While the New Year has brought resolutions and hopes for change, there are some changes that California residents can count on - new laws. Effective Jan. 1, the following laws took place in the Golden State, affecting several areas of daily life.
Although texting or operating any hand-held device is currently prohibited while driving in California, a new law will prohibit teen drivers, under the age of 18, from using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication while driving even if it is equipped with a hands-free, voice-activated device.
Counties across the state are now allowed to increase registration fees by $1 for passenger vehicles under a new California law, and $2 for commercial vehicles to help fund programs related to vehicle theft crimes within those counties.
A new law that will not be effective until Sept. 16, 2014 prohibits motorists from passing a bicycle with less than three feet between any part of the vehicle and any part of the bicycle or driver. When three feet is not possible, the motor vehicle must slow to a reasonable and prudent speed and only pass when no danger is present to the bicyclist. Failing to do so can incur a fine, regardless of a collision or not.
The roadways are not the only place seeing new laws come into effect in 2014. In public schools across the state, school officials will have the authority to discipline students who cyberbully, whether the incident takes place on campus or off. While many schools' anti-bullying rules are geared toward physical and verbal abuse occurring on campus, the new law will be the first in California to help ensure that students are protected from online abuse even if it is off-campus.
With the advent of 2014, a series of new gun laws takes place throughout the year. As of Jan. 1, all sales of 10-round clips will be illegal. Also this month, Californians looking to purchase a long gun, such as rifles or shotguns, will need to register it with the state - tracking the make, model, serial number of the gun, along with the name and address of the owner. Long gun purchasers must also pass a written firearm safety test to obtain a certificate, similar to the requirements for handgun owners. Although the bill banning lead ammunition for hunting was voted favorably upon in 2013, the law will not take effect until 2016.
A new law expanding food stamp eligibility in the state could bring aid to an estimated 230,000 low-income Californians as it is expected to combine Medi-Cal and CalFresh eligibility requirements to help struggling families.
Employers using immigration consequences as an intimidation tool to keep workers from discussing workplace violations could be fined up to $10,000, while attorneys who participate in similar threats against immigrants could face suspension or disbarment.
Additionally, California employees reporting law-breaking behavior will have new protections starting in January, ensuring that they will be safeguarded if they report a workplace violation of a local law, as well as state and federal laws. The new law protecting whistleblowers covers both private and public employees.
To view all of the laws that became effective Jan. 1 in California, visit www.leginfo.ca.gov .