New year, new laws in effect

Starting today, government agencies can better recover costs from vandals, restaurants may no longer use trans fats in cooking, and authorities can impound vehicles used for illegal dumping and prostitution.

They are just a few of the dozens of new laws that take effect today.

California Assembly Bill 576 defines local government agencies, including Burbank and Glendale, as “victims,” allowing them to seek restitution for damages committed by convicted vandals charged with graffiti.

In those cases, the city would likely send a list with damage amounts to the district attorney prosecuting the case in an effort to recover costs, City Atty. Scott Howard said.

The city has gone after parents for the child’s acts of vandalism, he said, who can be made to pay up to $25,000 in vandalism damages committed by their child.

“We deem acts of graffiti vandalism to be the intentional misconduct when performed by a minor,” Howard said.

Another law that could have local implications would allow police to impound vehicles for up to 30 days if they were used to commit prostitution or illegal dump commercial waste on roads.

But the vehicles can only be impounded if the owner or driver is convicted of those crimes in the past three years.

Cities can declare vehicles used for illegal dumping a public nuisance in order to impound them, officials said.

“Right now, I don’t know if we ever made an arrest for someone who has committed the crime of public dumping or littering under our code,” said Sam Engel, Glendale’s Neighborhood Services administrator.

Public dumping has dropped since Engel started working with the city 20 years ago, he said.

“Largely, that’s due to the education overtime,” Engel said. “That not to say we don’t have certain places in town where public dumping is done and the threat of impounding a vehicle involved in a crime would be a very effective deterrent.”

The city must conduct more conclusive research on the new law, he said.

“We would look into the what the state authorizes us to do and if we felt it would be an effective deterrent, then that would be something that we would want to do and we look into that once the law takes place at the state level,” Engel said.

Also starting this year, May 22 will officially be known as Harvey Milk Day.

Under Senate Bill 572, schools can recognize the birthday of Milk — the openly gay San Francisco County supervisor who was shot and killed — and his contributions to California.

Burbank and Glendale Unified school districts officials said they would allow teachers to determine whether they will teach students about Milk’s life that day, but there are no plans to officially recognize it district wide.

The new year also brings with it healthier menus for California restaurants.

California is the first state in the nation to ban trans fat from eateries.

Restaurants will not be allowed to serve up foods cooked in margarine, oil and shortening containing trans fat, which studies show leads to heart disease. Bakeries will get another year to comply with the law, which Schwarzenegger signed in 2008.

Porto’s Bakery in Glendale and Burbank started moving away from trans fat in the past year, co-owner Raul Porto said.

“We have known about this for years,” he said. “It is just a deadline, but for us, it happened many months ago. For over a year, we have already made those changes.”

The bakery uses mostly butter in their cooking, but has changed oils for certain fried foods, Porto said.

“The majority of the stuff that we use, we really didn’t have to change,” he said.


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