New California Laws 2009!

Text-messaging, 911 use among the many areas affected by new California laws

In 2009, messaging motorists will pay. Hospital workers who snoop will face tougher penalties too. By Patrick McGreevy
5:47 PM PST, December 31, 2008 Californians must abide by dozens of new state laws taking effect Jan. 1, including bans on text-messaging while driving, electronic bingo machines and bidding on state contracts by companies that do business with the government of Sudan, which the U.S. has accused of genocide.

The California Highway Patrol plans no grace period before enforcing the law that takes effect today prohibiting the use of text-messaging devices -- including cellphones, BlackBerrys and laptop computers -- while driving, according to CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader. And a motorist does not have to be caught in a vehicle that is moving to get a ticket.

 "Motorists may not text at a stoplight," she said. "They are still operating a vehicle and need to focus their attention on the safe operation of that vehicle."

Fines are $20 for first offenses and $50 for subsequent violations, Clader said.

A separate law, aimed at paying for new courthouses, will raise the price of traffic tickets starting today. Infractions will carry a new $35 assessment, and the fee to process a request to attend traffic school and keep the ticket off the driver's record will be $49, up from $24. Fines imposed upon convictions of misdemeanors or felonies will result in an additional $30 assessment.

The fines will raise $5 billion over several years to repair or replace the 40 worst court facilities in California.

Two more laws taking effect today have garnered national attention for creating a new state office with the authority to investigate and impose harsh new penalties on hospital workers who snoop without permission in patient medical records.

The laws were approved after The Times reported that more than 100 employees at UCLA Medical Center peeked at the confidential files of famous people, including actress Farrah Fawcett, pop star Britney Spears and California First Lady Maria Shriver.

The governor signed 771 bills into law in 2008. But some, including a requirement for restaurants to provide nutritional information to diners, will not take effect until months or even years from now.

The nutrition law, which affects restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets, requires brochures to be supplied to diners beginning July 1 and calorie counts on menus starting in 2011. Another measure requires that fruity beverages known as "alcopops" be prominently labeled as containing alcohol, starting July 1.

Other bills signed were urgent measures and have already kicked in.

Alternative fuel: Allows drivers who run their vehicles on restaurant kitchen grease to skip most of a $300 fee previously required of anyone who hauled used vegetable oil or other grease away from an eatery. Veggie-oil users will now have to pay $75 for a license.

Computer bullying: Allows school officials to suspend or recommend expulsion for pupils who engage in bullying by electronic means, including over the Internet.

Carpool lanes: Makes it a crime to forge, counterfeit or falsify a clean air sticker issued by the DMV to certain low-emission vehicles, allowing them to be driven in high occupancy vehicle lanes. A separate law permits drivers of fully enclosed three-wheel motor vehicles to use carpool lanes.

Dangerous chemicals: Requires the Department of Toxic Substances Control to adopt a plan to identify and evaluate dangerous chemicals in consumer products.

Drunk driving: Drivers on probation for DUI convictions face suspension of their license and towing of their vehicle if they drive on California highways with a blood or breath alcohol level of .01% or higher.

Emergency calls: Increases penalties for people who knowingly use 911 emergency lines for calls other than emergencies. The penalty is a written warning on first offense, $50 on second, $100 on third.

Emergency planning: Merges the governor's Office of Emergency Services and Office of Homeland Security into a single cabinet-level agency.

Fire prevention: Improves measures to prevent damage from wildfires, including a requirement that homeowners clear brush from a 100-foot perimeter around their houses. Another law requires California forests to be better managed against tree-killing pests and to make it easier for fire departments to access firefighting equipment.

Foreclosure consultants: Provides a registration and bonding process for foreclosure consultants and bars such consultants from entering into certain agreements with homeowners.

Green jobs: Requires the state to develop a comprehensive approach to the needs of California's workforce associated with its budding "green" economy.

GPS devices: Allows a global positioning system device to be mounted on the windshield of a motor vehicle only in the 7-inch square in the lower corner farthest from the driver or in the 5-inch square in the lower corner nearest the driver.

