Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy Freakin' New Year!

Well folks, it's now 2008 and it seems I slept through the big change here in Los Angeles. No, the earth didn't shake and my small house didn't become beachfront property, but as with tradition, the State of California and our celebrity Governator has passed some new laws for 2008 that will affect all of us. Some for the general good and some for Discovering Insanity. As always, many of the laws have to do with the "privlege" of driving and I'm in the opinion that anything that protects us from getting killed while on the freeway is a damn good idea. Others, affect our work and general living. So today, in honor of the first day of 2008, here are some of the highlights, complete with commentaries, on the new California laws starting with our DMV and ending with Kangaroo leather!

Cell Phones...Consider yourself lucky if Santa brought you a hands-free cell-phone headset. You know, those obnoxious things that hang off off the ear and you can't tell if the person is talking to you? Taking effect July 1, the law forbids cruising Californians from mouthing off on their mobile without a “hands-free listening and talking operation.” That’s right, talking and driving with a cell phone in hand will be illegal come summer. The law allows a driver using a wireless telephone to make emergency calls, including, but not limited to, calls to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency services agency. The base fine for a first offense is $20, and $50 for each subsequent conviction. The courts will impose additional administrative fees and the violation is a reportable offense; however, DMV will not assign a violation point. By the way, the law requires you use a hands-free device with your phone, a “push-to-talk" feature is not allowed.

Teen Cell Phone Use...Now teens cannot use a wireless telephone to speak or text, even if it is equipped with a hands-free device or speaker-phone feature if you are under the age of 18. They are also prohibited from using any other type of mobile service devices, for example, specialized mobile radios, broadband personal communication devices, handheld devices or laptop computers, pagers, or two-way messaging, and texting devices with one exception: emergency situations. Statistics show that teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to be involved in accidents because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks. Distractions, such as talking with passengers, eating or drinking, and talking on cellular phones or texting increase the chance you will be involved in a serious accident.

Disabled Parking...Limits the maximum consecutive number of times a person can renew a temporary disability parking placard and increases fines for second and third violations related to illegal parking in disabled spaces. Also in the law is signage and painting requirements for disabled parking spaces of buildings constructed or renovated on or after July 1, 2008. So do the right thing and park where you're supposed to, hunh?

Increased DMV Fees..With every law there's always a cost. CA's new law establishes the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program, the Air Quality Improvement Program, and the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (Health and Safety Code) and provides funding for these programs through an increase in the smog abatement fee, the vehicle registration fee, the vessel registration fee, and the identification plate fee. Yipee!

Off-Highway Motor Vehicles (OHVs)...increases the registration fee for OHVs and now requires the department, in the design of the OHV identification plate or device, to make the identification number the most prominent feature.

Special License Plates Fee Exemption...in honor of our vets and their families, a new law exempts the surviving spouse of a former American Prisoner of War or of a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from paying specified vehicle-related fees if she/he elects to retain the deceased spouse’s special license plates. Authorizes a member of the former prisoner of war’s family, or the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient’s family, as defined, to retain one of the special license plates as a family heirloom.

Vessel Emissions Standards...Prohibits the DMV from registering vessels with stern drive or inboard engines manufactured after January 1, 2008, if they do not meet emissions regulations. Requires the retail seller to certify on the original application for a CF number if the vessel is in compliance with the emissions regulations

Motor Carrier Permits...Authorizes the DMV to waive the $150 reinstatement fee if a Motor Carrier Permit was suspended for a lapse in insurance coverage, and it is subsequently found that there was no lapse in coverage.

Driving Under the Influence Repeated Offense...Makes it unlawful for a person who is on probation for a driving-under-the-influence offense to operate a motor vehicle at any time with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or greater. Imposes an admin per se driver license suspension on persons found to violate this prohibition.

Medical Examination for Special Certificates...Authorizes the medical examination for an original or renewal certificate to drive a schoolbus, school pupil activity bus, youth bus, general public paratransit vehicle, or farm labor vehicle to be given by a licensed, advanced practice, registered nurse qualified to perform a medical examination or by a licensed physician assistant.

Reporting Abstract of Record of Court...Reduces the time in which the clerk of a court is required to forward to DMV an abstract of the record of the court from 10 to 5 days after conviction or sentencing.

Required Declaration on an Original or Renewal Application for a Driver License...Effective July 1, 2008, a new law requires an applicant as a condition of obtaining or renewing a driver’s license to sign a declaration acknowledging that a driver may be charged with murder if a person is killed as a result of driving under the influence. That's right folks, it's now MURDER. Hear that? Drink and Drive and kill somebody and you'll be somebody's bitch real soon!

Smoking in Vehicles With Minor Passengers...Even as a smoker, I agree with this one. Our new law makes it an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100) for a person to smoke a pipe, cigar, or cigarette in a motor vehicle any time a minor is present in the vehicle.

