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Social media safeguards, sales tax boost ring in new year

California laws taking effect New Year’s Day include a nod to vintage car buffs
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Placer County is ringing in new laws as well as the new year as state lawmakers move to increase social media privacy, increase the sales tax and give a second chance to juveniles sentenced to life without parole.

The list of new laws includes provisions that:

n Prohibit public and private colleges and universities from asking students and applicants for their social media usernames and passwords. Employers are also now under the same regulations with potential employees. It’s applicable to Twitter, email, blogs and other social media. The new law doesn’t negate a school’s ability to investigate or punish student misconduct.

n Increase the sales tax rate. Placer County’s rate – which matches the lowest in the state – rises from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent. The sales tax in other jurisdictions outside Placer County now ranges between 7.5 and 10 percent. The one quarter of one percent rise was approved by voters when they approved Prop. 30 on Nov. 6.

n Provides juveniles sentenced to life without parole the opportunity to petition for a new sentence of 25 years to life. State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was a major proponent, contending that the United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to life without parole. California has more than 300 youth serving a life sentence, with no possibility of parole.

n Will make Cruise Nites in Auburn and other car shows a more colorful place. Three new nostalgic, specialized license plates replicating plates from the state’s past are now being sold at $50 a year.  The plates are yellow background with black lettering, black background with yellow lettering and blue background with yellow lettering.

n Drivers suspected of driving under the influence of drugs no longer have the option to choose a chemical test of their urine to determine drug content. Requiring a blood test, with a few exceptions, will assist law enforcement and prosecutors to better identify and convict a person under the influence, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. And if a blood test in unavailable, the suspect is deemed to have given consent for a urine test.

n All California condominiums and apartment with “fossil-burning” appliances are required to have carbon monoxide detectors. The American Medical Association says that carbon monoxide poisoning ranks No. 1 in accidental poisonings, with an average of 450 deaths a year.

Veterans are given more of a break on priority registration at state community colleges, as well as California state university and University of California institutions. The number of years veterans who reside in California are eligible after leaving active duty is increased to 15 years from four.

n As part of a new “crackdown law” on marijuana grows, law enforcement is now allowed to stop vehicles carrying visible irrigation supplies and question the driver, when the vehicle is traveling on a forest road.

n Ronald Reagan devotees will have a chance to create a lasting memorial in Sacramento. The Ronald Reagan Statue Law gives the OK to construction of a Reagan statue at the state Capitol “at no cost to taxpayers.”