The California Legislature enacted about 873 laws during 2012. Some counted 876 and there were other reports that even more laws were passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Click here for a pdf listing all the new laws passed in California in 2012.
Most of these became effective Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, although some are delayed until July 1, 2013 or 2014.
Below is a list of some of the new laws which Californians must begin observing.
Sales and income taxes
Proposition 30, which voters approved in November, raises sales and some state income taxes.
California’s sales tax goes to 7.5 percent from 7.25 percent for four years. It also creates four high-income tax brackets for taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding $250,000, $300,000, $500,000 and $1,000,000. This increased income tax will be in effect for 7 years.
Homeowners and contractors will now pay a one percent sales tax when purchasing lumber products. This new law also eliminates regulatory fees.
This act establishes various procedures for the reporting, investigation, and prosecution of elder and dependent adult abuse.
The act requires a mandated reporter and authorizes any person who is not a mandated reporter, to report the abuse to a local ombudsman or the local law enforcement agency if the abuse occurs in a long-term care facility. Failure to report physical abuse and financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult under the act is a misdemeanor.
Emergency services for seniors
Similar to an Amber Alert, the California Highway Patrol would activate a “Silver Alert” upon request if a person, age 65 or older, is reported missing to a law enforcement agency and the agency determines that certain criteria are met.
It is now a crime for a parent or guardian of a minor child to willfully omit, without lawful excuse, clothing, food, shelter, or medical care for the child.
The parent or guardian is also required to notify law enforcement within 24 hours of the time that they know or should have known that the child is a missing person and that there is evidence that the child is a person at risk.
California homemade food
The new law allows Californians to make foods and baked goods at home and sell them to stores, restaurants and directly to the public.
Assembly Bill 1616 clears the way for a statewide cottage food industry and alternative source of income for California residents by letting entrepreneurs skip the costly leasing of certified commercial kitchens before selling their homemade foods.
The list of approved products includes non-hazardous foods such as bread, muffins, cakes, fruit pies, jams, jellies, honey, empanadas, dried nuts, granola, dry cereal, popcorn, waffle cones, chocolate-covered nonperishables, roasted coffee, dried herbs, dried tea, dried fruit, candy and other goods that do not contain cream or meat, which spoil.
The new law still requires homemade food producers to complete a food processor course, label their goods and be subject to inspections and registrations with county health departments.
Electronic wireless communications
This law allows California drivers to use hands-free technology to talk and text while driving. This will require the use of a device that is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send or listen to a text-based communication. The device is required to also be used in a voice-operated, hands-free manner to be in compliance with the law.
Homeowner Bill of Rights
This is a set of six related bills. Two provide protections for borrowers and homeowners, including a restriction on dual-track foreclosures, where a lender forecloses on a borrower despite being in discussions over a loan modification to save the home.
The bills also guarantee homeowners a single point of contact at their lender, with knowledge of their loan and direct access to decision makers.
In addition, homeowners may require loan servicers to document their right to foreclose. Homeowners will also have a clearly defined right to access the courts to protect themselves.
Recreational off-highway vehicles
Two laws were enacted affecting these vehicles. One (AB 1595) defines an off-highway motor vehicle to include a recreational off-highway vehicle and establishes additional requirements governing its safe operation.
The other law (AB 1266), which goes into effect July 1, 2013, prohibits a passenger in an ROV from riding in a seat location not designed and provided by the manufacturer. It also prohibits operation of the ROV if the passenger is not seated with both feet on the floorboard and able to grab the occupant handhold with the seat belt and shoulder belt or safety harness fastened.
License plates: obstruction or alteration
This new law prevents the altering and positioning of license plates from its original markings and clarifies the penalty imposed for obscuring the readability of license plates.
Picketing at funerals
Senate Bill 661 makes picketing at funerals a misdemeanor, taking aim at a group that has waved signs at funerals of homosexuals, military members and federal judges.
Social media privacy
Also referred to as the “Facebook Password Law,” this legislation now bans employers from asking job seekers and workers for user names and passwords on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking websites.
The legislation makes anything that’s private on Facebook and other social networks none of employers’ business. The law intends to stop California employers from checking social sites for protected data to screen job applicants and spy on employees. The legislation targets data deemed private in users’ account settings.
Workplace religious freedom
The California Workplace Religious Freedom Law protects the right of workers and job applicants to wear religious clothing, hairstyles and accessories without fear of discrimination.
The legislation provides employment-related religious freedom protections for beards, turbans, hijabs, burkas, yarmulkes, crosses and other religious clothing, accessories and hairstyles.
Employers statewide will now be required by law to reasonably accommodate workers’ religious beliefs or observances unless such accommodation would impose an “undue hardship” on employers.
The significant difficulty or expense comprising an “undue hardship” claimed by an employer must be verifiable.
Long-gun open carry ban
AB 1527, the new gun law, prohibits open carry of unloaded long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, in public places. This is a follow-up to last year’s AB 144, which prohibited the open carry of unloaded handguns in public places.