New laws for 2008

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Among the new laws are regulations on cell phone use in the car and an increase in the minimum wage.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

The new rule this year receiving the most attention was actually signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, and won’t go into effect until July 1. So those who enjoy talking on a cell phone while driving, but have been resistant to using a hands-free device, have six months to make the transition before Senate Bill 1613 becomes law.

And when that happens, if you’re caught with one hand on the wheel and another on the phone, you should be prepared to pay $20 for the first offense, and $50 every time after that. A violation, however, will not add points to your driver’s license. SB 1613 only applies to people 18 and older. Younger drivers will face a more severe restriction on July 1 when SB 33 goes into effect. The younger drivers are prohibited from using any sort of wireless device while operating a vehicle. The same fines apply for violating this law as they do for SB 1613.

Another new law affecting people’s car ride is a ban on smoking while minors are riding in the vehicle. This one went into effect on Tuesday. However, an officer cannot pull somebody over for violating this law alone. The driver has to be doing something else wrong, and then if the person is caught puffing away with minors in the passenger seats, a $100 fine is handed out.

Other driving-related laws that went into effect with the calendar change include the banning of a device used on license plates to impair their recognition by red light cameras and toll bridge sensors; a judge can no longer order a person convicted of driving under the influence or hit-and-run to attend traffic school to avoid driving record points; and driver’s license applicants are required to sign a statement that they are aware they could be charged with murder if they kill somebody while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Also this year, the state’s lowest-paid workers are getting another raise. Last year, the minimum wage went up from $6.75 to $7.50 per hour. And now it’s gone up another 50 cents to $8. to complete the gradual increase created with the passage of AB 1835 in 2006.

Those with gift cards containing low balances won’t have to settle for buying a pack of chewing gum; they can redeem up to $10 in cash instead, thanks to the passage of SB 250. The law doesn’t apply to credit card gift cards as those are tied to more than one store.

A major change in law for this year makes California a bigger player in the presidential election. With the passage of SB 1135, the Golden State’s presidential primary was moved from June-when the party’s nominations have all but officially been selected-to February, during the heat of the battle. Illegal immigrants are getting a break in 2008. Assembly Bill 976 overrides county or city laws so that landlords are no longer required to ask about immigration status.

Meanwhile, employers cannot force any workers to have a radio frequency identification device inserted in their bodies, and women wanting to be artificially inseminated by the sperm of a man with HIV can now request it as long as the sperm has undergone the process to minimize the risk of infection.

And one new law that has gotten a great deal of media attention, more for its obscurity than anything else, is SB 880, which lifts the state’s ban on importing products made from kangaroo parts, including soccer cleats.