2014 Rings In New Laws

By EGP Staff Report

A slew of bills passed last year by state and local legislators on everything from parking meter enforcement, plastic bag use and how quickly people must be notified when their personal information has been breached while in the care of a public agency, became law yesterday, Jan. 1.

EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia

EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia

Some of the laws will be immediately evident, especially in the City of Los Angeles where Angelenos will join residents in some areas of the County who must now provide their own, preferably reusable bags when shopping at large retailers such as Vons, Ralphs and Walmart, or be charged 10 cents for paper bags.

The law also bans drug stores like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, and convenience stores like 7-Eleven from using plastic bags. The ban goes into effect July 1 for smaller, independent grocery stores, drug stores and convenience food-marts.

Plastic bags will still be allowed at restaurants and department stores. The thin plastic sacks used for produce and meat are also exempt from the ban.

The city’s goal is to reduce the number of non-biodegradable disposable bags which activists from environmental organizations such as Heal the Bay say will lead to cleaner beaches, storm drains, rivers and other public spaces.

Representatives of plastics companies said the ban would cost jobs, while others contend reusable bags are prone to germs and pose a health risk.

The council approved the ban earlier this year. In June, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed the ban into law, making Los Angeles the most populous city in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags.

The law is similar to one adopted by Los Angeles County. A statewide ban proposed by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, a former Los Angeles city councilman, was defeated in May.

Other laws being ushering the New Year include Assembly Bill 1149 and Senate Bill 46, which now requires all public agencies to comply with California’s information privacy breach notice law, and expands the scope of personal information that prompts the notification.

The files of public agencies, including cities, counties, school districts contain a great deal of personal information that is widely sought by identity thieves, including dates of birth, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, email addresses and medical information.

Local public agencies are now required to disclose when unencrypted data is believed to have been acquired by an unauthorized person, and it must be done as quickly as possible and without unreasonable delay. The notice must be written in plain language and include the name and contact information of the agency; a list of the types of personal information compromised; time and date of the breach; length of any delays between the breach and notice; a general description of the incident and contact information for credit reporting agencies.

The agency may also include information about the agency’s response and advice on preventing fraud and identity theft after a breach.

State legislators also passed an increase to California’s minimum wage law to $10 an hour, but the increase will be phased-in over the next two years, with the first $1 increase coming on July 1, 2014 and the second on Jan. 1, 2016.

However a bill requiring the paying of overtime to a “domestic work employee who is a personal attendant,” did become law on Wednesday. The law does not apply to casual babysitters.

Consumers using credit, debit or calling cards for payphones in a pinch – such as stranded holiday travelers, those caught with dead cell phones or troops in transit – are now better protected from fees of up to $20 for 20 seconds under SB 50, a law mandating signage disclosing fees on all payphones.

New laws authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles dealing with parking inequities and hit and run drivers took effect statewide on Jan. 1.

One will allow motorists to park in spaces controlled by broken meters for the maximum amount of time on the meter, according to Gatto’s office.

“Taxpayers already pay for street maintenance, meter installation and meter upkeep,” Gatto said of AB 61. “Local governments should take responsibility and keep parking meters in good working order, not squeeze a double-penalty out of cash-strapped citizens.”

The L.A. City Council voted earlier this year to allow motorists to park at broken meters, but reserved the right to reinstate the penalty at some future unspecified date. Gatto’s law puts an end to double-dealing on parking penalties.

The issue of fairness in parking enforcement has become such a hot potato that it has sparked a genuine citizen’s revolt in Los Angeles that may well shake up city government. It’s a movement designed to reform and reorient a parking fine system critics claim is geared toward revenue generation at the expense of residents and business owners.

Steve Vincent, a financial analyst from Studio City and Jay Beeber, a Sherman Oaks activist, whose work contributed to the end of the city’s Red Light camera program in 2011, are spearheading a parking fine revolt.

Their proposal, as outlined on their website, would limit the cost per hour at meters, lower the maximum fines, require all meters to allow at least three hours of parking, end parking restrictions at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. as some are now.

They would also ban meters in residential areas and require at least half the money collected from a meter to go back to that geographical area for improvements in that area.

Vincent, Beeber and their band of parking rebels also want to prohibit the city from selling off the municipal parking meter system to private investors at some future time or use it to securitize future revenues, and they want to eliminate the requirement that a vehicle be removed from a metered parking space once the meter has expired and allow additional payment for use of the space.

“We are working towards developing a ballot measure that will mandate that the city manage our parking resources to facilitate commerce, ease of transit and livability,” according to a statement issued by the group on the website of the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. “Parking enforcement must be exercised as a necessary and vital service rendered in the public interest, not as a business opportunity to be exploited for profit.”

Los Angeles collects $300 million in annual parking revenue, about $150 million of that from tickets, according to citywatchla.com.

Another new law, AB 184, addresses what has become a growing problem in the Southland: drivers leaving accident scenes.

The measure extends the current three-year statute of limitations to six for investigating hit-and-run crashes that result in death or serious injury.

“Thousands of hit-and-run victims suffer life-threatening injuries annually,” Gatto said. “Allowing the perpetrators to avoid prosecution just adds insult to these injuries.”

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January 2, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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