In 2012, Californians will see a host of new laws and regulations go into effect – from increasing the age of children requiring booster seats in cars to prohibiting the sale of live animals on street corners or parking lots to internet bullying and eliminating the “open carry” of handguns – starting Sunday.
In 2011, all 50 states and territories met in regular session and enacted close to 40,000 new laws on issues across the board. The National Conference of State Legislatures compiled the following list of laws that will become effective in California on New Year's Day.
Alcohol & Drug Policy
A new law in California will make it a misdemeanor to sell, dispense or distribute a synthetic cannabinoid compound, commonly known as “spice” or “K2.” At least 40 states have adopted laws or departmental rules to ban chemical substances related to synthetic cannabinoids. California SB 420 
Another California law prohibits the production, distribution or sale of beer to which caffeine has been directly added as a separate ingredient. California SB 39 
And another new law in California will prohibit any person or retail distributor from knowingly supplying a drug or substance containing any quantity of dextromethorphan, or DXM, to a person under 18 without a prescription. DXM, an active ingredient in cough suppressants, is often used as a recreational drug. California SB 514 
Animals & Wildlife
New legislation in California increases the misdemeanor penalty for animal neglect and makes it a crime to sell a live animal on any street, highway, public right-of-way, parking lot, or carnival. California SB 917 
Two new laws in Oregon and California prohibit the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins. The California law specifies that a person must hold a license in order to possess shark fins for scientific purposes. In addition, restaurants may possess and sell shark fins purchased before Jan. 1, 2012, until Jan. 1, 2013. California AB 376 .
A law in California amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act to add gender identity and gender expression to the enumerated characteristics that require equal rights and opportunities under the law and prohibit discrimination. California AB 887 
A new law in California prohibits the use of ultraviolet tanning devices by children under the age of 18. California SB 746 
California begins banning stores from selling expired infant food and formula, and over-the-counter medication that has lost important nutritional or pharmaceutical benefits. California AB 688 
Corrections & Criminal Justice
Legislation in California requires that when a defendant is extradited back to the state, the judge issue bail at $100,000 in addition to any bail already issued for the underlying original offense. California SB 291 
Crime & Law Enforcement
A California law includes encouraging, persuading or forcing a person under 18 years of age to engage in a commercial sex act within the definition of a criminal profiteering activity. The law also requires that any proceeds from any criminal activity be deposited in the Victim-Witness Assistance Fund for child sexual exploitation counseling centers and prevention programs. California AB 90 
California now will include injury as a result of strangulation or suffocation in the list of traumatic conditions under the felony domestic violence statute. California SB 430 
A new law in California makes it a misdemeanor to openly carry an exposed, unloaded handgun while in a public place or on a public street in an incorporated city, or in specified prohibited areas of an unincorporated county. California AB 144 
A new California law authorizes wage garnishments of those convicted of elder financial abuse. California AB 2619 
Legislation in California will include certain posts on social networking sites as a form of bullying, incorporating them into existing law that deems cyber bullying as grounds for student suspension or expulsion. California AB 746 
A new law in California creates the process to bring the state’s school curriculum, instruction and assessment system into alignment with Common Core State Standards adopted last year by the State Board of Education. California AB 250 
California will now require school districts that offer athletic programs to remove an athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury from the activity. The law also prohibits the return of the athlete until he or she is evaluated and receives written clearance from a licensed health care provider. The law also requires the athlete and his or her parent or guardian to sign a related information sheet each year before practice or participation. California AB 25 
The California Dream Act expands eligibility for non-state funded scholarships to students who quality for the existing exemption from non-resident tuition (California AB 130 ). The second part of the Dream Act, expanding eligibility for financial aid, will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 (California AB 131 ). Additional legislation authorizes any student, including one without lawful immigration status, to serve in any capacity in student government (California AB 844 ).
A law in California adds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and others to the list of cultural groups whose roles and contributions to the development of the United States should be accurately portrayed in social science instructional materials. California SB 48 
A law in California will require test sponsors of various graduate exams, such as the GRE, LSAT, MCAT and GMAT, to provide an alternative methods for verifying a test taker’s identity when he or she cannot supply a driver’s license or other traditional form of identification. A violation would subject a test sponsor to a civil penalty. California AB 176 
California passed a series of election reform bills that will go into effect on Jan. 1. AB 80  consolidates the presidential primary with the state primary. AB 84  allows new citizens to register and vote on Election Day, compared with other citizens who must register at least seven days before the election. One law (AB 459 ) joins the state to the National Popular Vote compact, whereas another requires votes on initiatives and referenda be in even-year general elections only, not in primary or special elections (SB 202 ). AB 547  makes it a misdemeanor for someone who provides care to an elderly person in a state facility or program to coerce or deceive the person into voting a certain way.
A new law in California allows active duty military personnel who are serving outside the state to file candidacy papers through a power of attorney. AB 754 
Legislation in California will protect farm workers when an employer, acting in bad faith, prevents them from holding a fair secret ballot election. The law requires that if the Agricultural Labor Relations Board refuses to certify an election due to employee misconduct, then the labor organization will be certified as the exclusive bargaining representative. California SB 126 
California will now prohibit any state or local government from requiring a private employer to use the federal E-Verify program unless required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds. AB 1236 
A new law in California prohibits an employer or prospective employer from using a consumer credit report for employment purposes. The law will bar employers from using consumer credit reports to evaluate candidates unless the position for which the candidate is applying meets one or more of the law’s exemption criteria and the employer obtains the consent from the candidate. AB 22 
Another new law in California prohibits employers from refusing to maintain and pay for individual maternity coverage under a group health plan for the duration of an employee’s pregnancy leave, for up to four months. SB 299 
Legislation in California establishes new misdemeanor penalties for employers who violate wage laws. The bill also requires employers to provide workers, at the time of hire, with a written disclosure of basic terms of employment, such as rate and date of pay. AB 469 
A California law imposes penalties on employers who willfully misclassify individuals as independent contractors and enhances penalties on employers showing a pattern of misclassification. California SB 459 
Legislation in California will permit the Department of Public Health, until Jan. 1, 2019, to specify which entities may provide hypodermic needles and syringe exchange services, in any area where DPH determines that conditions exist for the rapid spread of HIV. The law preempts local laws prohibiting needle exchanges, if the state specifies an entity within a local jurisdiction.California AB 604 
The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 requires large retailers and manufacturers to tell consumers on their websites what steps, if any, they take to ensure their product supply chains are free from slavery and trafficking. California SB 657 
A new law in California authorizes courts to revoke for up to 10 years the driver’s license of any person convicted of three or more DUI offenses. Offenders will be able to apply for a possible license reinstatement after five years if specified conditions are met. The current law allows for a license revocation of three years. California AB 1601 
A new California law will prohibit the impounding of a vehicle at a sobriety checkpoint if the driver’s only offense is the failure to hold a valid license. California AB 353 
Legislation in California mandates that children remain in booster seats an additional two years until they reach age 8 or four feet nine inches tall. California SB 929