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January 1: New Year, new laws in effect in California

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As of Jan. 1, laws affecting child booster seats, LGBT rights, handgun open-carry and liquor sales will be among many going into effect in California. Here are some of the highlights of what Californians – and Sacramentans – have in store for them in 2012.

BOOSTER SEATS: Previously, children had to ride in approved child restraint devices – booster seats – until they turned 6 years old or weighed 60 pounds. As of Jan. 1, children must ride in booster seats until they are 8 years old or at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. Kids under 8 years who are taller than 4 feet 9 inches are allowed to use a safety belt instead of a booster seat.

HANDGUN OPEN CARRY: Bans citizens from openly carrying handguns – but Californians can still get permits for concealed weapons. Violators of the new law will be subject to $1,000 fines and six months in jail. Previously, it was allowable to carry an unloaded handgun in a visible holster.

LIQUOR SALES: SB 39 prohibits the production or sale of beer with caffeine added. AB 183 prohibits grocery stores from allowing liquor sales at self-checkout stations.

VEHICLE IMPOUNDS: Police officers will no longer be able to impound a vehicle from a sobriety checkpoint if the only offense by the driver is failing to hold a valid driver license (AB 353).

DUI CONVICTIONS: A new section was added to the California Vehicle Code that allows courts to revoke a driver license for 10 years if a person is convicted of three or more DUIs.

COPPER THEFT: AB 316 makes “stealing, taking, or carrying away copper materials” that value more than $950 a grand theft felony. Criminals are subject to fines up to $2,500 and one year in jail on the first offense, and two or three years in jail and a fine up to $10,000 for repeat offenders.

KINDERGARTEN ENTRANCE: SB 1381 pushes back the 5-year-old birthday for kindergarten eligibility from Dec. 1 to Nov. 1 for the 2012–13 school year. That date pushes back to Oct. 1 for the 2013–14 school year, and then to Sept. 1 for the 2014–15 school year and beyond.

LGBT RIGHTS/HISTORY: Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the Gay History Act, which requires schools to include the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in history and social studies lessons and textbooks.

Another law that went on the books in 2011 – the Transgender Non-Discrimination Law – adds “gender identity and gender expression” to the list of characteristics that require equal rights protections in the state.

FOOD HANDLER CARDS: Beginning Jan. 1, health departments will begin enforcing a new law which requires food handlers to complete a training course and assessment.

EMPLOYEE RIGHTS: AB 22 prevents employers from running credit checks on prospective employees or using credit information in a hiring decision. Exceptions are allowed for law enforcement positions and positions that require access to bank and credit information or access to confidential information.

Not every new law charts new ground this year, though – some are simply no-brainers:

AB 688: Bans California stores from selling expired infant food and formula.

AB 25: Requires schools to remove athletes suspected of having a concussion or head injury from athletic activity until a doctor or health care provider gives clearance.

SB 746: Prohibits minors under 18 from using tanning beds without a parent’s permission.

With more than 40,000 new laws going into effect across the nation in 2012, people will want to do their research to make sure they don’t inadvertently run afoul of a law that they didn’t even know existed.

Start with the list of new California laws here.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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