Clovis News

Calif. starts the year with hundreds of new laws

Termed-out Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is leaving behind hundreds of new reasons to remember him after he departs the state's highest office Monday.

The Republican governor signed nearly 750 bills last year, most of them taking effect on New Year's Day at modest or no cost to the state.

Schwarzenegger's bill signings outpaced his vetoes by a margin of more than 2-to-1. He turned thumbs down on about 300 measures.

New laws cover issues from marijuana possession to teenage self-defense instruction and designation of an annual day of significance honoring Ronald Reagan.

Here is a sampling:

Crime

Child abuse: A caregiver who assaults a child younger than 8 and causes permanent paralysis or a coma from brain injury can now be imprisoned for life, with possible parole. Termed-out Assembly Member Mike Villines of Clovis had pushed the law, named after Fresno's Adam Carbajal, who as a 1-year-old in 2004 was severely abused by his mother's then-boyfriend. Adam was initially given a 5% chance to live. Adam was for years confined to a wheelchair, but now is able to move about with the aid of a walker.

Marijuana: The state takes another step toward decriminalizing possession of a small amount of marijuana, making it an infraction instead of a misdemeanor.

Website: It's now a misdemeanor to impersonate another person on a website or by other electronic means to intimidate, threaten, defraud or harm someone else.

Child sex offenses: "Chelsea's Law" toughens penalties for sexual offenses against children in memory of Chelsea King, a 17-year-old San Diego girl who was abducted and killed by a convicted child molester while she was out for a run.

Education

Whooping cough: Students must be immunized for "whooping cough" before attending seventh through 12th grades, beginning in July. Termed-out Assembly Member Juan Arambula, I-Fresno, introduced the measure to help combat the state's worst outbreak of pertussis, known as whooping cough, in more than half a century. A booster shot for adults and children has been available since 2005 and has been recommended for children ages 11 and 12 since 2006. Most states require the booster shot, but California did not.

Truants: Parents of chronic truants can be charged with a misdemeanor if they have not reasonably supervised and encouraged school attendance.

Self-defense: Middle and high school students soon will learn self-defense as part of their physical education classes once curriculum frameworks are revised.

Fresh water: School districts will be required by July to provide access to free, fresh drinking water during meal times.

Higher education

Nursing doctorates: Fresno State may get a chance to offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree as part of a pilot program. The law allows the California State University system to award the degrees at three campuses until 2018. The law, co-authored by Arambula, doesn't identify which campuses would get the program. But Fresno State already has expressed interest in offering the degree, which would allow it to train more teachers to help address the region's health worker shortage.

Transfer students: The state will establish uniform standards for transfer degrees to assist community college graduates in switching to California State University campuses.

Health

Health insurance exchanges: Companion measures created a state health insurance exchange -- a key component of federal health-care reform -- that could set the stage for expanding medical coverage to millions of uninsured Californians.

Insurance restrictions: Health-care insurers cannot refuse to sell or renew coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.

No cancellations: Health insurers are prohibited from canceling insurance once a policy is issued, unless there is fraud or intentional misrepresentation.

Birth certificates: Birth certificates will cost $2 more, with the fee going to expand collection of umbilical cord blood that can be used in fighting blood and immune disorders.

Business

Organ donor leave: Private employers must provide a paid leave of absence to employees who choose to donate an organ or bone marrow.

Free beer: Large supermarkets and large liquor outlets can offer free beer, wine and liquor tastings.

Pot dispensaries: Medical marijuana dispensaries are barred from locating within 600 feet of a public or private school.

Miscellaneous

Reagan Day: Ronald Reagan will get his day each Feb. 6. The law calls it a day of special significance -- not a holiday -- in which schools will be encouraged to conduct exercises honoring the former president and California governor.

Under-age immunity: Minors who report an alcohol-related medical emergency will be granted criminal immunity for possessing or consuming liquor.

Blue Alert: The existing Amber Alert equipment can now be used for a "Blue Alert" to notify the public when a law enforcement officer is killed or attacked and the suspect has fled.

Medical parole: Inmates who are permanently incapacitated and require 24-hour care can be granted medical parole. The law excludes inmates who are sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

Alternative custody: Nonviolent prison inmates who are female, pregnant or were primary caregivers to children can now be granted alternative custody, such as confinement in a transitional care or drug treatment program.

Delayed implementation

Kindergarten: The date that entering kindergartners must turn 5 is being rolled back from the current Dec. 2 to Sept. 1, with gradual implementation until 2014-15. The law also creates a transitional kindergarten program.

Drunken driving: Effective January 2012, anyone with three drunken driving convictions within a 10-year period can have their driver's license revoked for 10 years.

Cadmium: Cadmium is banned in children's jewelry as of January 2012.

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