As New Year's Eve approaches, we're still plugging away over here at News Fix. So for your final 2012 edification: we thought we would review the most significant new laws for the coming year.
Selected new rules, 2013 edition...
Undocumented immigrants eligible for driver's licenses
by Amy Isackson
Tens of thousands of Californians who came to the U.S. illegally as children will be able to apply for a driver's license.
“For me it just feels really liberating,” says 28-year-old Ismael Soto. When Soto was four his mom fled an abusive relationship and brought him and his brothers to San Diego. They were all undocumented, but Soto says he never really thought about it until he was old enough to get a driver's license and couldn’t. Come college it really weighed on him.
"Oh my god, the amount of pressure I had every day – like I’m gonna be picked up off the street and sent to Mexico."
A few months ago Soto applied for and received deferred action and can now live, work, and soon drive legally in the U.S. for the next two years. California is one of about 21 states that have confirmed that young people who were brought to the U.S. when they were under 16 and have finished high school are eligible for a driver's license. Last fall it became the only state to pass a law to guarantee that.
New driving laws: Autonomous vehicles, new license plates
by Joshua Johnson
SB 1298 lets the DMV regulate what are known as "autonomous vehicles." That includes limiting how many self-driving test cars are on the highways.
And for those of us who have to drive ourselves, AB 2020 raises the stakes for driving drunk. The law takes away the option of a urine test, requiring a blood test in most cases.
AB 1550 raises the cost of veterans' specialty license plates. Proceeds will benefit a veterans advocacy group. And, remember those classic California license plates, with yellow, black or blue backgrounds? You'll be able to order them again, as of New Year's Day.
by Mina Kim
A new state law takes effect that could make a difference for people trying to access fertility services. The law expands California’s interpretation of “sexually intimate partner” to include both known sperm donors and donors whose sperm a recipient has already been exposed to through a non-medical attempt to conceive.
San Francisco Bay Area Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner authored the legislation, AB 2356. Skinner says the law also helps single women, lower income women, or heterosexual couples who need help conceiving and want to use the sperm of someone they know.
Currently, federal law requires sperm donors and recipients to be “sexually intimate partners” in order for the sperm to avoid being treated like it came from a sperm bank, which requires it to go through extensive testing and be frozen and quarantined for six months. That process can cost thousands of dollars and cause untenable delays for those waiting to get pregnant.
Injured scholarship athletes get protection
by Mina Kim
A law that takes effect at the start of the new academic year in the fall requires four California universities -- UCLA, Stanford, USC, and Cal -- to provide academic scholarships to student athletes who lose their athletic scholarships due to a sports-related injury. The law also requires that those schools cover insurance deductibles and premiums for injured lower-income athletes.
Bosses Barred From Seeking Employees' Social Media Info
by Peter Jon Shuler
In 2013, California employers can no longer demand or even ask employees and job applicants for their social media login information. Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Nora Campos of San Jose introduced the legislation to protect information behind what she called the “social media wall.” She said the state “must continue to evolve its privacy protections to keep up with advancing technology.”
"The bill recognizes that our online lives deserve the same kind of privacy that we have in our offline lives," said Chris Conley, a policy attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. "Our social media accounts, which is what this bill protects, contain information about our friends, about our relationships, about our activities; where we go and what we do."
.New Name for Dept. of Fish and Game
by Molly Samuel
The California Department of Fish and Game will have a new name in 2013 when it becomes the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Department of Fish and Game goes back to 1870, when California established the Board of Fish Commissioners.
"Our responsibilities today are a lot different than they were during the Gold Rush," said department director Chuck Bonham. The department manages not only hunting and fishing licenses, but also endangered species. The bill that changes the name also boosts the department's science and law enforcement capabilities
Bonham says the change isn't related to the controversy surrounding former commission president Dan Richards, who killed a mountain lion in Idaho last January. He also says hunting and fishing will remain a focal point in the department. "We still got game," Bonham says.
SF Minimum Wage to Rise, Highest in Country
by Francisca Segre
Thousands of San Francisco's low-wage workers will see more added to their paycheck in the New Year. The annual increase in the minimum wage kicks in on January 1, once again making the city's minimum wage the highest in the country at $10.55 an hour.
Even with the 3 percent increase in hourly rates, several workers say it's still going to be tough to get by. David Frias, who works as a movie usher, says, "it definitely looks better, but maybe when we get to $14 an hour, we'll be more content."
A recent study finds a single person needs to make at least $15.37 an hour to be self-sufficient.
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce says the 31 cent per hour increase will squeeze small businesses and is bad for the economy because it impacts low-wage job creation.
No more free Sunday parking in San Francisco
by Charla Bear
Beginning Jan 6, drivers in San Francisco will no longer enjoy free metered parking on Sundays
To Paul Rose, the spokesman for the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency, the idea of free parking on Sundays is old school. He says paying every day of the week is just one of many changes to the city's parking meters.
"We have meters that now accept payment by cell phone. Meters take payment through credit cards and cash. All parking meters take payment from parking cards. So coins are really a thing of the past, just like the antiquated policy from the 1940s for meters free on Sunday."
Rose says back then, most businesses were closed on Sundays and parking was easy to come by. Now it's a different story. Rose says charging at the meter "encourages" drivers to give up their spots more frequently, allowing others to get a crack at them.
Good Samaratan law means to reduce drug deaths
by Peter Jon Shuler
A new law meant to reduce the number of drug deaths in California would protect people who report a suspected overdose from being arrested for minor drug law violations.
Meghan Ralston with the Drug Policy Alliance says many preventable overdose deaths have gone unreported because witnesses were afraid of being prosecuted for possession of small amounts of drugs or paraphernalia. She says that the law passed because of the steady increase of drug-related overdose deaths in recent years.
"California has just become a safer and better place for people who find themselves in the horrifying, scary situation of being present with someone that they think might be dying from a drug overdose," Ralston says. She says the law is narrowly tailored to save lives and does not provide protection for more serious violations such as dealing and drugged driving.