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New Laws for New Year 


In California for six months now, it has been illegal to talk ona handheld cell phone while driving, but perfectly fine and dandyto futz around with your BlackBerry trying to abbreviate everydayphrases and override predictive text and accidentally drop thething and shove your hand between the emergency brake and the seatand oh there's an incoming text and I gotta finish this hang onjust a sec and oh there's another incoming text and I gotta respondto both of these and holy bejeezus there's a red light.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2009, the era of Bluetoothed drivers punchingaway on their electronic devices ends, when it becomes aninfraction to write, send or read text-based communication on anelectronic wireless communication device while driving, regardlessof age. A fine of $20 will be assessed for the first offense, andrepeat offenders will have to cough up $50.

Those red temporary registration squares Scotch-taped to theback window of many a 1972 Buick that has failed a smog check willstart costing money, as well. In the past, if a vehicle's owner hadpaid the registration fees but failed a smog check, a freetemporary 60-day permit was issued. As of Jan. 1, that permit willcost $50. Other new vehicle laws make it a crime to counterfeit orforge Clean Air stickers for the purpose of driving in a carpoollane, and expands the motorcycle definition to allow three-wheeledvehicles, such as Zap cars, to use the carpool lane.

Also going in to effect on Jan. 1 is a landmarkdisability-access bill aimed at combating cases in which plaintiffsprofit by filing lawsuits against an establishment they do notintend to use. "Someone won't be able to just go in and look aroundfor a laundry list of violations and say, 'Hey, if you pay me acouple of thousand dollars, I'll go away,'" says Lorie Zapf,president of San Diego Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. The new lawprovides damages paid only to plaintiffs who personally encountereddenial of access and establishes an early evaluation process todetermine the merit of disability access claims.

Temporary workers are affected by a new law taking effect forthe new year, as well. Rather than paying temporary employees onthe final day of assigned work, staffing agencies are required topay workers on a weekly basis, no later than the regular payday ofthe calendar week following completion of services. In someinstances, employees who previously were able to demand instantpayment on their final day of work will have to wait up to a week,but during the assignment, the law ensures weekly pay.

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