New state laws take effect: Highlights include less employer snooping, access to mammographies

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Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier A new state law allows authorized pharmacies to donate surplus prescription drugs for redistribution.

Hundreds of new California state laws took effect Jan. 1, and enforcement has begun.

In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown signed 876 new and amended laws, ranging from those affecting the workplace to those that make health-care services more accessible.

Local state senators and assemblymembers were particularly active in crafting legislation. With 18 bills signed into law under his sponsorship, newly elected state Sen. Jerry Hill (D), formerly an assemblyman, touted that his record of success exceeds that of any other lawmaker. Former state Sen. Joe Simitian (D) and Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D) respectively authored and ushered into law eight and 11 pieces of legislation.

Many of the new laws on the books involve specific modifications that affect only small populations – water-recycling requirements for carwash operators (AB 2230) or new regulations for hot-air balloon operators (AB 1524), for example.

A summary of the new laws that most impact local citizens follows.


• AB 137: Insurer Coverage of Mammographies, authored by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D)

Individual or group health insurance policies must provide coverage for mammography for screening or diagnostic purposes.

• SB 1538: Breast Cancer Detection, authored by Simitian

Requires mammogram providers to inform clients if they have dense tissue and the screening options available to them. Dense breast tissue that can make detecting breast cancer difficult is found in approximately 40 percent of mammograms. Takes effect April 1.

• SB 1329: Recycling of Surplus Medication, authored by Simitian

Makes it easier for excess or unused medications to be donated for redistribution to uninsured patients.


• AB 45: Underage Drinking on Party Buses, authored by Hill

Holds bus operators responsible for allowing underage drinking on board.

• AB 1452: Child Safety Seats, authored by Hill

When discharging children from a hospital, clinic or birthing center, centers must inform parents about where a child passenger restraint system can be inspected for proper installation.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 70 percent of children are improperly restrained and vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of children 3- to 14-years-old.

• AB 578: Gas Pipeline Safety, authored by Hill

Requires the California Public Utilities Commission to install emergency shutoff valves that can prevent or reduce the damage caused by pipeline fires like the San Bruno explosion in 2010, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

• AB 1536: Operation of Hands-Free Devices While Driving, authored by former Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R)

Drivers can dictate, send or listen to text-based communications if they are using technology configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation.

• AB 2020: Chemical Testing for DUI, authored by Assemblyman Richard Pan (D)

If a person is accused of driving under the influence of drugs, he or she will be required to submit to a blood test. The suspect may no longer choose a urine test instead.


• AB 16: High-Speed Rail Authority, authored by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D)

Establishes a High-Speed Rail Authority with the power to plan, design, construct, operate and maintain a state-of-the-art high-speed train system in California.


• AB 1718: Real Estate Broker Qualifications, authored by Hill

Future real estate brokers will be required to have at least two years of field experience before securing a broker’s license. Currently, licenses can be obtained without any industry experience.

• AB 1844: Privacy of Social Media Passwords, authored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D)

Prohibits an employer from requiring employees or job applicants to provide the usernames and passwords for their personal social media.

• AB 1964: Workplace Discrimination Based on Dress, authored by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D)

Prohibits discrimination against an employee or job applicant based on the applicant’s religious dress or grooming practices.

• AB 2386: Employment and Housing Discrimination: Breastfeeding, authored by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D)

Amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act to include breastfeeding or a related medical condition as a category protected against unlawful discrimination.


• AB 685: Water Rights, authored by Assemblyman Mike Eng (D)

Expands water rights not only to meet individual and family health and well-being, but also to require clean, accessible and affordable water.

• SB 1303: Red-Light Camera Reforms, authored by Simitian

Prohibits the use of red-light cameras to raise revenues.


• AB 1532: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, authored by Assemblyman John Pérez (D)

Implements a cap-and-trade program that allows businesses to auction emissions allowances.


• AB 481: Disclosure of Independent Expenditures, authored by Gordon

Modifies existing laws to increase the transparency of how independent expenditure committees and top donors spend money.

• AB 2080: Vote-By-Mail Ballots, authored by Gordon

Allows any family member or person residing in the same household to return a ballot for another voter to an election office or polling place on Election Day.

For a complete list of new laws, visit

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