CITYWIDE — With Christmas behind us, Californians are looking forward to the pop of champagne corks — or sparkling cider bottles — and the clean slate provided by unmarked 2013 calendars.
Of course with the New Year resolutions and the intentions of saint-like behavior come a whole new raft of rules to break.
Hundreds of new laws will take effect on Jan. 1, the product of a legislature busy at the fine detail of lawmaking if not the big picture concepts of budget, education and infrastructure reform that Californians so crave.
As a result of 2012 diligence at the capital, hot air balloons will fly higher because they are no longer weighed down by the threat of massive insurance costs and barrel-aged beer won’t feel left out of the list of holiday libations as the definition of “beer” has been expanded to include that which emerges from wine and whiskey containers.
Santa Monica, with its dearth of hot air balloons and commercial brewers, will not much feel the impact of either of those new rules, but there are a number to keep on the radar both to applaud the efforts of local lawmakers and ensure they don’t run afoul of the 5-0.
On the road again
The California Highway Patrol released a laundry list of new regulations that address everything from carrying paperless proof of insurance on smartphones to rules surrounding self-driving cars.
Legislators fixed the rules on red light cameras after conflicting court decisions made it an open question of whether or not someone could be held accountable for traffic tickets assigned as a result of the digital narcs.
The new law restricts red light cameras by requiring that their placement be based solely on safety considerations and specifically prohibits the use of the devices to raise revenue, but also allows the evidence taken to be used in court.
That won’t be an issue in Santa Monica, said Sgt. Richard Lewis, a spokesperson for the Santa Monica Police Department, for one simple reason — there are no red light cameras here.
That will change when the Exposition Light Rail line meanders its way down Colorado Avenue in 2015, but the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be in charge of those, Lewis said.
Another new piece of legislation should make drivers with small children feel more secure in their progeny’s safety.
Hospitals, clinics and birthing centers will be required to provide and discuss contact information regarding child safety seat requirements, installation and inspection to parents and caregivers when children are released from the hospital.
According to the bill, 70 percent of children on the road are improperly restrained, and car crashes are the leading cause of death of children who are between 3 and 14 years old.
“(National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) estimates that proper usage of child safety seats could reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers,” according to the bill.
In other ways, law is catching up to current practice a bit in 2013. Potentially-intoxicated drivers will no longer have the option to request a urine sample to prove their innocence or lack thereof, and instead will be restricted to a blood sample.
Acquiring the urine sample is much more difficult and time-consuming, and not always feasible depending on what kinds of drugs the driver has been taking, Lewis said.
For more information on new road laws, visit chp.ca.gov.
Staying home for the holidays
The Homeowner’s Bill of Rights, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in July, will also come into effect on Jan. 1.
The package of legislation restricts dual-track foreclosure, a situation where a lender forecloses on a borrower despite ongoing loan modification negotiations meant to save the property. It also guarantees that struggling homeowners will have one person to call at their lender who has knowledge of their specific case, and imposes civil penalties on improperly-signed mortgage documents.
“The California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights will give struggling homeowners a fighting shot to keep their home,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris. “This legislation will make the mortgage and foreclosure process more fair and transparent, which will benefit homeowners, their community, and the housing market as a whole.”
According to RealtyTrac.com, a website that tracks foreclosure information, there are 62 properties in Santa Monica that are in default, or pre-foreclosure.
Santa Monica’s existing and soon-to-be legislators also kept busy in 2012, championing bills that advance the city’s progressive values.
Julia Brownley tackled numerous education-related measures in her last year in the California State Assembly, some of which mirrored previous work done as a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.
Chief amongst those was a bill supporting school-based health center programs authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — better known as “Obamacare” — and in some cases already in place in local schools.
According to the California State legislative website, State Sen. Fran Pavley had at least four bills that are awaiting referral to the State Senate and State Sen. Ted Lieu, who will represent Santa Monica in the new year, had a number of bills that made it past the governor, the most important of which was a measure that made therapies meant to “cure” gay teens illegal.
Lieu hopes that it will end “needless psychological abuse” and save lives.
“I was also pleased that the state law was able to highlight the absurdity of gay conversion therapy, and has led to the filing of malpractice lawsuits against conversion therapists,” Lieu told the Daily Press last week.