Hospital infections: Requires hospitals to develop more comprehensive policies and procedures to ensure that patients are not infected in medical facilities.

Human trafficking: Voids any provision of a contract that purports to allow a deduction from a person's wages for the cost of the person immigrating and being transported to the United States.

License plates: Creates a California Gold Star Family license plate for families who have lost loved ones in wars.

Meat safety: Makes it a misdemeanor to buy, sell or butcher sick and some disabled animals for human consumption.

Medical care: Requires doctors treating terminally ill patients to give them comprehensive information about end-of-life options, such as hospice care at home and the right to refuse treatment.

Medical insurance: Requires that when insurers cancel someone's coverage, they allow other members of the family to keep theirs.

Another law prevents insurers from refusing to pay the medical bills of customers injured while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A third new law requires insurers to pay for HIV screening.

Medical techs: Requires California's Emergency Medical Services Authority to establish and maintain a statewide registry of the status of emergency medical technician licenses. Also mandates that beginning July 1, 2010, all EMTs undergo mandatory criminal background checks.

Mobile homes: Requires, at time of sale, all mobile homes and manufactured housing to have smoke detectors in all rooms designed for sleeping and to have seismic braces on gas-fired water heaters.

National guard: Authorizes a state employee who is a member of the National Guard or reserves to receive government benefits for four additional years, if they were ordered to serve on or after Sept. 11, 2001, as a result of the war on terrorism.

Oil drilling: Permits development of additional oil reserves beneath submerged lands of the Wilmington oil field.

Pets: Provides for enforcement of "pet trusts" set up by animal owners to pay for continuing care of their pets after the human owners die.

Phone cards: Requires refund within 60 days to any holder of a card if the provider's services fail to operate in a commercially reasonable manner. Also mandates that phone-card firms maintain a toll-free customer service telephone number.

Press freedom: Prohibits discipline of high school and college journalism advisors for the content in a student newspaper.

Privacy: Makes it a misdemeanor to use radio waves, without consent, to remotely read another person's identifying information. The measure is in response to the practice of having personal identification information included on government-issued identification cards that can be read with radio-frequency identification devices.

Real estate: Allows the state Department of Real Estate to suspend or bar a person who has committed a violation of real estate laws.

Schools: Allows Los Angeles Unified School District and other districts to continue tapping state funds even as they withdraw from a program to fund multitrack, year-round schools.

Senior homes: Assisted-living homes are required to show potential customers their history of rate hikes, tell local prosecutors about suspected abuse and plan for emergencies such as blackouts.

Smoking: Allows the state director of the Department of Mental Health to prohibit the possession or use of tobacco products on the grounds of state mental hospitals.

Spousal abuse: Prohibits jailing of alleged victims of domestic violence for refusing to testify against their abusers.

Tax breaks: Allows taxpayers to exclude forgiven mortgage debt from their incomes for state income tax purposes.

Taxis: Allows local agencies to disconnect the telephone service of a taxicab operator that fails to obtain proper permits and insurance if other enforcement remedies have failed.

Teacher crimes: Includes "no contest" pleas in the definition of convictions when the Commission on Teacher Credentialing decides whether to suspend or revoke teaching credentials.

Toll roads: Allows local transit agencies to create carpool lanes that can be used by lone motorists willing to pay a toll on stretches of the 15 Freeway in Riverside County and portions of the 10 and 110 freeways in Los Angeles County.

Used cars: Allows police officers to impound vehicles of anyone cited for acting as a car dealer without a license.

Veterans: Requires the state Department of Veterans Affairs to develop plans to reach out to National Guard members or veterans returning to California from combat, and assist them in obtaining a screening for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Another law authorizes, after local approval, veterans whose vehicles display one of a number of special-recognition license plates to park free in metered spaces.

Wave pools: Requires operators of wave pools at amusement parks to increase safety steps, including assignment of lifeguards, provision of life vests and restrictions on children shorter than 42 inches.

Posted by erniemixon on 01/10/2009
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