California

Enjoy Your Hundreds Upon Hundreds of New Laws, Californians!

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The sunlight's still free, anyway

California lawmakers must be looking down at those poor Cajun folks of Louisiana and laughing. Louisiana has a mere 22 new laws coming into effect in 2015. California has more than 900 new laws on the books for 2015. That's more than 40 times as many laws, meaning, obviously Californians are now more than 40 times safer than Louisianans. (UPDATE: The wonderful Lauren Galik, who heads up the criminal justice reform portion of the Reason Foundation, stepped all over my joke by letting me know that actually Lousiana did pass hundreds of laws last year. Their implementation just was not tied to the start of 2015).

Not all of them went into effect with the start of 2015, but they'll be coming into play at some point, unless a ballot initiative kills them. Unless the new process for getting initiatives onto the ballot kills them first. That was one of the new laws passed. Media outlets are focusing on the ones who have gotten the most attention, because obviously they can't focus on everything. So sorry, no space for the new guidelines for county public school attendance review boards.

KQED has a pretty good, inclusive list of the many new laws that matter. Reason writers have made note of many of them over the past year (often as a warning, but not always). Here's the first five on the KQED list:

Driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants (AB60) Californians who do not have  proper immigration documentation will be eligible to apply for driver's licenses. The Department of Motor Vehicles expects 1.4 million immigrants to apply in the first few years, and law enforcement, community groups and others are preparing for the surge.

Plastic bag ban — or not (SB270) Phases out use of single-use plastic bags at large grocery stores and supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Target starting in July and convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers. It allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags. Few legislative fights in 2014 were more intense, and the plastic bag industry quickly ponied up $3 million to gather signatures for a referendum asking voters to overturn the law — and it appears to have enough to make that happen in November 2016. If the signatures are valid, the new law will be put on hold, allowing the plastic bag industry to keep selling for at least another 16 months.

Mandatory paid sick days (AB1522) Expected to impact more than 6.5 million employees — about 40 percent of the workforce — the law requires nearly all California employers to provide a minimum of three paid sick days to employees who currently get no sick time.  Employees can use the sick days starting on the 90th day of employment. Takes effect July 1, 2015.

The chickens and the eggs (Proposition 2 / AB1437) Proposition 2, passed overwhelmingly in 2008, set more spacious confinement conditions for farm animals. AB 1437, signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2010, extends the measure so that all shelled eggs sold in the state must be produced by chickens who live in considerably more spacious conditions than has been the industry standard. Earlier this year a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, brought by officials in six Midwestern and Southern states with a substantial egg industry.

Mandatory smartphone kill switches (SB962) Designed as a deterrent against the rapidly expanding crime of cellphone theft, the law requires any smartphone manufactured and sold in California after July 1, 2015, to include a "technological solution" allowing the owner to render the phone inoperable when not in his or her possession.

One wonders whether those chickens now live under better conditions than California's prisoners, given the state's overcrowding problem and court orders to reduce population.

New laws also expand the state's "revenge porn" laws to include a ban on distributing somebody else's naked selfies without their permission, limits the amount of time schools can spend on "full contact" sports practice, and pushes law enforcement to search gun registries whenever doing a "welfare check" on folks. But a new law also expands the ability of wine retailers to offer tastings! Smell the freedom contained in AB520:

(1) An authorized licensee, or its designated representative, may instruct consumers at an on-sale retail licensed premises authorized to sell its product with the permission of the retail on-sale licensee. The instruction may include, without limitation, the history, nature, values, and characteristics of the wine or distilled spirits and the methods of presenting and serving the wine or distilled spirits.

(2) The instruction of consumers may include the furnishing of not more than three tastings to any individual in one day. A single tasting of distilled spirits may not exceed one-fourth of one ounce and a single tasting of wine may not exceed one ounce.

(3) The authorized licensee, or its designated representative, shall either supply the wine or distilled spirits to be tasted during the instructional tasting event or purchase the wine or distilled spirits from the retail on-sale licensee at the original invoiced cost.

(4) The authorized licensee, or its designated representative, shall remove any unfinished alcoholic beverages that were supplied by the authorized licensee, or its designated representative, following the instruction.

I got a buzz just from reading it. That's actually only about a third of the text of the law. I'm only letting you sample a taste for your own protection. Actually the big deal about the new tasting laws is that they will allow people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol! As long as they're in a class about wine-making or beer-brewing. And, um, as long as they spit it out afterward. This law is actually kind of cruel.

Oh, you can also bring your dogs to outdoor restaurant dining areas, if the restaurant allows it, and if municipalities don't have their own bans. Here is a list of all conditions the state mandates before you're allowed to bring your non-service dog to a restaurant:

(1) The owner of the food facility elects to allow pet dogs in its outdoor dining area.

(2) A separate outdoor entrance is present where pet dogs enter without going through the food establishment to reach the outdoor dining area and pet dogs are not allowed on chairs, benches, seats, or other fixtures.

(3) The outdoor dining area is not used for food or drink preparation or the storage of utensils. A food employee may refill a beverage glass in the outdoor dining area from a pitcher or other container.

(4) Food and water provided to pet dogs shall only be in single-use disposable containers.

(5) Food employees are prohibited from having direct contact with pet dogs while on duty. A food employee who does have that prohibited direct contact shall wash his or her hands as required by Section 113953.3.

(6) The outdoor dining area is maintained clean. Surfaces that have been contaminated by dog excrement or other bodily fluids shall be cleaned and sanitized.

(7) The pet dog is on a leash or confined in a pet carrier and is under the control of the pet dog owner.

(8) The food facility owner ensures compliance with local ordinances related to sidewalks, public nuisance, and sanitation.

(9) Other control measures approved by the enforcement agency.

Read more about new laws in California here and another report focusing on new laws that impact health here. If you're a real masochist, here's a California legislative database to show all the laws that passed in this last session, for you to scroll through at your leisure. Leave bread crumbs so you can find your way back.