Speed Contests and Reckless Driving...They cleaned this law up as it now Includes reckless driving on a highway, reckless driving in an off-street parking facility, or exhibition of speed on a highway within the scope of various other existing statutes.

Traffic Violations Adjudication...Prohibits the courts from dismissing serious traffic violations through completion of a traffic violator school program or any other court-approved program for safe driving. Serious traffic violations are those that would result in the assessment of two negligent operator points.

Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights...We get it again, more cost to us! A new law now allows dealers to increase the restocking fee under circumstances involving the purchase of a leased vehicle by the lessee.

Consumer Protection...Creates the Consumer Motor Vehicle Recovery Corporation to manage a $5-million recovery fund to compensate consumers who have suffered monetary loss as the result of a vehicle dealership closure or insolvency. A $1 fee will be collected by the DMV on each vehicle sold by a dealer or lessor/retailer. This fee cannot be passed on to the consumer. It's about time we don't pay for somethin'!

Occupational Licensing...Now expands the authority of the DMV to order restitution to victims who have suffered financial loss or damage by a vehicle dealer, manufacturer, distributor and transporter when the occupational license has been suspended or revoked. Expands DMV’s authority to refuse to issue a license to include until restitution has been paid.

Traffic Violator School Licensing...Requires DMV to submit a report to the Legislature, by July 1, 2008, containing a plan to consolidate all forms of traffic violation instruction programs under DMV’s licensing authority. Increases the amount a traffic violator school may charge for a duplicate completion certificate and addresses a fee issue associated with class cancellations.

Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices...This law expands on current law, making it illegal to operate a mobility device, such as a Segway, in a reckless manner or at a speed that endangers others. Operators of such devices must yield the right of way to pedestrians and the disabled.

Bicycle Illumination...This law requires bicyclists to use lights and reflectors while riding on a highway, sidewalk or bike path during darkness.

California Privacy Breach Law...California's privacy breach notification law SB1386 started the ball rolling with regard to what is now at least 40 U.S. states, including the District of Columbia, that have breach notice laws. Most of the subsequent state laws largely based theirs upon SB1386, including how the law defines "personal information." The original SB1386 defined "personal information" as an individual's name in addition to: Social Security number; driver's license number or California identification card number; or an account number, or credit or debit card number, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual's financial account. Under the updated CA AB1298 there are two new additional categories of information to the definition of "personal information": "medical information" and "health insurance information"...both of which now must be disclosed under this law. "Medical information" is defined as any information regarding an individual's medical history, mental or physical condition, or medical treatment or diagnosis by a health care professional. "Health insurance information" is an individual's health insurance policy number or subscriber identification number, any unique identifier used by a health insurer to identify the individual, or any information in an individual's application and claims history, including any appeals records.

Protecting Gay, Transgender Students...here we go! A recent amendment to California’s education code has outraged many conservatives, who say the new laws push a gay agenda in public schools. The law, SB 777, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, forbids any activity in school that “promotes a discriminatory bias” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.

Implantation of a Subdermal Identification Device...Here's our protection from Big Brother, and it's not the TV show. California has enacted a statute prohibiting the compelled or coerced implantation of a subdermal identification device, such as a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) microchip or a newer chipless "RFID tattoo." The new law does not impact voluntary implantation. The new California statute (SB No. 362, now Chapter 538) was approved by Governor Schwarzenegger on October 12. It establishes a new Civil Code Section 52.7, which provides that "no person shall require, coerce, or compel any other individual to undergo the subcutaneous implanting of an identification device." It creates a civil action under which a person implanted may recover a "civil penalty" of no more than $10,000 per implant and no more than $1,000 "for each day the violation continues," actual damages and compensatory damages, as well as injunctive relief. Punitive damages may be awarded on proof of the defendant's "malice, oppression, fraud or duress" in requiring device implantation.

Juveniles Prohibitied from Buying or Renting Violent Video Games...Video game violence, another politically controversial issue, has received more national attention, even being banned for juveniles in some states, as advances in technology have allowed more realistic graphical depictions of violent acts. The recent "Hot Coffee" mod that unlocked sexually explicit content in developer Rockstar's "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" game also put electronic gaming under increased scrutiny. In an effort to protect children from video game violence, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Friday that would prohibit the sale or rental of violent video games to anyone younger than 18 years old. The text of Assembly Bill 1179 describes a violent video game as "a video game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." The bill sets a maximum fine of $1,000 for violators of the law. How California would review games and decide which merited the 18 and older sticker may pose another problem. Maybe, just maybe, this law will prevent on stupid death by some deranged kid on crack. But maybe I'm just dreamin!

