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Ringing in 2018 with a range of new laws

Laws address walk-sign violations, affordable housing, discounted rides home for drinkers

With January comes an assortment of new state laws. Fees will rise for vehicle registration and real estate transactions. Police officers will no longer be allowed to ticket pedestrians just because they start across a street while the "upraised hand" signal is blinking. Alcohol manufacturers can offer drinkers out for an evening a ride home – to the disappointment of groups opposed to measures that, in effect, encourage alcohol consumption.

The California Legislative Information website provides overviews of what's new for 2018. Of the 3,065 legislative actions listed for the 2017-18 legislative season so far, 1,073 became law. Following is a small sampling.

Crossing the street

It may seem rare on the Peninsula for pedestrians to be ticketed for entering crosswalks while the red "upraised hand" light is blinking, but it hasn't been in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police Department has been issuing four times more citations for this pedestrian offense than any other. The fine is $25, but after fees and other assessments, the costs come to just under $200.

In support of AB 390, which prohibits ticketing if the pedestrian makes it to the other side before the countdown ends, the California Bicycle Coalition argued that the countdown clock allows enough time for pedestrians to cross and does not delay traffic.

In opposition to the bill, the California Highway Patrol noted that "pedestrian collisions" at intersections rose 16 percent between 2013 and 2016, with pedestrians mostly at fault. "Clear and consistent standards, rather than individual judgment, should guide how pedestrians use roadways," the CHP said.

Affordable housing

To increase the supply of housing affordable to people with low to moderate incomes, a $75 fee now applies to every real estate transaction, up to a maximum of $225. California ranks next to last across the nation in the number of dwellings per capita, with 118,000 homeless people on any given night. Fifty percent of people of moderate incomes struggle with housing costs.

SB 2 should raise between $200 million and $300 million annually, with revenues earmarked for local governments starting at 50 percent of the total and rising to 70 percent in 2019. The remainder goes to the Department of Housing and Community Development, in part to assist the homeless and those at risk of becoming so.

Rides home

With the signing of AB 711, vouchers will be available from alcohol manufacturers and licensed sellers for free or discounted rides home, a practice already available to drinkers in the District of Columbia and 44 states. During the fall of 2016 in New York, Colorado, Illinois and Florida, a beer manufacturer collaborated with a ride service to provide some 5,000 $10 vouchers every weekend.

The bill's author, Cupertino Assemblyman Evan Low, noted in a comment that beer manufacturers wanted to implement this service for Super Bowl 50 in 2016, held in Silicon Valley, but state law prevented it.

Vehicle registration, guns and animal sales

Annual vehicle registration fees are going up by at least $25 a year with the goal of raising some $52.4 billion in revenue over 10 years for state and local road maintenance and transit improvements. The highest added fee, $175, applies to vehicles with a value of at least $60,000.

SB 1 total estimated revenues take into account a 12-cent-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax that took effect on Nov. 1, 2017.

AB 424 rolls back a 1995 law that allowed school administrators to permit designated people to bring guns into a school zone. The new law includes an exception for hunting education programs.

"Classrooms are laboratories of learning ... (that) provide opportunities to discover art, music, history and mathematics to prepare oneself for college or a career," Sacramento Assemblyman Kevin McCarty said in a comment on his bill. "That's not possible if a school district allows armed civilians to roam California school campuses."

Pet store owners can now sell dogs, cats and rabbits only if they were obtained from a public animal control agency, shelter or animal rescue group. Long Beach Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell said his bill is an attempt to reduce the killing of animals in shelters as puppy mills breed animals for profit.

"Pet stores can save the lives of animals in search for a home, save the breeding animals trapped in puppy mills, and relieve pressure on county budgets and local tax payers," Mr. O'Donnell said.

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