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PD Editorial: California's new laws for the new year

Published: Monday, December 31, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.

A new year brings parades and bowl games, maybe a resolution or two. Oh yes, there also are new state laws, almost 900 of them for 2013. Some will affect almost everyone, some will spark controversy, and you may wonder why some were enacted in the first place.

Here are a few worth noting:

If you skip the Taxslayer.com Bowl to go shopping today, you’ll pay an extra quarter-cent in sales taxes, a result of voter-approved Proposition 30. But you won’t need to dig much deeper on most purchases; the additional tax amounts to $1 per $400 in sales. Proposition 30 also raises income taxes for individuals and businesses earning more than $250,000 (twice that for couples).

If you’re shopping for lumber or wood products, you’ll pay a new 1 percent surtax that replaces some of the regulatory fees previously paid by timber companies.

You’ll also pay more for birth certificates, death certificates, boat registrations and special license plates for veterans.

At least one new law could save you a dime — maybe considerably more. Motorists will no longer be ticketed for parking at a broken meter for up to the posted time limit.

If you just can’t wait to park before sending a text, it’s now legal behind the wheel so long as you use hands-free, voice-activated technology. Of course, being legal and being responsible aren’t one in the same.

Speaking of irresponsible, if you’re arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, a blood test will be mandatory in almost all instances.

If you’re asked for proof of insurance, you can provide it using a smartphone, tablet or other electronic device.

On the job, employers may not ask for passwords or access to social media services such as Facebook and Twitter. Neither can colleges and universities. Schools, meanwhile, can suspend students who create so-called burn pages on social media to bully other students.

If you’re a tenant, landlords can no longer require online rent payments. Neither can they require that cats be declawed or dogs devocalized.

If you hunt bears or bobcats, leave the dogs home. It’s still legal to hunt birds with dogs.

A year ago, the state outlawed public display of handguns after some gun owners started congregating shops with their firearms. This year, the prohibition is extended to rifles and shotguns.

An undocumented immigrant who receives a work permit under new federal regulations will be eligible for a California driver’s license. Undocumented immigrants who are seeking legal residency and fulfill state education requirements will be eligible for Cal Grants and other state financial aid for higher education.

Looking ahead, new public employees will receive smaller pensions, the state has new authority to investigate mortgage fraud, and the state will study whether to create a pension program for low-income private-sector workers whose employers don’t offer retirement benefits.

Have you got an idea for a new law? Send us a letter, or the North Bay’s new assemblyman, Marc Levine of San Rafael, is inviting constituents to submit proposals to him. Maybe yours will show up in a list of new laws for 2014.

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