Dan Eaton, San Diego attorney with Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek
Thad Kousser, UC San Diego professor of Political Science
Related Story: New Laws On The Books For California In 2013
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, laws approved by the San Diego Legislature last year have just gone into effect and they cover a broad range of issues from homeowners rights to drug overdose reporting. And in one way or another all the laws will make changes in the lives of Californians. Joining me to talk about the new laws in effect this year are my guests Dan Eaton. He's an attorney with Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, and Dan, welcome to the show.
DAN EATON: Thank you Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Thad Kousser is a UCSD professor of political science
THAD LOUSSER: Good afternoon, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thad, overall how would you describe the overall crop of state laws in 2013?
THAD KOUSSER: Well, it's the biggest budget plus the legislature has passed in the last few years 876 laws. Before we get into details of things that might seem like little deals to recognize the big things that were produced by Sacramento laws this year came to the budget so a lot of the big stuff has been done but some of these have important effects for our daily lives.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Some people say they see the fine hand of the Democratic left legislature in a lot of these laws
THAD KOUSSER: A Democratic legislature with a Democratic governor we have a Democratic legislature for a long time but Gov. Jerry Brown was reticent to sign a lot of bills in the first years in office he was loosening to veto pen and signing a lot of bills and lost the Democrats wanted for a while.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me get to the homeowners Bill of Rights it got a lot of attention last year now it is the law can you tell us briefly about that package of laws?
THAD KOUSSER: There are six laws so it makes it hard to sum up but it makes larger for largest foreclosure happen and if the legislature responding to populace furor over foreclosures and stopping things like clean drinking where banks were both working with homeowners to help them fix their foreclosure but also looking forward to foreclosure and making it easier to get people out of their houses, it stopped that process.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And now this is the law in California which means it is now part of the way that people will own homes. These are the laws that govern everybody's home purchases. Now, Dan apparently let me morph to the workplace some employers are requiring job applicants to let them review their social media pages that
says no don't do that anymore.
DAN EATON: Right let me take the first one first that which is even the sponsors of the bill can say with your need even aware whether this is a significant issue. There have been a couple of cases one in Maryland and another in New Jersey to raise the issue but it's not clear just how big the issue is but it doesn't stop states including California from responding to the issue and what the new law does, Mari, is prohibited employers from requiring or even requesting employees to divulge their passwords or user names for their private social media pages. It also prevents employers from requesting or implying requiring employees to access their personal social media in the employer's presence.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But if it is public information employers can still take a look
DAN EATON: Absolutely right the law says it's clear the legislative history, the person has to take steps with there's respect to restricting access privacy settings and so forth to prevent access to what otherwise would be publicly available. The employer can still access publicly available social media ball for applicants and current employees.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But we still don't know whether or not a lot of employers are asking applicants for passwords to find private information about their Facebook or twitter accounts.
DAN EATON: We don't worry about it because it's the issues so unsettled in California for example in California people have a constitutional right to privacy that applies to private and government employers alike but there was a need for this that's why the California Chamber of Commerce and the number of state labor unions both got behind this bill because it does he raise some level of uncertainty and that's important for both employers and employees.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: let me move to another law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace. In prescriptive prohibits discrimination about religious attire how will that affect the states workplaces.
DAN EATON: Potentially significantly because of expansive definition of religious creed to include purchases and religious grooming practices but this actually was spurred by a Sikh coalition up in northern California San Francisco Bay Area said they were being discriminated against because they wore turbans and because they cannot as a matter of religious practice shave their beards. so this law went into effect that prohibits that kind of discrimination in the workplace and here's the important thing Mari employer is employed required to accommodate religious dress or grooming practices unless it was cause undue hardship and employers cannot accommodate that by taking the employees out of context that is not an acceptable form of accommodation of religious dress practices are religious grooming.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Wasn't there also a case up in Disneyland
DAN EATON: There is a fascinating case as far as I know is still pending it was filed in August of last year where a woman who was working at Disneyland storybook Café wanted to wear her shah she was a hostess and it has early 1900s theme. There was some issue about the extent to which Disneyland was accommodating her and we will see how that plays out. Of course the case was filed before the new law went into effect so it will be interesting to see whether the policies animating this new law apply to the case and others pending at the time of the enactment of the new law.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There are two new laws as I understand they're aiming at allowing more women access to reproductive rights, tell us about them.
DAN EATON: Yes there is both a bill that allows registered nurses to provide birth control and clinics primarily care clinics either devices or birth-control drugs. That is intended to expand women's access and there was another bill that's one of the pieces of the legacy of State Sen. Christine Kehoe just got served at San Diego that allowed, extended for another year allowing nurse practitioners midwives and physicians to perform surgical abortions.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: keeping on that same theme of reproduction, Dan, employers are no longer allowed to discriminate against women because of breast-feeding. I didn't know that they were allowed to discriminate against women because of breast-feeding.
THAD KOUSSER: According to the California state legislature they never were.
DAN EATON: The California legislature said all this did was to put into law clarified existing law rather than creating new law. But what it does say is that an employer cannot discriminate against a female employee who is breast-feeding or for medical conditions related to breast-feeding. We are all aware generally speaking that since 2002 there's been a line California requires, employers to accommodate breast-feeding employees by giving them extra time and a private space and so forth but this makes it very clear that Employers cannot discriminate against women who engage in breast-feeding as well.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And that means that they cannot say basically you, my employee, has been breast-feeding too long and I'm tired of it and therefore I want to terminate your employment.
