Hundreds of new laws take effect Tuesday
• From high-speed rail to pipeline safety to foreclosure protections
• “Will give Californians a fair opportunity to stay in their homes”
The fruits of a year of work by legislators are harvested by constituents beginning Tuesday with some 800 new laws kicking in as the New Year rings in.
Among the new laws that could have immediate impact on the Central Valley, epicenter of the nation’s foreclosure crisis, is the package of legislation that extends key mortgage and foreclosure protections to California homeowners and borrowers.
Dubbed the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, the new laws restrict dual-track foreclosures, guarantee struggling homeowners a reliable point of contact at their lender and impose civil penalties on fraudulently signed mortgage documents. In addition, homeowners may require loan servicers to document their right to foreclose.
“For too long, struggling homeowners in California have been denied fairness and transparency when dealing with their lending institutions,” says Attorney General Kamala Harris, who pushed for the new laws. “These laws give homeowners new rights as they work through the foreclosure process and will give Californians a fair opportunity to stay in their homes.”
Other new laws include:
• Another new law impacts the California High-Speed Rail project, due to start construction first in the Central Valley.
It requires the High-Speed Rail Authority to encourage purchasing high-speed train rolling stock and equipment made in California consistent with federal and state law and continued investment in California businesses.
• Natural-gas pipeline safety upgrades are required by several new laws. One requires disclosure of gas transmission lines when a home is sold, another forces the Public Utilities Commission to finally answer the recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the San Bruno pipeline blast that killed eight people and leveled a residential neighborhood.
• Women who breast-feed their children will be protected from harassment by their employers. A new law puts breast-feeding under the scope of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
• Another business-related law says that employees and former employees have the right to obtain copies of their personnel records. Businesses will have to provide them within 30 days.
• Employers and higher-education officials will now be banned from asking for applicants’ social-media user names and passwords.
• Another law lurches California into step with much of the rest of the world by allowing juveniles who have been sentenced to life without parole the opportunity to petition for a new sentence of 25 years to life. The United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to life in prison without the possibility of parole. According to state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, the author of the new law, California has over 300 youth serving this sentence and who without SB 9 would have died in prison without any chance to earn release.
• SB 1001 increases fees required of registered lobbyists, ballot measure committees, and independent expenditure committees, in order to finance the maintenance of the state campaign and lobbying database known as Cal-Access, which keeps the public informed as to who is influencing their elected officials.