Local Politics

Friday, Dec 28 2012 03:06 PM

New year means new laws -- good and bad

By The Bakersfield Californian

It's the hap-happiest time of the year for this columnist. Not only because of the holidays but because the end of the year means it's time for my annual hissy fit over the new laws to come down Jan. 1.

As I say every year when I write about the new laws, I'm not a big fan. That's not to say that somewhere in the pile of more than EIGHT HUNDRED new laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown there isn't a gem. I just rarely find them.

It's worth noting that these EIGHT HUNDRED-plus new laws on vehicles, businesses and food (to name a few) are on top of the hundreds of laws enacted in 2012, which were on top of the hundreds of laws enacted in 2011, 2010 and on and on. I often loosely quote former state Sen., now 5th District Court of Appeal Judge Charles Poochigian, who when referencing the state legislative sessions would say, "At the end of this session I assure you, you'll have fewer freedoms and less liberty than you had when we started."

First, the good news.

Starting in 2013, you can text and drive! After years of advertising campaigns and laws about the dangers of texting and driving, it will now be legal to text in your car IF you have a smart phone that takes verbal dictation, such as the iPhone or Android. According to my son Solomon, all you need to do to send a verbal text is hit a few buttons and talk. He said it's pretty accurate.

Of course, the real problem with texting and driving was distracted driving and I'm not sure if you're any less distracted checking to make sure that your phone didn't hear you wrong and stuck in an "F" where you meant to say "luck."

Another law that I wouldn't turn my nose up to is called "Silver Alert" and it works like the Amber Alert system, which tells drivers when a child has been abducted. The Silver Alert is for senior citizens with medical conditions who go missing.

Not sure why we needed a law to enact this, unless it requires extra taxpayer funding to add the word "silver" to the existing digital road signs.

Starting Jan. 1, you'll be able to show an officer proof of insurance from your smartphone, teachers and coaches in higher education will be required to report suspected child abuse and your boss won't be able to force you to share your social media information.

There will be at least 50 college textbooks allowed online to save students a few bucks on books (very few if there are only 50 books available).

Then there are the more entertaining, annoying or tragic laws for 2013, depending on how you look at them.

Starting the first of the year, illegal immigrants between the ages of 16 and 31 can get a bona fide California driver's license. What if you're 32? I guess you're out of luck.

A law banning the use of what's called "Conversion Therapy" is currently on hold while the courts decide if the ban on therapy for gay minors who seek help violates the rights and protections that come with the patient/doctor relationship.

Thank goodness, we have new requirements on the way grocery stores rid themselves of single use plastic bags! We'll have new regulations on people who make food for sale in their homes, which should be FANTASTIC for the lady who makes preserves and pastries for the farmer's market.

Buried in the more than 800 new laws are a few real gems.

For instance, we have the tax increases from Proposition 30, which kicks in on the first of the year. It's a temporary sales tax increase as well as an income tax increase to "allegedly" fund education.

The argument by conservatives regarding tax increases is always the same: Raising taxes doesn't increase revenues and giving tax cuts/breaks creates jobs. Of course that's often pooh-poohed by liberals.

Ironically, Disney, CBS, NBC, Warner Brothers and Dreamworks (to name a few) each gave $100,000 to Yes on Proposition 30 tax increases after Brown signed into law a $200 million tax break for the California movie and television industry. So I guess Steven Spielberg only supports tax increases when YOU or your boss are the ones paying them!

Speaking of Hollywood, new 2013 law says you cannot carry an unloaded long gun in public...unless it's in the making of a movie. So, the next time you see a man holding a rifle in public, just assume he's an actor and not a madman with a gun.

Speaking of hunting, new law states that you may NOT use dogs to hunt bear or mountain lion. The assumption is that it's cruel to chase a bear until it's too exhausted to fend off a bullet. I guess it's better if they have the energy to attack the hunter!

Next I suspect we'll ban fishing with hooks because that poor fish puts up a heck of a fight with a hook tearing at its lip! In the end, as a result of this law, we WILL see an explosion in the population of bear and bobcats and the state will be hiring more people than it currently does to hunt the same beasts for the purpose of thinning the population rather than feeding one's family. Sad.

Clergy will be exempt from performing same-sex marriages if it violates their faith (no word on what happens to a pastor who doesn't want to perform weddings for heterosexual couples), and parents will have to present a note from a doctor stating that the parent was fully informed about the risks and benefits of immunizations before they decline to get one for their child.

I could go on and on, seeing as there are still about 800 more laws to list, but you'll figure out what they are when you break them. In the end, to add to Poochigian's line: You have fewer freedoms, less liberty, and definitely less of your money than you had when our lawmakers started the session.

-- Inga Barks, who hosts a talk show on KMJ AM 580, is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. You can email her at inga.barks@aol.com. These are Barks' opinions, not necessarily The Californian's. Next week: Ric Llewellyn.

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