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New Calif. laws go into effect New Year's Day

December 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
California will begin the new year with a number of new laws cracking down on mortgage lenders, paparazzi, and DUI offenders.California is boosting protections for home buyers and punishing brokers who mislead borrowers and steer them into costly loans.

Statutes requiring individual loan officers to register with the state, making it a crime to give inaccurate information during the mortgage-application process and ensuring that banks inform potential borrowers of all their loan products are among hundreds of California laws that take effect Friday.

A number of other laws will affect California drivers. Assembly Bill 62 permits TV or video monitors in the front seat as long as the driver can't see the screen while driving.

The "Move Over, Slow Down' law, which had sections set to expire at the end of 2009, has been extended indefinitely. It requires drivers approaching emergency vehicles on roads and freeways to get out of the way by slowing down and changing lanes. It also adds stationary vehicles to the rule, such as Caltrans vehicles that display flashing amber warning lights.

Two laws regarding DUI offenders will also go into effect. The "Ignition Interlock Device" law establishes a pilot program in several counties, including Los Angeles, requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices on vehicles owned or operated by an individual convicted of any DUI offense. The device prevents vehicles from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver's breath. Another bill will give repeat DUI offenders the opportunity to apply for a restricted driver's license if they install such devices.

Another new law many in the Los Angeles area will be happy with makes it easier for celebrities to sue the media for invasion of privacy. Paparazzi are a familiar sight in trendy restaurants and clubs. They have been known to cross the line -- running red lights and even blocking traffic to get a shot of a popular celebrity. A new law allows for civil penalties of up to $50,000 against paparazzi and media outlets that sell and buy photos and videos that were improperly obtained. It came about after Jennifer Aniston told lawmakers that 30 photographers charged her on the sidewalk and she was constantly being followed.

Here are some of the other laws that take effect with the new year:

GAY RIGHTS - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed himself this year by signing into law a bill honoring slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk with a special day of recognition in California. Milk is just the second person in state history to gain such a designation, behind conservationist John Muir. Each May 22 - Milk's birthday - will be "Harvey Milk Day." The Republican governor vetoed similar legislation in 2008.

TRANS-FAT BAN - California becomes the first state in the country to ban restaurants, bakeries and other retail food establishments from using oil, margarine and shortening containing trans fats. Schwarzenegger, a former bodybuilder who regularly talks about healthy eating and exercise, signed the legislation by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, in 2008. It did not take effect until 2010 to give outlets time to convert their cooking processes. The law affects oil, shortening and margarine used in spreads or for frying. Restaurants can continue using trans fats to deep-fry yeast dough and in cake batter until Jan. 1, 2011. The legislation follows moves by several major cities and fast-food chains to ban the substance.

LEAD-FREE FAUCETS - The maximum amount of lead allowed in faucets and replacement plumbing fixtures will drop dramatically, from the current 8 percent of total material to 0.25 percent. The standard applies to pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures that become wet.

CAR LIENS - California car buyers will get more protection under a law by Sen. Elaine Corbett, D-San Leandro. It requires dealers to prove they have paid off vehicle liens before trading or selling them. The bill was in response to a growing problem nationwide triggered by the recession: Dealers often promise to pay off outstanding loans when car buyers still owe money on their trade-in vehicle. But if the dealer goes out of business without paying off the loan, lenders can go after the previous owner or repossess the resold car from the new owner.

DOG FIGHTING - Watching an illegal dogfight in California could cost spectators more jail time. The new law by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, increases jail time from a maximum of six months to one year. Fines are increased from $1,000 to $5,000.

BLUEBERRY COMMISSION - Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, is author of a new law that establishes a commission to promote California's growing blueberry industry. The commission's $1.2 million annual budget will come from a surcharge on blueberries. Schwarzenegger over the summer chastised lawmakers for promoting a new commission while the state was mired in a budget deficit, but the governor later reversed himself and signed the bill.

COWS TAILS - California becomes the first state banning the painful practice of tail docking. Dairy officials say the practice of cutting off cow tails to prevent them from slinging manure is practiced on fewer than 15 percent of the state's 1.5 million dairy cows. Schwarzenegger initially mocked lawmakers for seeking the law, but the governor signed it after lawmakers agreed to resolve the state's budget shortfall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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