From space travel to social media privacy
Some 800 bills signed into law over the 2011-12 legislative sessions go into effect today, Jan. 1, 2013, in California. Of these, many address hot-button issues, such as same-sex marriage, state developmental centers, food production, gun control, and sexual abuse and predation. Others might seem a bit less pressing. And a few, in the words of Gov. Jerry Brown, help to make “science fiction tomorrow’s reality.”
One significant law expected to go into affect today may not see the light of day for years.
The new law, which would have prohibited mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts (so-called “conversion therapy”) on those under 18 years of age (SB 1172) had been approved by the governor in September and would have gone into effect Jan. 1, had it not been blocked at the ninth-hour. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction against it Friday, Dec. 21, pending an appeal, at the request of a group led by Washington, D.C.- based “family-issues” litigation and lobbyist organization Liberty Counsel. The law would have been the first in the nation outlawing the controversial practice of attempting to change the sexual orientation of minors from gay to straight. The bill is now expected to be the subject of years of litigation.
The Senate this year passed a law (SB 911) expanding the group of civil servants who can solemnize a marriage to include county supervisors. Good news for anyone hoping to have newly elected 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin make an honest woman or man of them in 2013.
Same-sex couples, however, who were looking forward to someday being married by a member of the clergy who is opposed to same-sex marriage are now out of luck. The bill, introduced by Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who is openly gay, reinforces that marriage is a civil not a religious contract (SB 1140) and further adds to existing law the fact that a “priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination … shall not be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith.” The bill adds that such a refusal will not affect the tax-exempt status of any entity.
Also out of luck are cops hoping to have sex with detainees (and vice versa) – scenarios of the sort one would have assumed existed only in the imaginings of soft-core porn directors. The bill (AB 2078) specifically prohibits peace officers from engaging in sexual activity with a person they are transporting after he or she has been arrested but has not been booked, even in cases where the arrested party consents. The bill expanded on a prohibition against officers engaging in sexual activity with prisoners being held in detention facilities.
The Assembly moved to strengthen and further explicate an existing ban on open carry of rifles and shotguns (AB 1527). The amendment, for instance, specifies further who is exempt, such as retired peace officers, and makes it a misdemeanor for others to have an unloaded long gun in public.
Both the Senate (SB 1264) and Assembly (AB 1434) addressed just exactly whom the court can hold accountable for reporting, or not reporting, child and sexual abuse, dealing with so-called “mandated reporters.” Perhaps in the wake of the uproar following the revelation that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno might not have done all he could have to report sexual abuse by a member of his staff, the Assembly further specifically added “athletic coaches, athletic administrators, and athletic directors” (SB 1435) to the list of mandated reporters. Failure to report abuse could result in a crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
State hospitals and developmental centers are also getting new reporting requirements, legislation likely spurred by a string of abuse reports at the Sonoma Developmental Center this year, including a high profile Taser incident, and withering criticism of the Office of Protective Services (OPS), the developmental centers’ own state-run law enforcement agency. First, reports of injuries or deaths are now required to be reported to local law enforcement with jurisdiction over the city or county, regardless of OPS investigations (SB 1522). Another bill (SB 1051) creates a director of Protective Services position overseeing OPS and mandates reporting of incidents immediately.
Stating that “California is still reeling from the economic impacts of a wave of residential property foreclosures that began in 2007,” and detailing that “In 2011, 38 of the top 100 hardest hit ZIP codes in the nation were in California, and the current wave of foreclosures continues apace,” a Senate bill (SB 900) attempts to offer some relief to struggling home-
owners. The co-called “Homeowners
Bill of Rights” protects struggling homeowners who are trying, in good faith, to renegotiate their mortgages.
State Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, sponsored a bill (AB 1962) exempting the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) district from having to comply with the design review process in planning the much anticipated inter-county transit system that goes into affect Jan. 1. Another Assembly bill (AB 2245) exempts bicycle lane projects from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which required a negative declaration of environmental impact.
Bobcats and bears can rest just a little bit easier, knowing that there is now a law on the books (SB 1221) that makes it “generally unlawful” to allow dogs to pursue them for sport – though with a depredation permit hunters may use “not more than” three dogs” for the purposes of “guarding or protecting livestock or crops on property owned, leased, or rented by the owner of the dogs.”
An Assembly bill (AB 2363) that addresses a number of regulations involving dungeness crab fishing, including permitting and fee structures, allows the Department of Fish and Game to sell crab meat from crabs it catches for the purposes of quality testing. The practice had previously been expressly prohibited; revenue from sales will go toward managing the testing program.
In response to the growing problem of illegal marijuana cultivation in California’s state parks, law enforcement is now permitted to pull over any vehicles on forest roads with visible irrigation supplies to question the driver. The bill (AB 2284) further imposes severe penalties for narcotics cultivation on public lands, and specifically mentions the murder of Fort Bragg City Council Member Jere Melo, who was killed in the course of surveying public lands for illegal marijuana cultivation.
This year may be a good one for small and cottage food producers. The Assembly passed a law (AB 1616) allowing micro-producers to sell homemade food products to stores, restaurants and directly to the public. The bill allows cottage producers to manufacture food in private homes with permits that grant exemption from food processing and labeling laws.
School gardens, such as those at Altimira, can also join in (and cash in) on local food production. An Assembly bill (AB 2367) allows school gardens to sell produce as long as they comply with health and safety requirements.
California provides as much as 8 percent of the fresh produce in the United States, but our leading export may just be the future. A bevy of bills rush the state headlong into laws worthy of a Philip K. Dick novel.
When he signed a bill (SB 1298) into law allowing autonomous, driverless vehicles on California’s roads, Gov. Brown, with Google’s Sergey Brin at his side, said, “Today we’re looking at science-fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality.” While these cars became Governor-sanctioned when the law goes into affect today, Google had been experimenting and using the driverless cars for its Google Maps project on stretches of Highway 1 and around the state for some time. In fact, the robot cars had not been in violation of any law, since the motor vehicle laws had never anticipated such an eventually and so failed to prohibit it.
Drivers who still drive their cars themselves can show proof of insurance coverage on a mobile electronic device, such as a smart phone thanks to an Assembly bill (AB 1708).
Both the Senate and the Assembly weighed in on social media privacy. A bill passed by the Senate (SB 1349) prohibits public and private colleges from requiring students, prospective students and student groups from disclosing their social media log-ins and passwords. Similarly, the Assembly attacked the odious practice of businesses requiring job applicants and employees to provide access to their personal social media accounts (AB 1844). The law does not specify what punishment an employer may face, only that it must not require or request usernames or passwords for the purposes of accessing personal social media, and that “An employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten to discharge or discipline, or otherwise retaliate against an employee or applicant for not complying with a request or demand by the employer.”
Finally, in another forward-thinking act of legislation a bill (AB 2243) specifies limited liability for space-flight companies engaged in commercial space travel and includes language that must be used on releases signed by space travellers. Such indignities were never thrust upon Buck Rogers.
The full text of any of the above-cited bills can be found at leginfo.ca.gov.