New laws affect some Malibu ways


Malibu schools are ahead of the law as they already serve a healthy fare to students, a requirement now legislated for other schools in the state, and lifeguards already benefit from the county’s help to prevent and treat skin cancer.

By Sylvie Belmond/Staff Writer

Like many other Californians, Malibu residents will be affected either in small or large degrees by some of the 948 new bills Gov. Grey Davis signed into law in 2001.

From curbing private transportation during school field trips to higher sales taxes, Malibuites might have to pay more attention to what they do in 2002. However, many of the new laws regulate practices that have long since been in effect in Malibu.

And then some old laws are coming back to haunt Californians in 2002.

The state sales tax has been raised by a quarter percentage point, from 8 percent to 8.25 percent, because a formula fashioned in 1991 by then Gov. Pete Wilson reduces or raises the sales tax based on the state’s economic surplus standings.

“It’s unfortunate that California had a massive surplus two years ago and that surplus has been stolen by large companies outside the state,” said Ted Vaill, Malibu resident and attorney. “The poor leadership that deregulated electric companies left California vulnerable.”

Now instead of a surplus, a substantial deficit exists and the state had to raise the sales tax, he said. This increase will impact common goods sold in local businesses and it will have the greatest effect on everyday consumers.

Some laws remain ambiguous, even to those who have a trained eye.

“The new car seat law is poorly written,” said Phil Cott, Webster Elementary School principal who was a district attorney for two years. The law is written all backwards and it is difficult to interpret, he said.

But it will impact student activities at Webster as field trips for the school frequently use private cars driven by parents. Children under the age of 6 will not be able to ride without a booster or car seat, and that will limit the number of field trips they can take.

“We can’t just put the children in private cars without a seat belt anymore,” said Cott.

Other laws were already common sense to Malibu schools. Though Sacramento legislated that children should be provided with a healthy diet in elementary and middle schools to meet certain nutritional requirements, Malibu schools already have a top-notch fresh food program.

“We have a food service department that won a national award for its menu,” noted Cott. The school serves a fresh Farmer’s Market salad bar everyday and the district already has a program in place where someone buys fresh food at the market twice a week.

“I think we are far beyond the problem they were trying to solve,” said Cott.

Los Angeles County lifeguards also benefit from a forward thinking county when it comes to their health. While the state created a law that will allow lifeguards to file for worker’s compensation if they have skin cancer, the county is already providing the necessary care.

Don Olson, a fulltime lifeguard in Malibu, confirmed this. “The county has been very good about taking care of people and making sure we go to the doctor for that.”

Another law was born from news events that occurred last year. In an effort to curb the dangers of aggressiveness in dogs, breeders are now required to socialize their puppies before they sell them.

Malibu speculators beware. Land-use abuses will be harder to skirt because another law will limit the ability of developers to use 19th century plot maps, which created loopholes in the planning application process for some.

Land speculators have long been using this old law to force subdivisions of certain pieces of land near state and national parks.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported on a developer who used this legal loophole to threaten development if the state or some other public entity did not buy the property at a jacked-up price. The affected properties usually lie in sensitive areas and Malibu has plenty of such lots.

A plethora of other laws will also go into effect. They include firearms trigger lock regulations, prevention of shark loan practices and easier public records accessibility.

But it is not unusual for California governors to enact hundreds of new laws every year as legislators bring them forward and debate upon the merits of their pet peeves to fulfill their fulltime job requirements in Sacramento.

“The problem with California is that when you have a fulltime Legislature they have to come up with something to do,” said Councilmember Tom Hasse as he reflected on the large number of new laws.

“Work expands to fill the time allotted to it,” he said. Most of the state legislatures in the nation are part-time, he explained. Only the largest states have a fulltime legislature and these legislators look for things to do, noted Hasse.

But while lawmakers legislate, Californians often remain in the dark about the new laws until they are personally affected.

Malibu resident Heather Anderson said she hasn’t looked at the laws that went into effect. “I don’t have a grasp of all the new laws,” she said.

But she reasoned that some of those laws just try to replace common sense. “And there are so many, we don’t ever know what they are until we break them.”