New laws for California in 2012

01.04.2012 | Atascadero News | Creig Sherburne

Many new state laws went into effect on Sunday, Jan. 1. While many of them will affect North County residents in many ways, Atascadero Police Department Sgt. Greg Meyer there’s very little that will have much of an impact on local law enforcement.

“Nothing like the cell phone law — where lots of citations were issued after a grace period — have come out of legislation this year,” Meyer said.

• Transitional kindergarten is official. The new law says that children must be five years old by Sept. 1 to enter kindergarten. Children who aren’t old enough can be enrolled into a new grade: transitional kindergarten. School districts have three years to ramp up, but it’s not clear where the funding will come from.

• Alongside lessons about Native Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders and people with disabilities, students will begin learning about the contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. No specific curriculum has been announced yet.

• The DREAM Act is a dream no longer. California college students who are undocumented immigrants can now qualify for privately funded financial aid. The second part of the act, in which undocumented immigrants can get state aid, will go into effect in 2013.

• In July, a law will go into effect that requires that health insurance companies cover a commonly prescribed but expensive behavioral therapy for autistic children.

Sooner than that, though, is the medical loss ratio requirement. Insurance companies are now required to spend at least 80 percent of their customers’ premiums on actual medical care. Companies who don’t will be required to send rebates to their customers.

• Foster benefits will extend to age 21. Previously, when a California foster child turned 18, that was it: he or she would cease getting state benefits and a foster home. The age has been pushed back to 19 this year, 20 in 2013 and 21 in 2014.

• DUI checkpoints, fairly common in Atascadero, will see a minor change: if a driver through a checkpoint is guilty only of driving without a license can no longer have his or her car impounded. Only a citation will be issued.

• Liquor cannot be purchased at self-checkout stands any more. Self-checks such as those found at Albertsons can help move people through a little quicker, but customers buying beer, wine or spirits must go through a traditional checkout stand with a clerk.

Another consumer limitation put into effect is that minors will no longer be able to purchase drugs with the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Dextromethorphan is an ingredient that can cause an out-of-body high, so only sick people over the age of 18 can buy drugs with the ingredient.

• Vehicle laws also saw some change. Booster seats are now required for children up to age 8 and shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches.

• Repeat DUI offenders can now have their drivers licenses suspended for 10 years following a third offense.

• Also begun this year was a moratorium on manufacturing 100-watt incandescent light bulbs. That’s a federal law, though. California, however, got a one-year head start on the ban, avoiding the sale of almost 11 million 100-watt bulbs in 2011. In keeping with that goal, the sale of 75-watt incandescent bulbs in California has also ceased.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the new laws on the books. For the complete list, go to and click on the not entirely accurately titled link, “New Laws for 2011.”

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