DAN EATON: Or even change their shifts that is exactly right there very clear in what they can do. Can't change their shift, can change the times or position and so forth. The fact is is that breast-feeding is now a part of sex at the protected classification and for the purposes of the California anti-discrimination in employment law.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to tell my listeners I'm speaking with Dan Eaton and Thad Kousser and we are talking about new laws that went into effect at the beginning of 2013 in the state of California.I'm going to be talking to you know Thad about a couple of guys driving laws that are interesting and I think it's confusing when you first hear about it. Tell us about hands-free texting.
THAD KOUSSER: This is the brave new world of iPhones. This is a Siri law so voice-recognition devices can now, you can tell them we want to text and what you want to send them and you can do that without looking down and typing on a felony and thus the idea is that you will not be too distracted to drive so there are questions about whether the looking down and texting and talking and texting but this bill would allow hands-free texting by serial or another device.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: it sort of opens up the question why not just on them if you have a hands-free device.
THAD KOUSSER: That is such an over 30 idea here. No one phones anyone anymore.
DAN EATON: Wait till you get there. How about that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is a last century idea. The one that is sort of interesting to me is the driverless vehicles will now be allowed to be tested on public roads, that should turn some heads.
THAD KOUSSER: The drones on the roads this is actually the car manufacturers and researchers have been working on for years as a safety idea to have cars that have lots of sensors, can avoid detection and work and flow together and you can move more cars through traffic with an automated system. He does some brave new world it would allow. Strict regulations the DMV to start testing some vehicles on the road.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to talk about public safety and criminal law. I think they point to a slightly less law and order attitude that's happening at the state of California, for instance a new law that says people calling in to tell authorities about a drug overdose cannot be subject to be arrested for possession or use of drugs.
THAD KOUSSER: So this is a good Samaritan law and it's designed to tickle it is an incentive to take away the penalty so it's possible to call for help and cannot get a minor conviction for drug use yourself. It doesn't protect drug dealers, doesn't protect anyone driving, but it's trying to protect some public safety.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And also there is a provision now that people who were convicted of crimes they committed as minors might be more subject, might be more possible for them now to be resentenced and have a lesser sentence.
THAD KOUSSER: I think this really shows the change in California criminal law current that's concomitant with the current rates going down. So in the early 1990s were finding nothing over when you should have the death penalty for minors and whether they should be for people committing crimes 14 or 16 and what this does nowadays says that any minor who committed a murder murder could be eligible for resentencing to get out of 25 to life sentences they committed progressive minor so California is getting less tough on crime taking a more balanced approach.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Two of the biggest laws I think are laws that will affect same-day voter registration and deferred action drivers licenses. Same-day voter registration goes into effect I believe in 2014?
THAD KOUSSER: It goes into effect whatever we have a state computer system finalized, so that is a big if, sometime this century you will be able to show up on election day and if you've moved recently or if you have not registered or if you just get engaged in the election the day you can shop to register that they once we have the computer system so you are not doing this and precinct after precinct or county after county.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Does it really say the beginning of this will not start until the computer system is ready?
THAD KOUSSER: That's right it's due to come in 2014 and the Secretary of State office has been working on a computer system for a while but we've seen in the past that statewide computer systems do not always come in on schedule or under budget.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The deferred action drivers license goes into effect this year and that means that young people who are covered by the new Obama administration immigration policy that defers action against them, they came here at a very young age, they are under the age of 30 either going to college or during military service in the United States, they can now get drivers licenses in California.
THAD KOUSSER: The idea here is this is a new class through Executive Order Pres. Obama has evolved into the legal world of the United States and one of the things you need to be doing if you are working if you are in college or living life in America is having a drivers license and this would allow them to apply over the next two years.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Dan Eaton as you survey the laws they're going into effect in California, how will the shakeup the workplace?
DAN EATON: Just as Thad was saying that it reflects an attitude shift because I think you are seeing broader rights for employees and some increasing duties and obligations that are placed on employers, but yet there is at least, there is an intent or attempt with the latest crop of loss there are about 59 that deal with the workplace give or take to try to reach some sort of balance so it will be interesting to see now in light of the political shift that has just occurred in Sacramento whether the balance remains. By the way, first you have new laws, then you have litigation arising out of the new laws so we will see how this ultimately shakes out in the courts about the way the new laws including that those that died just talked about will be interpreted and enforced in the courts of California.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: that's where you come in
DAN EATON: That's where I come in.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Thad what do you think that is the cause it seems to be the most curious or the one that may affect the most people that we are not really aware of.
THAD KOUSSER: Here is one is curious it will not affect a lot of people but anyone watching the BCS national championship game tonight might worry when someone gets injured the college athletes that's what happens to them if they have a season-ending or career ending injury so one of the new laws passed by the legislature says if you are at one of the back of schools in California UCLA, USC Stanford Cal, if you get injured and cannot blame sports anymore you get an academic scholarship for the rest of your time and the school has to pay your health insurance.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's fascinating I had not seen one. But there's one that created enough a lot of press when it was first being thought about in the legislature and yet here in San Diego we did not pay too much attention about it. We cannot take our dogs are too hard for. Bobcats anymore.
DAN EATON: If you wanted to do that in the past year you are not allowed to because it involves both hunting and that's to think so generate lots of heat in Sacramento. This bill raised a lot of furor but you cannot hunt bears with Fido anymore.
DAN EATON: What am I going to do this winter? I've got to make new plans.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You have to bring more lawsuits, Dan, no more bear hunting. I've been speaking with Dan Eaton and Thad Kousser.
DAN EATON: Thank you Maureen, happy New Year.