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New Year brings in new laws for 2016
807 new laws churned out by state
new laws pic
SB 199 now requires that realistic looking toy guns have more features that identify them as toys and not the real item, like fluorescent trigger guards. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The ushering in of the New Year sees a bevy of new laws take effect in California that cover a variety of issues. There are new restrictions on carrying guns in the state and those making minimum wage are seeing a bump in their pay. It's also now harder for parents to get vaccine exemptions and getting a referendum on the ballot will be a bit more costly.

A total of 807 bills were signed into law and went into effect on Friday in California.

Legal matters
Law enforcement will now be required to obtain search warrants to review private emails, text messages, and other data stored on smartphones, tablets and the cloud.

Guns can be temporarily seized from an individual that has been deemed by a court of law to be a threat to themselves or others. AB 1014 was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in the wake of the 2014 Isla Vista shooting. Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a rampage that resulted in the deaths of six UC Santa Barbara students and wounded 14 people. Rodger's family had sought help for his erratic behavior by putting him in therapy; however his mental instability did not prevent him from purchasing three firearms. The new law will allow law enforcement or family members to seek a 21-day restraining order from the court that would bar a person from possessing any firearms.

State Sen. Anthony Canella, (R-Ceres) sponsored a bill that the governor signed in September that will help those victimized by "revenge porn." The new law allows prosecutors to seize the images and data storage devices used in the posting of nude or sexual pictures online by an estranged romantic partner.

"Several years ago, it was brought to my attention that countless lives were being destroyed because another person they trusted distributed compromising photos of them online," Cannella said in a statement issued when he introduced the bill. "As a result, I created legislation that makes this activity illegal," said Cannella. "I quickly realized, however, there was much more to be done. As technology evolves, unfortunately, so does the rate of these cyber-crimes - increasing the number of victims impacted. And while I wish these types of crimes didn't exist, SB 676 and AB 1310 will provide even more protection to victims."

Victims of human trafficking or torture will now have a longer time period to file a civil suit against the perpetrators. The new law extends the statue of limitations from two years to 10 years.

A new law encourages law enforcement agencies to make processing rape kits an urgent matter with the hope that DNA profiles will be added to the state database in a quicker time frame.

Prosecutors will now have a longer time to file vehicular manslaughter charges in the case of hit and run collisions resulting in fatalities. Charges can now be filed with a year of a person being identified as the driver.

The California Highway Patrol will begin instituting new alerts on the state's highways. A Yellow Alert notification system will used for specified hit-and-run incidents resulting in death or serious injury. The department will use the freeway Changeable Message Signs to disperse information on the suspect, vehicle, direction of travel, and any other pertinent data. Another new alert will be the Silver Alert, which will be used in the case of missing seniors. The Silver Alert is an emergency system that allows law enforcement to broadcast regional or statewide alerts for seniors, or individuals with developmental disabilities or who are cognitively impaired, and are missing and may be in danger. The alert will be featured on freeway signs when there is a vehicle involved in the missing case.

Two new laws address the growing trends of electronic skateboards and bicycles. AB 604, sponsored by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank) defines "electronically motorized board" as a wheeled device designed to be stood on and powered by electronic propulsion, going no more than 15 miles per hour. The electronically motorized boards can only be ridden on a highway with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less, or specific designated bikeways. The rider must be at least 16 years old and must wear a bicycle helmet. Cities and counties are authorized to restrict the use of the electrically motorized boards.

AB 1096 creates three separate classes of electric bicycles, defined by their maximum speed and how much power is supplied by the motor. Classes 1 and 2 have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. A Class 3 electric bicycle has a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour. The operator of a Class 3 bicycle must be at least 16 years old and wear a helmet. Manufacturers and distributors must label the bicycles with the classification number, top assisted speed, and wattage. The new law sets up safety restrictions and regulates access on trails and paths.

The law requiring slow-moving passenger vehicles to pull over safely to let traffic pass has been amended to apply to all vehicles. Bicycles will now be included in the legal requirement that slow-moving vehicles use the next available turnout or other area to let backed-up traffic - five or more vehicles - get by.

SB 491 makes it unlawful to wear a headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears, while operating a motor vehicle or a bicycle. This prohibition does not apply to persons operating authorized emergency vehicles, construction equipment and refuse or waste equipment while wearing a headset or safety earplugs.

Under SB 707 concealed firearms will be prohibited from K-12 and college campuses.

SB 199 requires that realistic looking toy guns will have to have more features that identify them as toys and not the real item, like fluorescent trigger guards.

California now requires full vaccination records for children to enroll in school. The new law, which was spurred by a measles outbreak in Disneyland, eliminates the exemptions for personal beliefs. School districts will start checking vaccination records in July before the 2016-2017 school year begins.

The California high school exit exam has been suspended as a requirement to receiving a diploma through the 2017-18 school year. It also applies retroactively to 2004 for students who were unable to pass the exam but completed all other graduation requirements.

Sex education courses would become mandatory for students unless parents seek an opt-out option. The courses will also be updated to include more information about HIV and gender identity. Additionally, health classes will now teach the "yes means yes" standard of consenting to a sexual act, as signed into law under SB 695.

The California Interscholastic Federation will develop guidelines to have competition cheerleading made an interscholastic sport.

Schools will be prohibiting from using the term "Redskins" on any sign, building, or fixture and have to eliminate the word from mascots, jerseys, yearbooks, etc. by 2017.

Works and wages
The state minimum wage increased from $9 to $10 an hour on Friday.

Men and women performing "substantially similar work" must be paid an equal wage. The California Fair Pay Act will allow a person to talk about their pay and ask about the pay of others without facing reprisals and closes loopholes that prevented enforcement efforts.

Under AB 359, new grocery store owners will have to retain the store's employees for at least 90 days and consider keeping them on after the three months, unless dismissal is based on job performance.

Cheerleaders for professional sports teams will now be considered employees and will be granted wages and employee protections.

The California labor code will no longer use the word alien to refer to workers not born in the United States.

Any licensed crisis pregnancy-related facility has to post notices of public family planning services, including abortion and contraception.

Doctors can prescribe terminally ill patients lethal doses of drugs. This law won't take effect until 90 days after a special session on healthcare adjourns and the date for the special session has not been set as of yet.

The state will allocate $40 million to Medi-Cal to be used for health care coverage for children who are not in the country legally.

Environment and water
Illegal marijuana farms that are found to have damaged the environment by killing wild animals and decimating their habitats, clearing forests, or dumping wastewater and chemicals will face steep civil fines from the Department of Fish and Game in addition to any criminal penalties.

The California Air Resources Board will now include two members from communities dealing with high pollution levels that will be selected by the Legislature. The Board is currently made up of 12 members appointed by the governor.

The state is making strides on energy efficiency by granting $100 million in financial incentives for installing solar panels on low-income multifamily housing units.

Local municipalities, including home owner associations cannot bar a resident from installing artificial turf or drought tolerant landscaping.

State agencies will have to replace aging and outdated irrigation systems and use plants that need less water.

Certified farmers markets can now host beer-tasting events.

The cost to submit a ballot initiative is increasing from $200 to $2,000. The move was made to discourage frivolous or unconstitutional proposals like one from 2015 that sought to execute homosexuals.

Companies like Airbnb must inform users that renting out their apartment or home could violate their lease agreement.