More than 700 new laws went into affect Jan. 1 in California covering a wide range of subjects including animal abuse, school and cyber bullying, firearms, caffeinated beer, tanning beds, cold medications and child safety seats.
A few of the new laws are as follows:
Teaching gay and lesbian history in public schools is now a requirement, California being the first state to make it law. The law bans instructional materials judged to reflect adversely on gays or particular religions. However, some are still trying to repeal the requirement and if enough signatures are acquired by spring, it could go before voters in November.
The California DREAM Act is now law allowing students who entered the country illegally to receive private financial aid at California's public colleges. Opponents are challenging the second portion of the law that allows illegal immigrants to apply for state-funded scholarships and financial aid. That provision takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.
Tanning beds: California is making it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use tanning beds.
Cold medication: California is the first state to ban selling cough and cold medication to minors.
HPV vaccination: Children age 12 and over can be given an HPV vaccination without a parent's consent.
Caffeinated beer products: Caffeinated beer products will be banned after several hospitalizations.
Unpaid traffic tickets: Drivers with unpaid traffic tickets have six months to pay off their ticket for half only half the fee. Tickets must be paid by June 30.
Jurors social networking: Jurors are prohibited from texting, tweeting and using smartphones to discuss or research cases so they are unable to make judgments off of evidence presented in court.
Child safety seat: A change in the law now requires children to be in either a safety seat or booster seat until the age of eight, or until they reach a height of 4-feet, 9-inches. The law also requires children who do not meet the age or height requirement to ride in the rear seat of the vehicle.
Checkpoints: Peace officers will be prohibited from impounding a vehicle for 30 days at a sobriety checkpoint if the only offense by the driver is failing to have a valid driver license.
Grocery self-service checkouts: Prohibits stores from selling alcoholic beverages using a customer-operated checkout stand. This law was passed because allowing customers to purchase alcoholic beverages through self-service checkouts facilitates the purchase of alcoholic beverages by minors; permits intoxicated customers to purchase additional alcoholic beverages; and allows for greater theft of alcoholic beverages, thereby depriving the state of tax revenues.
The lower emission School Bus Program: Current law allows air quality control districts throughout the state to impose a surcharge on motor vehicle registration. This surcharge is used to pay for a number of air quality projects, including the Lower Emission School Bus Program. The goal of the program is to reduce the exposure of school children to the harmful effects of school bus exhaust. Current laws only allow the motor vehicle registration surcharge funds to be used to purchase brand new buses. The new law grants school districts the ability to retrofit the emissions control equipment on existing school buses that use diesel fuels. The law gives school districts greater flexibility in how to use available funds and offers a cost-effective alternative to having to purchase brand new school buses.
Cyber bullying: Existing law prohibits the suspension or the recommendation of a pupil for expulsion from school unless a school district determines that the pupil has committed certain specified acts, including having engaged in an act of bullying and bullying committed by means of an electronic act. Existing law defines bullying to include acts of sexual harassment, hate violence or threats or intimidation directed specifically toward a pupil or school personnel that are sufficiently severe or pervasive as to have a disruptive impact as specified.
The new law expands the definition of bullying committed by an electronic act to include posting on a social network Internet Web site.
Inmates, release, notification: Extends from 45 to 60 days the period in which the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must notify the sheriff, chief of police, or both, and the district attorney of the scheduled release date of an inmate who has been convicted of a "violent" felony.
School safety -- disruption threatening pupil's immediate physical safety: This law (1) defines a new misdemeanor that would be committed where a person creates a disruption at a school or a site adjacent to a school and the person intends to threaten the immediate physical safety of a student arriving at, attending or leaving the school, and (2) provides that the law applies to any pupil at a school that has a preschool, kindergarten or grades one through eight.
Firearms: Makes it a misdemeanor for any person to carry an exposed and unloaded handgun outside a vehicle upon his or her person while in any public place or on any public street in an incorporated city, or in any public place or public street in a prohibited area of an unincorporated county.
Animal abuse penalties: Makes it an infraction punishable by a fine for a person convicted of animal abuse to possess an animal for either five or 10 years following conviction.
Pupils, bullying: New changes in law related to bullying, including requiring training in the prevention of bullying, giving priority for interdistrict transfers to victims of bullying, and revising the definition of bullying, beginning on July 1, 2012.
For complete list and details of state laws that went into effect Jan. 1, visit leginfo.ca.gov/pdf/BillsEnactedReport2011/pdf.