What’s in: recycling for renters and revised standards for use of car seats for children.
What’s out: smoking for renters, open carry of unloaded handguns and self-service check out of alcohol at retail stores.
In the realm of technology, out-of-state online businesses will be subject to a California use tax, and digital readers won’t have to worry about Big Brother watching.
California will also become more equal for all with a gay-bullying law and a gay history law — the first state law of its kind in the nation.
Animals are also the source of greater protection, with laws shielding sharks and cracking down on abusive pet owners.
Every employer and employee will want to read the fine print of a compendium of new workplace-related laws that will help the world’s eighth-largest economy going for another year.
Here’s a look at just some of the new laws for 2012 that took hold Jan. 1.
• California has a new booster-seat law that requires children younger than 8 — or who are not yet 4 feet,
9 inches tall — to use a booster seat securely fastened in the back seat of the car.
The revised California Child Restraint Law, twice vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October. It replaces the old law that required children who were 6 years old or younger — or who weighed at least 60 pounds — to be secured in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat.
The fine for violating the new law (California Vehicle Code section 27360) is $100, plus penalty assessments, which could add up to more than $400.
A first offense may be reduced or waived if economic disadvantage is demonstrated. If the fine is reduced, the court will require the violator to attend an education program. The fine for a second or subsequent offense is $250, plus penalties.
According the California Highway Patrol, thousands of children are injured or killed every year by safety seats that are improperly fastened by parents or caretakers. The CHP cautions parents that most collisions occur within a mile of the home.
• There is also a change to the standard seat belt law, which defines proper use of seat belts. CVC section 27315 states a driver must be properly clicked in as well. The lap portion of a seat belt must cross the hips and upper thighs of an adult and the shoulder section of a seat belt must cross the chest in front of the occupant. The shoulder portion of the seat belt can’t be tucked under an arm or behind a back.
Somewhere consumer crusader Ralph Nader must be celebrating. It’s been a long road since he single-handedly got federal legislation passed in 1966 that required seat belts as a standard feature in cars.
AB 353 now prohibits police from immediately impounding a car during sobriety checkpoints solely because the driver is unlicensed. Unlicensed drivers now have time to contact a vehicle’s legal driver to avoid impound.
OPEN CARRY OF HANDGUNS
Assembly Bill (AB) 144 now makes the open carry of unloaded handguns illegal in most of California. The law, signed by Brown and supported by law enforcement officials, does not affect unloaded open carry for long guns — as in rifles and shotguns — except where banned. Locations include schools, school zones, state and national parks, post offices and federal buildings. Among those exempt from the law are law enforcement, individuals authorized to carry loaded weapons in public and people selling unloaded weapons at guns shows. The penalty for violating the law includes up to $1,000 in fines and up to six months in jail.
ALCOHOL AND SELF-SERVICE
This was a marriage that wasn’t meant to last. AB 183 bans the sale of alcoholic beverages at self-service checkout stands in California’s retail stores. Also known as the Fresh & Easy law because it stemmed from the chain’s self-service format, the legislation requires retailers to sell adult beverages at full-service checkouts.
There must be a face-to-face transaction between customers and store employees. Supporters of the law included religious leaders throughout the state and many organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, Consumer Federation of California, California Council on Alcohol Problems (CalCap), Lutheran Office of Public Policy of California, California Police Chiefs, Alcohol Justice, California Narcotic Officers Association, Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry, California’s Police Officers (PORAC) and California Professional Firefighters.
BEER AND CAFFEINE
SB 39 bans the importation, production and sale of caffeinated beer beverages at retail locations throughout California.
INTERNET SALES TAX
AB 28 requires some online retailers located in states outside California to collect tax and pay it to the state beginning this summer. Online giant Amazon, which kicked and screamed about the legislation and even threatened to pull its business out of California, quieted down when it figured out how to make its own profit on the new law. It is offering to calculate and collect any local and state sales taxes for its third party vendors for 2.9 percent of the taxes collected. The California Board of Equalization has estimated that the state loses more than $1.1 billion each year in unpaid use-tax revenue.
