SACRAMENTO — In 2012, the governor and Legislature overhauled California’s public pension and workers’ compensation systems. They made it illegal to carry rifles openly in cities. They allowed certain illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and qualify for state college financial aid.
Voters made laws, too, approving Gov. Jerry Brown’s temporary quarter-cent hike in the sales tax, among other measures, in a bid to help resolve California’s dire fiscal situation.
In all, more than 750 new laws take effect Jan.1.
Controversy surrounded the bid to permit perhaps hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants to qualify for state driver’s licenses. The new law applies to those given a work permit as part of an Obama administration program that suspends deportation for many people who arrived illegally as children.
Also contentious was the Dream Act, approved in 2011 but taking effect today, allowing students in the country illegally to receive taxpayer-financed aid to attend universities and colleges. The California Student Aid Commission expects about 20,000 people to apply for such assistance,said executive director Diana Fuentes-Michel.
The ban on openly carrying unloaded rifles and shotguns in public in urban areas was largely a response to gun owners taking long guns into their neighborhood coffee shops and parks as a demonstration of their 2nd Amendment rights.
Gun owners said the ban would infringe on their right to carry arms. But it passed with the backing of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.
The courts have been enlisted in a dispute over a new law prohibiting the practice of “conversion therapy” on minors in an effort to change their sexual orientation from gay to straight. Judges have disagreed over its merits, but a federal appeals court has blocked the law from taking effect.
New public pension rules are aimed at saving the two largest retirement systems $78 billion over the next 30 years. Public employees hired after Jan. 1 will have to wait longer to retire — up to age 67 for maximum benefits for many workers — and there will be new limits on how much pay they can collect.
New laws take effect in many other areas as well:
Cars and drivers
Insurance: Drivers pulled over by police are permitted to show officers their proof of insurance on an electronic device, such as a smartphone.
Red-light cameras: New statewide guidelines prohibit use of the cameras primarily to raise revenue and make it easier for drivers to challenge tickets issued on evidence from the devices.
Texting: Drivers may dictate, send and listen to text-based communications as long as they use voice-command or other hands-free technology.
Toll lanes: Solo drivers of hybrid vehicles are exempted from toll charges in “high-occupancy toll,” or HOT, lanes on parts of I-15 in San Diego and I-680 in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
Used cars: Buy Here Pay Here lots that offer their own financing must post fair-market values on their autos and provide 1,000-mile, 30-day warranties on vehicles they sell.
Read The Times series: Wheels of Fortune
Vanity plates: State lawmakers no longer get a discount on vanity license plates.
Charter schools: School districts gain greater authority to close charter schools that fail to make sufficient academic progress.
College textbooks: A new website, to be developed in coming months, will give students free digital access to 50 textbooks for lower-division courses in the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems. Hard copies will cost $20.
Fees: California State University may not establish, adjust or reallocate student fees without the approval of student representatives, must justify any increase and may not raise fees after the first 90 days of the school year.
Tests: The Academic Performance Index, which has been based entirely on student test scores, is changed to give test scores no more than 60% of the scale and include other factors such as graduation rates.
Employers and workers
Religious garb: California employers may not shunt Sikh and Muslim employees to work areas out of public view for wearing clothing or hairstyles, such as turbans, hijabs or beards, because of their religious beliefs.
Retirement: The state will create a panel to study the feasibility of a government-run retirement plan for low-wage private-sector workers.
Workers’ compensation: Payments to employees permanently disabled in job-related accidents will increase by $740 million, and employers will receive a break on premiums.
Food and drink
Beer: Certain microbrews aged in wooden barrels that previously held spirits will be licensed, regulated and labeled as beer throughout California.
Home-cooked food: Californians may sell certain homemade foods and baked goods, including bread, fruit pies, jams and dried nuts, to stores, to restaurants and directly to consumers.
Abortion: A study program that allows non-surgical abortions by a limited number of nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants is extended for two years.
Birth control: Registered nurses are permitted to give hormonal contraceptives to women by order of a certified nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner or physician assistant in some clinical settings.
Babies: Parents must have a doctor’s permission before being granted an entertainment work permit for infants 1 month old or younger.
Child actors: Registered sex offenders are barred from representing minors working in the entertainment industry. Criminal background checks are required for managers, publicists, photographers and other adults who have unsupervised access to young performers.
Read Times coverage: Case dropped against casting director over sex crime disclosure
Film taxes: The state’s tax credits for films and television shows made in California are extended for two years, providing up to $200 million in breaks for the industry.
Props: Red tape is reduced for permits to use sawed-off shotguns as props in film and television productions.
Crime: The Los Angeles County sheriff is required to help state authorities determine whether Internet-related crimes, including identity theft and child molestation, are a significant problem requiring new state laws.
Privacy: University officials and private employers are forbidden to ask students, workers or job applicants for their email passwords or those for social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook.
Telephone service: State agencies are banned from regulating Internet phone service. This extends a current “hands-off” policy by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Landlords, tenants and homeowners
Foreclosures: A tenant renting a property that is in foreclosure may keep possession of it until the lease expires. Another law guarantees struggling homeowners a reliable point of contact at their lender, imposes civil penalties on fraudulently signed mortgage documents and bans foreclosures on borrowers who are in loan-modification proceedings.
Pets: Landlords are not permitted to require that tenants declaw their cats or cut vocal cords in their dogs.
Rent: California landlords may not require that rent be paid online.
Child abuse: The list of people subject to criminal liability for failing to report suspected child abuse is expanded to include coaches at elementary and secondary schools, college employees who interact with minors, commercial computer technicians and those who process film, video or computer images.
Stadium violence: Sports arenas and stadiums must post contact information for security personnel that is visible from seating and parking areas, so help can be summoned quickly if violence occurs.
Underage killers: Inmates serving life in prison for murders they committed as juveniles may apply after 25 years for a reduction of their prison term.
Parks and Wildlife
Animal fighting: Maximum fines double from $5,000 to $10,000 for people convicted of causing bears, bulls and roosters to fight with other animals or with humans.
Conservation: The state Department of Fish and Game must provide greater emphasis on conservation. Its name is changed to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Hunting: Dogs may not be used to hunt bears and bobcats.
State parks: The parks department must create a plan for increasing private revenue to operate the sites. Californians may apply a portion of their state tax refund to the parks in exchange for an annual park pass.
Bullet train: Members of the governing board of California’s High-Speed Rail Authority must publicly identify any financial interest they have in board decisions and disqualify themselves from acting on those matters. Read Times coverage: Cities in bullet train’s path have mixed reactions
Benefits: State benefits rescinded due to a military discharge based solely on sexual orientation are to be restored if the federal government reinstates eligibility.
License plates: Fees for personalized veterans’ license plates are increased to provide more money to the County Veterans Service Officer Fund, which aids veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services.
Sport licenses: The cost of sports-fishing and hunting licenses is reduced for active military personnel recovering from injuries or illnesses.