2013 brings in a variety of new state laws

By Joe Tash

Gov. Jerry Brown signed 876 regular session bills this year, and vetoed 120 regular session bills. Following are some of the higher profile new laws that took effect in California on Jan. 1.


California is making it illegal for employers to demand access to employees’ social media accounts. Gov. Brown said the legislation will protect residents from “unwarranted invasions.”


Gov. Brown outlawed gay conversion therapy practices on minors— efforts by therapists to convert minors’ sexual orientation. However, the law has been delayed pending a federal appeals trial.


To ease the often overwhelming costs of higher education, select popular college textbooks are set to become available as free online downloads. More than 50 common textbooks for University of California, California State University and California Community College students should be posted in an online database by the start of the 2013-2014 school year.


Young undocumented Californians will be eligible for driver’s licenses beginning next year if they qualify for a new federal work program. Gov. Brown’s signing of the law followed in the steps of President Obama’s decision to stop deporting young undocumented immigrants if they meet certain requirements, including if they are 30 years old or younger and came to the United States by the age of 16.


For parents who decide not to have their children vaccinated, they’ll need a signed waiver from a doctor verifying that they were warned of risks and benefits associated with opting out of vaccinations before registering their children for school.


Homeowners on the brink of losing their homes gained stronger protections, with state legislators banning banks from practicing “dual tracking”—renegotiating mortgage payments with struggling homeowners while simultaneously pursuing foreclosure against the homeowner.


California will hold party bus operators to the same standards as limousine drivers, making them legally responsible for drinking by underage passengers. The law is named for Brett Studebaker, a 19-year-old from San Mateo who died in 2010 after drinking on a party bus and crashing his own vehicle while driving home later.


Juveniles sentenced to lifetime prison stints in California have a chance of release after serving 25 years if they show remorse and spend time in rehabilitation programs. Supporters of the bill argued that the U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences teenagers to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


A new bill outlaws openly carrying shotguns and rifles on the streets and in the malls of California cities. A similar law last year banned the open carrying of handguns. The new bill does not apply to hunters, law enforcement personnel and others with specified licenses.


California coaches and administrators in K-12 schools, as well as higher education employees who have regular contact with children, will be required to report suspected child sexual abuse.


SB 1388 allows motorists to park at broken meters (up to the posted time limit) without fear of getting a ticket unless the local jurisdiction provides visible and adequate notice of any prohibitions at parking locations.


AB 1536 clarifies existing law by allowing drivers to dictate, send, or listen to text-based communications while driving as long as they do so using technology specifically designed and configured to allow fully voice-operated, hands-free operation. Drivers under age 18 are still prohibited from using any electronic device while driving.


AB 2489 prohibits a person from operating a vehicle with a product or device that obscures -- or is intended to obscure -- the reading or recognition of a license plate by sight or use of an electronic device (like a toll or red-light camera). The new law also prohibits a person from erasing, painting over, or altering a license plate to avoid visual or electronic capture of the license plate or its characters.


AB 2405 exempts vehicles with special state-issued green and white stickers (all electric, natural gas, and “plug-in” hybrid cars) from toll charges that single-occupant vehicles pay to access express or HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes.

This article was compiled from wire services and online sources.