More Money For McDonald's Workers...Yes folks, the Minimum Wage will be $7.50 for 2007 and $8.00 for 2008. I wonder if this will help them to afford to buy that $800,00 house in Malibu or the brand new BMW? I'm sure there's some way this will happen!

Landlord/Tenant Evictions...Assembly Bill 1169 reestablishes the sixty (60) day notice which is required by landlords to give to residential tenants on periodic leases (e.g., month-to-month lease) when the tenants have been living in the property for at least one year. This law maintains the exception of a thirty (30) day notice for certain qualifying properties for sale.

Small Claims Court Amounts...Under Assembly Bill 2618, this new law essentially is clean-up legislation which increases the jurisdictional limit in small claims court to $7,500 on certain issues which were left unchanged when general limits increased from $5,000 to $7,500 last year.

Conserve Energy, Pay More...Legislation by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, gives the California Energy Commission until the end of 2008 to develop tougher efficiency standards for general purpose lights. Other Huffman bills authorize a $250 million subsidy program to encourage installation of solar water heaters and require the Energy Commission to establish water-efficiency standards for the design of new buildings.

Help the Homeless...A new law written by Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, is intended to remove roadblocks for homeless shelters by requiring cities and counties to designate areas where shelters can be located without obtaining a conditional use permit.

Parental Classes for Gang Mommies & Daddies...Courts could require the parents or guardians of gang members to attend parenting classes under legislation by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, that attempts to prevent first-time juvenile offenders from committing additional crimes.

Protect Those Housekeepers...Legislation by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, prevents cities and counties from requiring landlords to serve as surrogate border patrol agents by obtaining and reporting the immigration status of their tenants. The measure also prohibits ordinances preventing landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.

HIV Testing...A law written by Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, makes it more likely that people will be routinely tested for HIV and AIDS. The measure drops a requirement that patients fill out a form to have the tests. They only would have to give a doctor verbal consent to add HIV to other conditions for which they are being tested.

Have HIV and Still Make Babies...Legislation by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, allows sperm from a man with HIV to be used to artificially inseminate a wife or partner who does not have the disease if the woman consents and the sperm is processed to minimize the possibility of infection. Let's corrupt the gene pool even more!

No Pension Laundering Iran Money...The state's two giant public pension funds, the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, will be prohibited from investing in companies that have defense- or nuclear energy-related business with Iran. The bill is by Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa.

Phony Music...Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, is the author of a law that attempts to ensure that music fans who buy tickets to oldies concerts are not victims of deceptive advertising. The legislation requires performing groups to meet at least one of several standards to be able to legally use the name from the groups' recording days. An example: The group must include at least one member who has the legal right to use the name. Bands also can avoid lawsuits by acknowledging they are a salute or tribute to the original recording group and had a name that did not confuse ticket buyers.

Gift Certificates....A law written by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, allows shoppers to cash in gift certificates that have less than $10 left in value. Consumer advocates say that will prevent stores from benefiting from an "undeserved bonanza" generated by unexhausted gift certificates that stores have refused to trade for cash.

John Wayne’s 11th Commandment...When those spicy Santa Ana winds blow wildfires into your territory, flames rise, a riot ensues, and the governor declares an emergency. Thanks to Assembly Bill 1645, the governor can still invoke “various powers” in the event of an emergency. But the new law declares that the governor cannot take away lawfully owned rifles or ammo during said crises. Yippee-ki-yay.

The High Cost of Hooch...Here’s one reason to be glad your days of teenage shenanigans are over. In hopes of keeping underagers from sneaking hits of hooch, Assembly Bill 1658, by Southern California’s Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, further penalizes those who are not yet of a sinning age. Where before knockin’ back a beer and getting busted by the po-po cost $250, the fine has been raised to $500. Included in the new law are additional fines for those farming out fake IDs. No word yet on how to catch them.

Bend It Like Beckham...You may not have his winning smile or killer abs, but you can now legally buy Beck’s shoes.The most obscure law of the bunch, Senate Bill 880 by Ron Calderon, legalizes the importation of nonendangered kangaroo leather. The material is used for the highly coveted Predator cleats worn by soccer star Beckham. Soccer players say that the kanga cleats are lighter and mold easier to the foot. Kangaroo harvesters in Australia are happy to send over their bounty of marsupial. Don’t fret about the other, less plentiful members of the animal kingdom — polar bears and sable antelopes are still protected under California law.

So there you have 'em folks! The new laws that will affect us, and cost us, to live in this Great State of California. Will some of these laws really work? Only time will tell but you can be rest assured that no matter what, each and every new law is gonna cost us! That's just the way it is. Now if we could only get a law banning excessive news coverage of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears...then we'd be on to something. Happy New Year everybody and thanks for reading Discover Insanity. I think the insanity is about to begin...