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NEW YEAR BRINGS NEW LAWS NICHE BILLS CONCERN ISSUES RANGING FROM NUTRITION TO HUNTING.

Byline: Harrison Sheppard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO - The start of the new year will herald a host of quirky new laws in California.

With the most controversial and sweeping proposals of 2005 all shot down by voters or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, what was left was a series of niche bills ranging from improving nutrition in schools to banning hunting over the Internet.

Political analysts said the Legislature and Schwarzenegger were distracted by the governor's special election, which consumed most of their time and energy and encouraged them to defer some controversial issues.

``If you ask the average voter, 'What are your five top measures you'd like the Legislature to deal with?', none of them got dealt with,'' said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at California State University, Sacramento.

``It's hard to get consensus on anything big when you're fighting each other as vitriolically as the parties were. It was not what you would call a stellar session, in terms of dealing with the public's business.''

Schwarzenegger signed 729 bills and vetoed 232 this year, according to the Senate Office of Research. The vetoed measures included all of the most controversial issues - including bills that would have increased the minimum wage, legalized gay marriage and granted driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

In turn, voters rejected Schwarzenegger's special-election measures that would have reformed the budget process, changed redistricting, restricted political spending by public unions and reformed the teacher tenure process.

Disgruntled voters also swept out independent ballot proposals that would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs, required parental notification of a minor's abortion and regulated the energy market.

And at least two bills that were supposed to become law in 2006 have been put on temporary hold by the courts: one banning junk faxes and another prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

Most laws passed in 2005 and signed by the governor take effect Jan. 1, unless they had urgency clauses. A few - such as bills to improve school nutrition - take effect July 1, 2006.

Among the laws that will go into effect is one that allows people to use the Internet to comparison shop between hospitals.

The measure, AB 1045, by Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, requires hospitals to compile a list of the 25 most common inpatient and 25 most common outpatient procedures for the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, which will post them online.

It also requires hospitals to provide a person without health coverage a specific written estimate on any procedure.

``You will actually be able to go and shop around if you have to have one of these procedures, and see who's charging what in what areas,'' Frommer said. ``It's important for people who are uninsured, but also for people who have big co-payments - who are on PPOs (Preferred Provider Organizations) and are paying 20 percent and want to know what that 20 percent is going to be.''

California will be the second state, after Wisconsin, to have such a system, he said.

Another new law will ban the practice of hunting animals over the Internet in California. SB 1028 by Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, prohibits anyone within California from using the Internet to hunt animals, and prohibits the establishment of such a hunting range or Web site in the state.

At least one Web site based in Texas has reportedly set up rifles near animal habitats, and connects them to video cameras that allow a hunter to control the rifle and fire a shot.

``Killing animals over the Internet is about as sporting as shooting fish in a barrel and it ought to bother animal lovers and true hunters everywhere,'' Bowen said in a written statement.

Another new law gives used-car buyers new rights. AB 68, by Assemblywoman Cindy Montaez, D-Mission Hills, sets specific standards for calling a used car ``certified''; allows buyers to return a used car after two days; adds new disclosure requirements for loan terms; and prohibits dealers from manipulating loan terms to hide the true cost of a purchase.

Other new laws that take effect in 2006 include:

-- AB 547, by Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Santa Rosa, and Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, authorizes cities and counties to conduct clean needle-exchange programs, without having to first declare a local health emergency.

-- AB 522, by Assemblyman George Plescia, R-San Diego, prohibits the state from providing or paying for erectile dysfunction drugs for registered sex offenders under the Medi-Cal program.

-- AB 381, by Montaez, seeks to crack down on aggressive paparazzi behavior by adding new civil lawsuit options for those who have been assaulted by a photographer in pursuit of a picture or recording, including civil damages worth more than the value of the photograph itself.

-- AB 121, by Assemblyman Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, requires state health officials to test candy for lead levels and prohibits the sale of candy with lead levels that exceed certain standards.

-- SB 719, by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, increases the penalties on drivers who run from police and when such chases result in death.

-- SB 180, by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, and AB 22, by Assemblywomen Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, and Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, spell out new efforts to crack down on human trafficking and slavery including a new task force and new penalties on activities such as bringing a person into the state for the purposes of forced labor.

Harrison Sheppard, (916)446-6723

harrison.sheppard(at)dailynews.com

ONLINE

For a Senate report outlining hundreds of bills that passed this year, go to www.sen.ca.gov/sor/WHATS-NEW/Whatsnew.htp

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 27, 2005
Words:948
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