California’s new laws for 2010 are a mixed bag

You can ride bikes without seats now in California

Well, it’s a New Year and already our lame California State Legislature has started the year on the wrong foot, with a whole bunch of asinine new laws.  Here’s a rundown of the worst of them:

  • You can serve margarine at home, but if you use it at a restaurant it is now a $1,000 violation.  California has banned the use of trans fats in our restaurants.  Trans fats are not good for you, but can’t consumers decide for themselves where and what they want to eat?  Silly.
  • Did you know you can now ride a bike without a seat – but only if it came that way when you bought it?  That would be Senate Bill 527.  I suggest we take away the taxpayer paid cars from our legislators and give them each one of these seat-less bikes!
  • Oil spills should be taken seriously.  And they are!  Current EPA and OSHA laws are quite specific about this.  They require reporting and carry a $50,000 fine.  But now AB305 imposes county jail time for anyone who is convicted of failing to report an oil spill, or lying about it.
  • Charities are certainly hurting right now.  But if they conduct a raffle online the State of California is now going to bust them!  SB 200 makes that illegal but they can still advertise a raffle online.  How generous of our legislators to allow that.
  • Plastic surgery is expensive and now the cost will be going up again, thanks to our legislators.  Now the recipient must first submit to “an appropriate physical examination within 30 days” of the plastic surgery and gets written clearance by a doctor, nurse practitioner or physicians’ assistant.  By the way, the new law is Donda West law, named after the deceased mother of rapper Kanye West.  Maybe we need a new law to keep West off the stage at awards shows when he has no reason to interfere at said awards shows?
  • Other new laws pave the way for new fees and charges to be levied on hospitals, blueberry growers, plant-gathering scientists, drunk drivers, ships using San Francisco Bay, makers of organic fertilizer, citrus nurseries and real estate appraisal firms.  Hard to feel sorry for drunk drivers, but they were already paying a fortune for their bad decision-making.  Why all the other fee increased – during a horrible recession no less?  Stupid!
  • Speaking of stupid, a new law exempts a professional football stadium proposed in the City of Industry from state environmental laws, so it can proceed despite a lawsuit filed by opponents.  Bad idea!  And if we get an NFL team, it will suck and we will have less football on TV.  Plus the guy who is building the stadium gave a ton of money to carpetbagger Linda Ackerman, who got blown away by Chris Norby in the Special Election to replace Mike Duvall in the 72nd Assembly District.
  • Another lame law requires pet stores to use specific, “humane” methods for killing rodents before they are used as food for another animal.  What about snakes that like to eat live prey?  I guess they’re out of luck thanks to the rats in Sacramento!

On the plus side, some of the new laws do appear to make sense, to wit:

  • Speaking of the Ackermans, a new law prohibits political candidates from paying their spouses or domestic partners to work on their campaigns to enrich their own households.  Ruh roh!  This won’t go over too well in the Rohrabacher household either!
  • Selling laughing gas to minors is now illegal.  There have been many documented cases of harm being caused to young people who don’t realize they are depriving their brains of oxygen by huffing this stuff.  Perhaps we should lower the drinking age to 18 and decriminalize marijuana so kids won’t resort to using even more dangerous substances?
  • Penalties for betting in office pools have been reduced.  How about getting rid of them altogether?
  • Paparazzi will pay more if they break the law to get celebrity photos.  Good!  They are a bunch of creeps.
  • The Legislature also gave Californians two new official days of recognition: March 30, to show appreciation for Vietnam veterans, and May 22, to remember slain gay-rights leader Harvey Milk.  No harm in either.
  • Starting in 2011, sellers of ammunition for handguns will be required to keep a log of sales information, including a buyer’s thumbprint, signature and driver’s license data. That should help the authorities track down criminals and doesn’t seem like a big imposition on the rest of us.
  • Another law will require companies selling textbooks in California colleges or universities to make them available electronically by 2020.  Why the delay?  That should be the law right now! sold more e-books than regular books this past Christmas.  Why wait until 2020 to help our students save money and to help save a few trees?
  • Another new law in fact expands the use of digital textbooks in public schools by allowing districts to use textbook money to buy electronic viewing devices.
  • Another new law will allow state-owned cemeteries to waive the fees for interment of the spouses and children of honorably discharged veterans if they determine the families cannot pay the costs.  Amen to that!
  • Good news for charter schools.  A new law will allow such schools access to about $900 million in voter-approved bond money for construction. A separate law gives districts more incentive to approve them by cutting red tape.  Not sure about that one – we don’t need more bonds to drive us further into debt.  But allowing charter schools to use current bond money seems like a good idea.
  • Good news for college students.  Another new law allows universities to obtain restraining orders on behalf of students against a person who has threatened them with violence.
  • A new law creates a test program in four counties, including Los Angeles County, in which judges can require that first-time drunk-driving offenders install a breath-testing device on every vehicle they own and pass a test on it before the vehicle will start.  I like this idea.
  • Bad news for corrupt and inept school districts.  A new law allows school and student performance data to be used to judge the quality of instruction. The change will allow California to compete for federal Race to the Top education grants.
  • Good news for school districts in bad areas.  A new law allows tougher penalties, including a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail, for gang members who return to school campuses within 72 hours of being asked to leave.
  • A new law requires the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority to prepare, publish and adopt a business plan by Jan. 1, 2012, and every two years thereafter, so the public knows how its money is being spent. Why wasn’t this the case from the start?
  • Bad news for creepy mortgage guys.  A new law created an offense, “mortgage fraud,” punishable by up to a year in prison. Such crimes are defined as those in which someone makes “any misstatement, misrepresentation or omission during the mortgage lending process with the intention that it be relied on by a mortgage lender, borrower, or any other party to the mortgage lending process.”

You can read more about the new laws at the L.A. Times and the O.C. Register.

About Art Pedroza