By Mary O’KEEFE
Jan. 1, 2017 saw new laws going into effect for Californians. In fact, Gov. Jerry Brown signed 898 bills in 2016. Below are just some new laws in effect this year beginning with several laws regarding drivers, drugs and privacy.
Really Hands-free Phones
Most drivers have seen other drivers holding their cellphones talking on speaker while driving. This is not exactly hands-free but now the law clearly defines hands-free. All phones and GPS (Global Positioning System) devices must be mounted in the vehicle.
California has now defined lane splitting as “driving a motorcycle that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways,” according to the State of California Legislative Counsel’s Digest. The law requires the Dept. of California Highway Patrol to develop educational guidelines regarding lane splitting.
At present California law requires the Dept. of Motor Vehicles to immediately suspend a person’s driver’s license/privilege to drive for a specified period of time if the person was convicted of driving under the influence. Some of those drivers, depending on drug/alcohol levels at the time of arrest, are allowed a restricted driver’s license. Since 2010, a pilot program had been established that required drivers who were given a restricted driver’s license being reissued a license or having their driving privileges reinstated to have their vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device. This pilot program was to end in 2017; however, it has been extended to 2026.
Safety Seats for Children
The previous law required children under the age of 8 years old to be in an appropriate “passenger restraint system” or child car seat. The new requirement adds to that law and requires that a child under the age of 2 must be in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or is 40 or more inches tall.
The California Racial Mascots Act was actually passed in 2015 but it goes into effect this year. This prohibits all public schools from naming their mascots/team names using the term Redskins. For the past two years schools that use this term that is perceived as insulting to Native Americans have been coming up with new names and by now are to have established new team/school identity. The state is required to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. There are several conditions to this new law that schools are to take into consideration.
The Maximum Family Grant has been repealed. The MFG had denied assistance to children born to mothers already receiving welfare assistance. Funds for this repeal were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier in 2016.
Minimum Wage Begins Its Climb
Many Californians will see their paychecks increase in 2017 as the minimum wage begins its climb. According to the State of California Dept. of Industrial Relations, “effective on Jan. 1, 2017 to Jan. 1, 2022, the minimum wage will increase for employers employing 26 or more employees. The increase will be delayed one year for employers employing 25 or fewer employees, from Jan. 1, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2023.” The increases this year increase the minimum wage from $10 an hour to $10.50 an hour. By 2022 the minimum wage for Californians will be $15 an hour.
Mandatory Prison Sentence for Sex Crimes
California courts will no longer be allowed to grant probation or suspend a sentence of a person convicted of rape if the victim was unconscious or incapable of giving consent due to intoxication.
Community Colleges Helping Homeless Students
Community and private colleges with shower facilities are now required to make those available to homeless students.
Statute of Limitations Eliminated for Rape
In the past the statute of limitations for reporting rape was 10 years in California but now the penal code has been changed and sex crimes, including rape, can be prosecuted no matter how long ago the crime occurred.
Date Rape Drug a Felony
When Prop. 47 was passed in California, those arrested for possession of many illegal drugs, including heroin, faced a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony charge. This also included the so-called “date rape” drugs, including ketamine, gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and flunitrazepam (Rohypnol). The new law now makes possession of those drugs with the intent to commit sexual assault a felony, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months to three years.
More Freedom for Those Who Need an “Epi-Pen”
Although Mylan, the makers of the Epi-Pen (epinephrine auto-injectors), has raised the cost of this life-saving medication by about 500% in the last six years, the medication will now be more available in California. The new law allows more people to be authorized to use the Epi-Pen, which is used to counteract anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reaction. This will make it easier for daycare centers, schools and businesses to obtain the life saving medication.
Opens Ability for More to Use Experimental Drugs
Presently the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits any drug that has not been approved by the FDA to be introduced to people. Sponsors of a new drug must submit it to a series of tests, including clinical trials, and then submit the findings to the FDA for approval. The new law would allow manufacturers of a drug being developed and investigated to be given to those patients with an immediate life-threatening disease or condition. The law authorizes but does not require an insurance company to cover the costs of the drug.
Emergency Response for Animals in Vehicles
All emergency responders can now act when they see an animal in a vehicle that appears to be in immediate danger. Prior to 2017, only police and animal control officers could break a vehicle’s window if they saw a dog, or any animal, in danger – for example in a very hot car. Now that authorization has been expanded to include firefighters and emergency responders.
Safety in Sports
At present school districts, charter schools and private schools are all required to immediately remove an athlete who sustained a head injury or concussion from that sport and not be allowed back until a doctor releases him or her in writing. That rule is now extended to youth sport organizations including camps or clubs. This applies to athletes 17 years old and younger.
For Those Who Really Like/Need to Share
It is now legal to take a selfie while voting. This means that those who want to share the way they vote with their social media friends can legally do so. Prior to this it was against the law to show your own ballot to anyone; however, some like sharing their lives including the way they vote, and now that is legal. So take those cellphones out and show the world how you voted.