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Refreshing the books: Get to know some of California's 930 new laws 

In stark contrast to our national Congress, the California Assembly and Senate had a very productive 2014.

All told, the legislature sent Gov. Jerry Brown more than 1,000 bills during the 2014 legislative session. Brown ended up vetoing 143—about 13 percent—of them, and signed 930 new bills into law.

We’ve featured a few of these bills over the past year in New Times, including SB 941 (boating safety education), AB 60 (driver’s licenses for eligible undocumented immigrants), SB 1087 (protections for sexually harassed field workers), and AB 2453 (the Paso Robles groundwater district).

Most of the 930 new laws took effect on Jan. 1, 2015, but others have a more gradual rollout or are still items of contention (like the state’s plastic bag ban, SB 270).

We figured our readers might appreciate a primer on the new laws in their lives. With no further ado, here are some of the highlights.

Education

Disobedient kids are going to get some more leeway with AB 420. This law prevents school districts from suspending a K-3 child or expelling a K-12 student for “disrupting school authorities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of school personnel.”

In another win for students, AB 1989 enables “qualified students” under the age of 21 who are taking a wine or beer production class to taste their work.

SB 967 is a landmark college sexual assault safety bill requiring California colleges and universities to adopt a multi-part campus sexual violence policy. A major component of the plan is a complete revision of “consent”—from whether one person said “no” to whether both partners said “yes.”

Immigration

In addition to the aforementioned AB 60, SB 1210 opens the door for undocumented immigrants to apply for state student loans to attend University of California or California State University schools.

With AB 2751, the practice of immigration-related retaliation (wherein employers threaten to file or file a false report with a state/federal agency as a reaction to an employee exercising a labor right) will be outlawed, expanding protections for immigrant workers.

A final win for undocumented immigrants is SB 1159, which requires all 40 state professional licensing boards to consider all applicants equally, regardless of immigration status, by 2016.

Justice

Following a 2013 Center for Investigative Reporting report that found that, through a legal loophole, more than 130 female inmates had been sterilized in violation of prison rules between 2006 and 2010, SB 1135 banned the practice as a birth control method.

After the horrific May 23 deaths of six students in Isla Vista, two new laws aim to change some of the conditions that enabled the killings:

SB 505 mandates that law enforcement agencies implement “welfare checks” on those who many be a danger to themselves or others, also encouraging police to search state gun registries concerning those same people.

AB 1014 creates a “Gun Violence Restraining Order,” which police or family members can seek, and, if approved, will prevent a person deemed “dangerous” from possessing firearms for 21 days.

Privacy/Internet

Any smartphone manufactured or sold in California after July 1 of this year must be enabled with a “kill switch” that renders the phone inoperable to an unauthorized user, thanks to SB 962.

Explicit selfie-takers rejoice: SB 1255 extends the legal penalties for those distributing “revenge porn” to all images, not just those taken by somebody else.

In bad news for Hollywood paparazzi and snoops everywhere, AB 2306 ensures that prosecutors can now pursue “invasion of privacy” charges when aerial drones are used to photograph or record another person in a “private setting.”

Sex/Gender

Following a 2012 case in which a San Francisco transgender advocate was listed as a female on his death certificate despite living as a man, coroners are now required to “list the gender consistent with how the person lived,” not simply the anatomical gender, under AB 1577.

On the other end of the life spectrum, California birth certificates will now accommodate same-sex couples. AB 1951 allows for a gender-neutral option on the certificate identifying a “parent.”

Airports currently aren’t the easiest places to deal with nursing-related issues, but large California airports—under AB 1787—must now provide a non-bathroom room after security where women can express breast milk.

Miscellany

Thanks to AB 2364, California has a new official state amphibian: the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), famous from Mark Twain’s short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

In perhaps the best single verbatim passage from any bill this year, legislators note that, “California red-legged frog males communicate to females by a series of short, soft grunts, ‘unh-unh-uh-uh-grr.’”

Digital currencies, including bitcoin, are now legal tender for transactions in California after the passage of AB 129.

Last but not least, under AB 2444, state government entities are now barred from displaying or selling copies of the Confederate flag (unless the image appears in book, a digital medium, or a state museum for educational/historical purposes).

 

Staff Writer Rhys Heyden can be reached at rheyden@newtimesslo.com.

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