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Laws taking effect this year

Times Staff Writer

Dozens of new state laws take effect today that could make things tougher for gang members, smokers and kangaroos while providing new protections for nursing home residents, shoppers and misbehaving celebrities.

In addition, California workers who earn the minimum wage will get a raise from $7.50 to $8 per hour starting today, tying California with Massachusetts for the highest state minimum wage in the nation. That change, affecting 1.4 million California workers, is the result of a bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

And annual car fees will rise July 1, partly to help pay for energy and clean-air programs.

In 2007, Schwarzenegger signed 750 bills, but many of the new laws won’t kick in for months or even years.

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For instance, the governor signed a pioneering measure that requires new semiautomatic pistols to have technology for stamping tiny identifying marks on cartridge casings, starting in 2010.

Another new law prohibits the manufacture, sale and distribution of toys intended for children younger than 3 that contain certain chemicals, but the ban does not begin until Jan. 1, 2009.

A law signed last year that bans minors from using cellphones and text-messaging devices while driving takes effect July 1, as does a companion measure requiring adults to use hands-free devices if they talk on a phone while behind the wheel.

The laws taking effect today include a ban on smoking in cars where minors are present, punishable by a fine of up to $100. Police officers cannot pull motorists over for smoking, however. Officers can cite adult smokers only if that offense is discovered in conjunction with another violation such as speeding.

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Don’t expect any grace period, said Fran Clader, a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol. “If any of our officers see it they will enforce the law,” Clader said.

A series of anti-gang measures, passed in response to violence in Los Angeles and other big cities, was signed by the governor. One allows prosecutors in Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Oakland and Sacramento to bring eviction actions against tenants for illegal weapons possession if the landlord is unwilling or afraid to act.

That law is aimed, in part, at preventing gang members from using apartment buildings as unofficial gang headquarters.

A related measure allows judges who sentence juvenile gang offenders to order the parents to attend classes to learn how to keep their children from engaging in gang violence. The curriculum would include a meeting between the parents and families of victims of gang violence.

Another new law legalizes the importing of kangaroo products harvested from non-endangered kangaroo species in Australia through 2010. Soccer shoes and other sports footwear made from kangaroo hide are popular among professional athletes.

Misbehaving celebrities could get a break from a measure that makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, for any law enforcement or court employee to disclose, for financial gain, information obtained in a criminal investigation or any photo of a person in custody.

In another area, shoppers will get some help from a new law that requires retailers to redeem unused or partly used gift cards for cash if the amount is less than $10.

Here are some other laws that take effect today. More information: www.leginfo.ca.gov.

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Air board: Allows the South Coast Air Quality Management District to extend the term of its chairman, William Burke, who would have been removed from the leadership post by term limits this month. (SB 886)

Car fees: Increases the smog abatement fee that many car owners pay from $12 to $20 starting July 1, to help fund alternative-fuel development. Also raises registration fees by $3 a year on all vehicles. (AB 118)

Celebrity wills: Allows celebrities to retain the right to control use of their names, voices and images as dictated in their wills, regardless of when they died. Addresses a dispute in court over publicity rights associated with actress Marilyn Monroe. (SB 771)

Citizenship checks: Prohibits cities and counties from adopting ordinances requiring landlords to ask the residency status of tenants as a way of identifying illegal immigrants. (AB 976)

Condors: Bans the use of lead ammunition in the habitat of endangered California condors. Cites concern that 11 of the birds have been taken for treatment to the Los Angeles Zoo with lead poisoning since February. (AB 821)

Cord blood: Requires that information on cord blood donation be provided to pregnant women. (SB 962) Related law requires establishment of an umbilical cord blood collection program and creates a special account for federal funds and donations to public cord blood banks starting in 2010. (AB 34)

Criminal information: Allows district attorneys to continue to release information regarding a person’s local criminal history, including the person’s name, physical description and arrest history when information is requested for a scholarly or journalistic purpose. (SB 690)

Diesel tests: Begins setting up the process for regular smog checks on lightweight diesel vehicles by the year 2010. Applies to vehicles built in 1998 or later with gross weights of 10,000 to 14,000 pounds. (AB 1488)

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Ferries: Allows consolidation of several Bay Area cities’ ferry lines and puts all operations under control of a new five-member authority. (SB 976)

Foster care: Requires counties to apply for federal disability assistance on behalf of foster children who qualify. Intended to help youths ages 16 1/2 through 17 1/2 in the transition to adulthood. (AB 1331)

Flood liability: Requires municipalities to contribute their fair and reasonable share of property damage costs caused by a flood -- if the municipality increased the state’s exposure to liability by “unreasonably approving” new development in an undeveloped area protected by a flood control project. (AB 70)

Gas prices: Requires a state study to determine whether motorists are getting less fuel than they pay for when they pump gas during hot weather, when gasoline can expand. The California Energy Commission must submit recommendations stemming from the study to the Legislature by Dec. 31. (AB 868)

Gang czar: Creates a State Office of Gang and Youth Violence to be responsible for identifying and evaluating state and local gang programs and helping to secure federal grants for the effort. (AB 1381)

Gift ban: Prohibits lobbyists, developers and others with business before the California Coastal Commission from giving gifts valued at more than $10, and bars commissioners from accepting them. (SB 884)

