Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 43
Sorry, that's illegal now
BY NICK POWELL
California lawmakers were awfully busy last year, drafting, passing, and earning the governor’s signature on a whopping 876 bills during the 2012 legislative session. Their output was up roughly 19 percent from the previous two years, and while many of the laws focused on budgetary issues like pension reform or simply modified language in obscure, existing laws relating to weights and measures and the like, others created new crimes that became enforceable the moment the ball dropped and the cacophony of fireworks and clanging pots and pans died off Jan. 1, 2013.
So here’s a look at some of the more important, interesting, and oddball laws that will affect California’s 37 million residents:
• No more walking around with your rifle out: In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that made it illegal for registered gun owners to carry handguns openly in most public places. In 2012, he and Sacramento lawmakers took the matter a step further, banning the open carry of rifles and shotguns as well. Starting Jan. 1, it will be illegal and punishable by fines for Californians to carry any firearms without a concealed carry permit—except on private property or in areas where hunting and target practice are allowed. The legislation includes a slew of exceptions, however, granting open-carry rights to police officers, former police officers, people serving subpoenas, people performing information checks to verify credit, and many others.
• Dogs are pets, not bear hunters: Hunters who use their dogs to pursue bears and bobcats will become prey themselves to the California Department of Fish and Game under Senate Bill 1221, which generally bans the practice but does allow it under certain specific conditions with depredation permits. It’s apparently common practice for hunters to use their dogs to scare other predators away from hunting grounds during deer season. The new law authorizes the Department of Fish and Game to capture any dogs found threatening or endangering wild predators without permits, but the rule doesn’t include fines or punishments for owners.
• Employers better back off that Facebook: With the passage of Assembly Bill 1844, it’s unlawful for employers to demand to see the protected social media accounts of applicants and existing employees. They can no longer discharge, discipline, or threaten an employee who withholds personal password or username information, but bosses can still search for publicly available posts and use them as evidence in disciplinary actions.
• Baby momma drama? Better tell the whole family: Paternity tests almost always create horribly awkward situations, and AB 1337 will ensure that more family members partake in the spectacle. The law demands that possible fathers give 15 days’ notice to any of the child’s relatives within the second degree prior to a court hearing that would establish the existence or non-existence of a father-child relationship in situations where the child’s mother has died. This will give other potential guardians the possibility to partake in custody hearings and hopefully ensure that the child ends up in the best possible home.
• Hey, Tarantino, you got a permit for that baby?: Parents and guardians who want their one-month-old infants to be big Hollywood stars will have to get permission from a pediatric doctor before bringing the baby on set under Assembly Bill 2396. The bill requires a certification of health before a temporary permit for employment can be issued.
• Only druggies haul irrigation equipment on back roads?: The legislature gave police another tool to combat marijuana suppliers when it passed Assembly Bill 2284, which gave cops the authority to stop and search any vehicles travelling on rural roads if they spot irrigation equipment. Officers no longer need to wait for a vehicle to speed or roll through stop signs to make contact with suspicious vehicles that appear to be tending to backwoods grow operations, but they’d need to find paraphernalia, drugs, or suspects with outstanding warrants to make any arrests.
• Go ahead; bring your stash to the E.R.: Citing the fact that drug overdose is the second leading cause of death in America, lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 472, which makes it legal for someone to possess drugs or paraphernalia for personal use if (and this part’s important) he or she is en route to a hospital seeking emergency medical attention for an overdose or assisting another who needs such services. The bill does not affect laws relating to public safety, such as restrictions against driving under the influence of drugs.
• Homeowners have rights, too, bub: Senate Bill 900, known as the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights, establishes several protective measures to address loan manipulation and mortgage practices that led to a rash of foreclosures after the housing bubble burst in 2008. The bill requires mortgage servicers to notify homeowners and explore alternative plans before proceeding with a foreclosure and demands that companies handling more than 175 foreclosures per year establish a single point of contact and direct means of communication for the borrower. It will also prohibit the collection of late fees while a specified foreclosure prevention alternative is being considered.
• Suck on this, Fred Phelps: With the passage of Senate Bill 661, California made it illegal for people to engage in picketing targeted at funerals. According to the assembly committee on appropriations, the bill’s author, Senator Ted Lieu (D) of Redondo Beach, cited “one particular organization” who has “become notorious for its homophobic and incendiary signs” as the reason for needing the new law, which prohibits picketing within 300 feet of a funeral service for at least an hour before and after the ceremony. Pastor Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church have repeatedly protested military funerals across the country, claiming that each death is an exercise of God’s wrath aimed at a nation that embraces homosexuality. Should they protest at a California funeral, members could face six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000. The American Civil Liberties Union opposed the law as an attack on free speech, saying it was too vague. In 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill that banned picketing within 1,000 feet of funeral services. He cited concerns that the law would not hold up in court.
• Talk the gay away?: Although California passed another law aimed at curbing homophobia, its implementation has been delayed. Senate Bill 1172 would have forbid mental health providers from engaging in therapies designed to change the sexual orientation of minors younger than 18. In an odd turn of events, the ninth district court of appeals, widely known as the nation’s most liberal court, granted an injunction on Dec. 21 that postponed enforcement of the ban on gay conversion therapies until its constitutionality could be weighed and decided in the federal case of Pickup v. Brown. The Liberty Counsel, the nonprofit that filed suit on behalf of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and the American Association of Christian Counselors, issued a press release saying that the law would allow the state to barge into the private therapy rooms of victimized young people and tell them to pursue their unwanted same-sex attractions. According to the American Psychological Association, such therapies aren’t reliable and can injure mental health, exacerbating feelings of depression, isolation, and self-loathing.
Of course, this is only a smattering of what’s new in 2013. For a complete list of new laws, visit leginfo.ca.gov.