New laws: Phones smarter; plastic bags banned; licenses for all

Hollister Super Market employee Salvador Gobea in 2009 bags groceries into plastic bags. City and county officials at the time were into a possible ban on plastic bags at local stores.

Ringing in the New Year means a host of resolutions along with new laws such as those on fracking and social media. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the following into law for 2015:
Smartphones: SB 962 requires any smartphone manufactured on or after July 1 and sold in California to have a technological solution consisting of software, hardware or both that once initiated renders the essential features of the phone inoperable if it falls into the hands of an unauthorized user.
Fracking: SB 4 places more regulations on hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—and requires the owner or operator of a well to provide full disclosure of the composition of well stimulation fluids and to notify specified tenants and property owners at least 30 days before starting a well stimulation treatment.
In San Benito County, voters in November approved Measure J, which bans enhanced oil extraction such as fracking, cyclic steaming and acidizing starting Jan. 1. The oil company Citadel Exploration filed a $1.2 billion claim—a necessary precursor to a lawsuit—against the county days after the election.
Driver’s Licenses: AB 1660 makes it a violation of the California Fair Housing and Employment Act for an employer to discriminate against someone holding a driver’s license issued to an undocumented person. Local Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, introduced the bill.
Plastic bags: Starting July 1, SB 270 prohibits certain stores from providing plastic bags, but would allow customers to purchase recycled paper bags for at least 10 cents. The law also allows stores to distribute compostable bags in certain jurisdictions, if they meet specified requirements and are sold for at least 10 cents. The law will expand to affect convenience and liquor stores starting July 1, 2016.
Existing law, until 2020, requires stores to establish at-store recycling programs, which give costumers a chance to return bags for recycling.
“Yes means yes”:  SB 967, which has been called the “yes means yes” law, requires community colleges, California State Universities and University of California campuses to adopt policies stating students must share “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” The schools must adopt policies including affirmative consent to receive state funds for student financial assistance.
Water: The state passed two bills, SB 1168 and AB 1739, which provide additional groundwater regulations.
AB 1739 requires the Department of Water Resources to periodically review groundwater sustainability plans and requires the department to adopt certain regulations by June 1, 2016.
SB 1168 requires the department to categorize basins as high, medium, low or very low priority by Jan. 21, 2015.
Existing law requires the department—in conjunction with other public agencies—to investigate groundwater basins and report findings to the legislature no later than Jan. 1, 2012 and after that in years ending in 5 and 0.
Student social media records: AB1442 requires school districts considering programs that gather or maintain information from social media to first notify guardians and provide an opportunity for public comment at a regularly scheduled public meeting.
The proposed programs may gather and maintain only information that provides a student with access to information about them obtained through social media or that pertains to student or school safety.
Community college bachelor’s degrees: SB 850 kick-starts a pilot program that allows community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees in fields not currently served by the California State University or University of California schools.
The law authorizes baccalaureate degree pilot programs at up to 15 community college districts, beginning in the 2017-18 school year. Gavilan College—with sites in Hollister, Morgan Hill and Gilroy—is one of 112 colleges in the state waiting to see the list of districts chosen to pilot the program.
No more STAR testing: AB 484 allows the state superintendent of public instruction to not provide Academic Performance Index measures for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years as public schools transition to new assessments based on the state’s new Common Core standards.
As part of the changes, the law deletes provisions establishing the Standardized Testing And Reporting program, which was used in prior years to establish the academic proficiency of public schools and districts.

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