooting of live animals via computer. (SB 1028 by Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey)
Homeowners associations -- Requires the state’s more than 41,000 homeowners associations, which collect maintenance fees from residents in many condominium, mobile home and gated subdivision developments, to use secret ballots for elections, starting in July. (SB 61 by Sen. Jim Battin,
R-La Quinta) Bans such associations from foreclosing on a home for unpaid assessments of less than $1,800 or 12 months’ delinquency. (SB 137 by Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego) Requires the associations to make accounting records and minutes of proceedings available to members. (AB 1098 by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento)
Medical records -- Requires hospitals and clinics to note a patient’s primary spoken language on medical records. (AB 800 by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco)
Mexican trucks -- Requires commercial, heavy-duty trucks crossing into the state from Mexico to meet U.S. emissions standards. (AB 1009 from 2004 by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills)
National Guard -- Guarantees that disability benefits for California National Guard members injured on active duty will be equal to those for federal soldiers. (AB 980 by Assemblyman Tom Umberg, D-Anaheim) Allows Guard members called to active duty to cancel cellphone contracts without penalty, get credit for college tuition, waive state bar fees and get an extension on utility bills. (AB 1666 by Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Glendale)
Ocean ships -- Bans ships of 300 gross registered tons or more from incinerating garbage on board within three miles of the California coast or dumping sewage sludge, oily bilge water or other hazardous waste into state marine waters or marine sanctuaries. (SB 771 by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto)
Organic fish -- Bans the labeling of fish or seafood products as “organic” until the federal or state government issues formal standards. (SB 730 by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough)
Paparazzi -- Makes anyone who commits assault in an attempt to get a photograph or an audio or video recording liable to pay triple damages and give up profits from the photograph or recording. (AB 381 by Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, D-San Fernando)
Pesticides -- Prohibits on school grounds the use of pesticides with conditional, experimental, interim, canceled or suspended state registration. Also prohibits vendors from giving away or selling experimental pesticides to school districts. (AB 405 by Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, D-San Fernando)
Phishing -- Imposes penalties up to $2,500 per violation for using e-mail to deceive consumers into releasing private information, such as credit card numbers, that can be used to defraud the consumer. The activity is known as “phishing.” (SB 355 by Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City)
Phone calls -- Allows the arrested parents of young children to make two local phone calls to arrange for child care. (AB 760 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara)
Pocket bikes -- Bans the use of so-called pocket bikes -- small motorcycles with two-stroke engines that can go up to 50 mph -- on highways, sidewalks, bike paths, hiking trails and public lands open to off-highway vehicles. (AB 1051 by Assemblyman John Benoit, R-Palm Desert)
Police pursuits -- Encourages police and sheriff’s departments to adopt guidelines for when and how suspects will be pursued, and increases penalties for fleeing suspects. (SB 719 by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles)
Politician pay -- Restricts city council members from paying themselves more than $300 a month in the smallest cities or $1,000 a month in the largest. Also bans city council members from paying themselves more than $150 a month to sit on any city commission, committee, board or authority. (AB 11 by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate)
Public records -- Exempts from disclosure under the state’s Public Records Act information about “critical infrastructure” such as oil refineries, water pumping plants and power plants that is submitted to the state’s Office of Homeland Security. (AB 1495 by Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg)
Puppies -- Makes it an infraction punishable by a $250 fine to sell a puppy younger than 8 weeks without written approval of a veterinarian. (SB 914 by Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego)
Sexual harassment -- Requires employers of 50 or more workers to train supervisors about sexual harassment rules at least once every two years. State agencies also must provide training. (AB 1825 of 2004 by former Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes, D-Fresno)
Sex offenders -- Bars paroled sex offenders deemed a high risk to the public by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from living within half a mile of public or private schools for kindergarten through 12th grade. (AB 113 by Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn, D-Saratoga)
Stalkers -- Makes it illegal for a person under a court restraining order to use a detective, Internet service or any other means to locate the person protected by the court order. (AB 978 by Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster)
Thermostats -- Bans the sale or distribution of certain types of mercury thermostats used in heating and air-conditioning equipment. Mercury is linked to developmental problems in people and wildlife. (AB 1369 from 2004 by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) Bans the sale or distribution of products with mercury-containing switches, relays and measuring devices starting July 1, with certain exceptions. (AB 1415 by Pavley)
Transgender people -- Bans insurers and healthcare providers from denying coverage solely because a person has changed gender. (AB 1586 by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood)
Transplants -- Prohibits health insurers from refusing to pay for an organ or tissue transplant solely because the intended recipient is infected with HIV. (AB 228 by Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood)
Two laws set to take effect at the start of 2006 have been delayed by court challenges:
Junk faxes -- Outlaws the sending of unsolicited advertising faxes to or from a California fax machine. Violators can be sued for at least $500 per “junk” fax. The law was set to take effect today, but a federal judge has suspended it for a month while he hears a lawsuit brought by business interests. (SB 833 by Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey)
Video games -- Bans the sale or rental of extremely violent video games to children under 18 and requires game makers to put a black-and-white “18" sticker on games that depict the killing, maiming, dismembering or sexual assaulting of an image of a human being in ways that are especially heinous, cruel or depraved. Violators are liable for fines up to $1,000. A federal judge has delayed implementation pending resolution of a lawsuit from the game industry challenging the law’s constitutionality. (AB 1179 by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco)
A number of other new bills have already taken effect or will later in the year:
Auto insurance -- Extends a low-cost car insurance program for low-income good drivers to Alameda, Fresno, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties as of April 2006. (SB 20 by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier)
Car buyers -- Starting July 1, gives the buyer of a used car priced at less than $40,000 the opportunity to purchase an option for up to $250 that lets them cancel the deal for any reason within two days of purchase. Also caps the profit that dealers can pay themselves for arranging loans and requires dealers to give buyers clear, concise disclosure on service contracts and maintenance plans. (AB 68 by Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, D-San Fernando)
Cellphones -- Starting July 1, customers can return cellphones to retailers for recycling, reuse or proper disposal. (AB 2901 from 2004 by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills)
Dietary supplements -- Starting July 1, requires all ninth- through 12th-grade athletes to sign a pledge -- as a condition of participating in interscholastic sports -- not to take anabolic steroids or any of certain dietary supplements prohibited by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Also forbids makers and distributors of such banned dietary supplements from sponsoring school events and requires high school coaches by the end of 2008 to have taken a course, designed by school districts, on the health hazards of steroids and dietary supplements. (SB 37 by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough)
Organ donors -- Starting July 1, requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to ask applicants for driver’s licenses if they would like to be organ donors and to print the word “donor” on the driver’s licenses of those who have consented. (SB 689 by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough)
Tracking devices -- Allows the state and counties to track criminals on parole and probation with Global Positioning System devices. The law took effect in October. (SB 619 by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough)
Vaccines -- Starting July 1, prohibits for pregnant women and children under 3 vaccinations that contain more than a certain amount of mercury. Opponents of mercury in vaccines have linked the substance to developmental disorders. (AB 2943 in 2004 by Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills)
Times staff writer Jordan Rau contributed to this report.