HIV tests: Removes the written consent requirement for HIV tests, so tests may be done routinely by doctors, although patients retain the right to decline such tests. (AB 682)

Housing improvements: Gives business improvement districts, in partnership with local government agencies, access to housing bond money for neighborhood improvement projects. Sets stage for a company headed by billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns Staples Center, to tap millions of dollars in state funds. (AB 1053)

Identification tags: Bans employers from requiring workers to have identification tags implanted under their skin that can be read by electronic monitors. (SB 362)

Iran investments: Prohibits the state public employee and teacher retirement systems from investing in companies with energy or military operations in Iran. The systems’ boards are required to review publicly available information regarding companies with business operations in Iran and take actions based on that review by March 30. (AB 221)

Jail cellphones: Makes it a misdemeanor, subject to a fine of up to $1,000, for any unauthorized possession of a cellphone by an inmate. Also makes possession of tobacco by an inmate an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $250. (SB 655)

Lab cleanup: Expedites cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a rocket engine test site and former nuclear research facility near Simi Valley. (SB 990)

Lightbulbs: Requires the California Energy Commission, by Dec. 31, to adopt energy efficiency standards for all general-purpose lights. (AB 1109)

Music groups: Prohibits individuals from performing live music under the name of a recorded group unless the performers hold a trademark, at least one of the performers was a member of the original group, the event is advertised as a tribute or the performing group has authorization. (AB 702)

Nursing homes: Requires nursing homes to notify residents of closure plans 60 days in advance and make relocation plans for every resident. (AB 949)

Open meeting: Requires that, starting July 1, any writing regarding an agenda item distributed to members of a city council or public board within 72 hours of a public meeting be made available for public inspection at the same time. (SB 343)

Pet protection: Allows courts to include pets in protective orders issued to spouses in domestic violence cases, ordering the abusive party to stay away from the animal and refrain from hurting or disposing of the animal. (SB 353)

Prison release: Allows early release of medically incapacitated inmates, defined as those with a medical condition that renders the inmate unable to perform activities of basic daily living. Includes those in a coma or persistent vegetative state or who are brain dead; those dependent upon a ventilator; and those who have lost control of muscular or neurological function. (AB 1539)

Satellite wagering: Authorizes the California Horse Racing Board to approve up to 45 mini-satellite wagering sites throughout the state that can offer betting on horse racing. Allows county fairs to operate such facilities on leased premises within the boundaries of the fair. (AB 241)

School counseling: Provides additional counseling services to students in grades seven through 12, including a requirement to review the pupils’ career goals and the availability of academic and career technical education opportunities. Requires that pupils and their parents be provided with information on eligibility for admission to a four-year institution of post-secondary education. (SB 405)

Sex crimes: Expands the list of sex offenses for which victims may request their names to be withheld to include using fraud to involve a person in prostitution, sale of a person for immoral purposes, incest and aggravated sexual assault of a child. (SB 449)

Solar heating: Imposes a surcharge on natural gas bills during the next 10 years to provide $250 million in subsidies as incentives for the installation of 200,000 solar water heating systems in the state by 2017. The law allows an average surcharge of 13 cents a month on gas bills. Homeowners can apply to their local gas company for a rebate to cover part of the cost of a solar water heater. (AB 1470)

Tanning booths: To address concern about skin cancer, changes the parental consent law for minors, ages 14 to 18, who patronize businesses using ultraviolet tanning devices so that such consent must be provided in person. (AB 105)

Textbook costs: Aimed at reducing the cost of college textbooks, requires publishers and college bookstores to disclose the price of books to faculty members when they are deciding which texts to require of their students. (AB 1548)

Tobacco fees: Establishes a $100 reinstatement fee on retailers who sell cigarettes and tobacco products in California but fail to renew the necessary licenses on time. (SB 625)

Tobacco giveaways: Prohibits anyone in the business of selling cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products from distributing gift certificates, coupons and free samples in public places. (AB 1585)

Tobacco penalties: Increases the maximum civil fines that can be levied against merchants selling tobacco products to minors from $300 to $600 on a first offense. Gives cities and counties power to carry out investigations previously reserved for the state. (SB 624)

Trout protection: Declares state policy to discourage the release of hatchery-raised hybrid and nonnative fish species in waters set aside by the government for wild trout. (SB 384)

Victim notification: Increases from 45 to 60 days the period for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to notify certain crime victims when it is scheduled to release a sex offender. Increases to 60 days the time the Department of Mental Health has to provide notification of a petition for conditional release scheduled for a court hearing. (AB 1172)

Voter fraud: Requires county registrars to send a card to voters notifying them when papers have been filed to change their party affiliation, to address some voters’ complaints of their affiliation being changed without their knowledge. (AB 452)

Water efficiency: Expands the powers of the California Energy Commission to set water efficiency standards for household appliances. (AB 662)

Witness protection: Gives the state attorney general authority to coordinate with and reimburse local agencies that provide protection to those testifying against gang members. (SB 594)

University salaries: Requires the California State University trustees and University of California regents to take action on pay packages for some executives in meetings open to the public. Requires full disclosure and rationale for each compensation package affected. Requires the trustees to give the public an opportunity to comment on the pay proposals. (SB 190)

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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