State of the State

New California laws to know for 2013

What better way to prepare for the new year than by familiarizing oneself with what will (and won’t) stir up legal hot water in 2013? In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a number of bills into law; here’s a select overview of the more relevant ones to take effect on Jan. 1.

Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo’s AB 2189 allows undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 who fit certain requirements to obtain a California driver’s license. The law applies to those who qualify for President Obama’s new deferred status program, which provides a two-year stay on deportation for people under 31 who were brought to the United States illegally before the age of 16. Federal documents received in the deferment process will be considered as acceptable evidence for driver’s license applications.

Worried about all those party pictures on your Facebook feed? Fear no more. Thanks to internet privacy measure AB 1844, employers are now barred from asking employees and job applicants for the passwords to their social media and email accounts.

The California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights, supported by Attorney General Kamala Harris, addresses the continuing foreclosure crisis by protecting homeowners during the mortgage and foreclosure process. The law puts restrictions on dual track foreclosures, guarantees a single point of contact at the bank and places penalties on lenders that record and file multiple unverified documents, a controversial practice known as “robo-signing.” Homeowners can also turn to the court to help enforce their right to a fair and transparent foreclosure process.

Until now, small-scale food producers have been required to work out of certified commercial kitchens, often at a steep expense, in order to sell to stores, restaurants or directly to the public. With the new California Homemade Food Act, fledgling food entrepreneurs will be able to sell certain homemade products in a more streamlined fashion. The approved food product list includes bread, fruit pies, jam, honey and dried nuts, none of which can contain meat or cream ingredients. Requirements still include a food-processor course, food labeling and possible inspections by the health department.

Two new laws specifically make the lives of women less complicated. AB 2348, known as the California Birth Control Law, allows registered nurses to dispense and administer contraceptives (within specified clinic settings) without requiring a doctor’s signature on each prescription. Sponsored by Planned Parenthood, the bill gives “women the right to control their own destiny,” according to Gov. Brown. Also, AB 2386 expands the definition of “sex” in the Fair Employment and Housing Act to include breastfeeding. If an employer shows prejudice against breastfeeding, this counts as a form of gender or sex discrimination and can be liable for prosecution.

Champions of the environment may cheer the new Marijuana Grow Crackdown Law; the bill is aimed squarely at those who grow or manufacture illegal drugs on state forested land. Under AB 2284, law enforcement patrolling unpaved forest roads can stop cars and trucks with visible irrigation supplies to determine whether they were legally purchased. If the driver cannot prove that the purchase was lawful, the supplies can be impounded. The law applies to unpaved roads through private timberland of 50,000 acres as well as any roads in the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Forestry and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

By eliminating fear of arrest for minor drug law violations, the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention law encourages people to call 911 for help with victims of drug overdose. If someone at the scene possesses small amounts of drugs or paraphernalia, they will not be liable for arrest or prosecution. Concurrently, a new driving law says that DUI drivers can no longer choose between blood test and urine tests to determine blood drug content—blood tests are now the only option.

California was lauded this year for being the first state to pass a law preventing therapy that would purportedly change minors’ sexual orientation (also know as “ex-gay” therapies or gay conversion), but the law has been delayed pending a federal appeals trial. On the flipside, Gov. Brown signed quite a few bills in 2012 that apply to veterans, but one is particularly notable: AB 1505 reinstates California veterans benefits for those who were discharged due solely to sexual orientation. The bill will guarantee a lifetime of healthcare and disability compensation for unfairly discharged LGBT vets.