READER PRIVACY ACT
Go ahead and get that new digital reader you’ve been wanting — or download a copy of “Catch 22” from the Internet. Senate Bill (SB) 602 stops the government and third parties from snooping into previously easy-to-tap private reading records. We can now remember Joseph Heller for something other than his famous quote: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
NO SMOKING HERE, THERE, ANYWHERE
California has gotten even tougher on smoking with SB 332. The law means landlords may prohibit smoking in apartment buildings and other rental properties. The purpose of the bill is to ensure apartment dwellers aren’t exposed to second-hand smoke from other residents who live above or below them. According to Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) who authored the bill, more than 30 percent of California housing is made up of multi-family residences.
RENTERS’ RIGHT TO RECYCLING
Owners of multi-family housing with five or more units must now provide paper, plastic, bottle and can recycling services for California tenants beginning in 2012.
California is the first state in the nation to require lessons about gays and lesbians in public schools. SB 48 requires that school textbooks and social studies include the historic accomplishments of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and groups, beginning July 1. A coalition of pro-family groups, which was unsuccessful in stopping the legislation before it was signed by Brown in 2011, vows to reverse the law. The group says it will collect signatures for its initiative early in the year.
AB 9, or Seth’s Law, is set to take effect on July 1. The law combats bullying of gay and lesbian students in public schools by requiring school districts to have a uniform process for dealing with gay-bullying complaints. It also mandates that school personnel intervene if they witness gay bullying. The law is named for Seth Walsh who, in 2010 at age 13, hanged himself in his backyard. Walsh reportedly suffered relentless bullying at school after he came out as openly gay in the sixth grade.
LGBT EQUALITY, EQUAL ACCESS
TO HIGHER EDUCATION
State universities and colleges and community colleges must create and enforce campus policies protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals from harassment and appoint employee contact persons to address on-campus LGBT matters.
LGBT EQUAL BENEFITS
Requires an employer with a state contract worth more than $100,000 to have non-discrimination policies in place for LGBT workers and their partners.
MEDICAL RADIATION SAFETY
Radiologists in California will be required to add radiation dose levels to their printed and digital reports under SB 1237. Signed by Schwarzenegger in 2010, the law goes into effect on July 1.
Companies doing business in California that have annual gross global receipts in excess of $100 million will be required to publicly disclose efforts to ensure their supply chains do not support human trafficking or slavery. SB 657 was signed into law by Schwarzenegger in 2010.
NO MORE SHARK SOUP
AB 376 bans the sale, trade and possession of shark fins in California. Shark fin soup is a delicacy at some restaurants.
Anyone with a misdemeanor or felony animal-abuse conviction is prohibited from possessing animals for five to 10 years after the crime under AB 1117.
If you’re lucky enough to have work in this economy — or if you are being considered for a job — you could be affected by a slew of new employment laws in 2012. Here’s a snapshot from the California Chamber of Commerce on new rules that have taken effect:
• Credit reports: Employers and prospective employers won’t be able to obtain and use consumer credit reports to review job applications beginning this year. AB 22 does not apply to some financial institutions or managerial employees. California is now in a club with Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Maryland — the states that have already restricted credit checks by most employers from employment decisions.
• Pregnancy disability leave: SB 299 requires all employers with five or more employees to continue to maintain and pay for health coverage under a group health plan for an eligible female employee who takes pregnancy disability leave (PDL) up to a maximum of four months in a 12-month period. The benefits are at the same level and under the same conditions as if the employee had continued working during the leave period.
• “Gender expression:” AB 887 amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act to further define “gender” to include both actual gender and “gender expression,” as defined by the new law, and to make clear that discrimination on either basis is prohibited.
• Genetic information: SB 559 amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to state that employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of genetic information.
• Insurance non-discrimination: SB 757 prevents employers that operate in multiple states from discriminating against same-sex couples by not providing the same insurance coverage for domestic partners as they do for spouses.
• Independent contractors: The “willful misclassification” of independent contractors by employers carries penalties ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 under SB 459.
For a complete list of the new California employment laws, visit www.calchamber.com.