Gov. Jerry Brown signs 48 new bills


SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown approved a flurry of new laws Friday, including an exception to the ban on texting while driving, an increase in fines for staging bear and rooster fights, and a prohibition against law enforcement officers having sex with arrestees.

They will take effect in January.

Brown announced Friday that he had signed 48 bills. One will permit drivers to dictate, send and listen to text-based communications as long as they do so using technology specifically designed for voice-operated and hands-free operation.

Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R-Corona) introduced the measure to include texting in the hands-free exception that exists for use of a cellphone while driving. The new law, AB 1536, “will allow Californians to communicate safely and responsibly while on the road,” Miller said.

Brown also doubled from $5,000 to $10,000 the maximum fines for people convicted of causing bears, bulls and roosters to fight with other animals or with humans. The same measure raises maximum fines for spectators at the fights from $1,000 to $5,000.

Sen. Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet) primarily wanted to end cockfighting, but bears and bulls are in the same section of existing law.

“Cockfighting is a cruel and inhumane sport that is a growing concern in the inland Southern California region and throughout our state,” said Emmerson, whose bill is SB 1145. “Clearly, our penalties and fines are not stiff enough to prevent this brutal sport from taking place.”

Another measure explicitly bars police officers from having consensual sex with prisoners or detainees, in jails or during transport.

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said he pushed the legislation, AB 2078, because of an incident in 2010 in which an Anderson police officer allegedly raped a woman after arresting her for driving under the influence of alcohol. Prosecutors declined to treat the case as rape, saying there was no specific section in the law that prohibited sex between police and detainees.

And Brown OKd a measure to ensure that certain microbrews will be licensed, regulated and labeled as beer throughout California. It applies to beers aged in wooden barrels that previously held wine or other spirits, a Belgian-style brewing process that the state’s craft beer industry has embraced with gusto.

The bill’s sponsor, the California Craft Brewers Assn., had feared that because the beers absorb some flavor from the alcohol in the wood, they could be considered distilled spirits — and taxed at a higher rate. The new law is AB 1812 by Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata).