THINK OF THE 740 NEW LAWS Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed for 2008 as a crooked and massive single pile, sitting on his desk. A fat package of bills for flood relief drifts to one side, a bill aimed at toxic toys is tucked halfway down — and within this huge stack are hundreds of new laws that, arguably, are impossible to enforce and impossibly minuscule.
Here are some of the most notable (some might say laughable) laws for 2008:
1. John Wayne’s 11th
Say those spicy Santa Ana winds blow wildfires into your territory, flames rise, a riot ensues, and the governor declares an emergency. Thanks to Assembly Bill 1645, authored by cowboy-hat-sportin’ Doug LaMalfa, an Assembly member representing the northern section of the Central Valley, the governor can still invoke “various powers” in the event of an emergency. But the new law declares that the governor cannot take away lawfully owned rifles or ammo during said crises. Yippee-ki-yay.
2. Hugs From the Nanny State
Fire off your shooter while truckin’ through town during the Big One. But do not be caught in the car with a cigarette and a kid in tow. A few years back, it was declared unlawful to smoke a tobacco-related product near a playground or sandbox. Senate Bill 7, by Jenny Oropeza, reppin’ Long Beach, takes the existing law to the next level.
The new law doles out a painful fine to anyone caught firing up their fag with a minor — that means anyone under 18 — in the car. You have to feel for 18-year-old hipster high schoolers sharing a cigarette with their younger buddies. And if you think parents of teenagers are already stressed, wait until the next car trip during which they can’t smoke.
3. The High Cost of Hooch
Here’s one reason to be glad your days of teenage shenanigans are over. In hopes of keeping underagers from sneaking hits of hooch, Assembly Bill 1658, by Southern California’s Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, further penalizes those who are not yet of a sinning age.
Where before knockin’ back a beer and getting busted by the po-po cost $250, the fine has been raised to $500. Included in the new law are additional fines for those farming out fake IDs. No word yet on how to catch them.
4. Murder and the DMV
Governor Arnie must be feeling the burn from his partying Hollywood counterparts Lindsay and Paris. In a further crackdown on DUIs, the governor proudly signed the bipartisan Assembly Bill 808, co-authored by Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, representing the south end of the Central Valley, and the O. C.’s Assemblyman Todd Spitzer.
Named after a California police officer fatally mowed down by a meth-head driver, the Steve Ambriz Act calls for every Californian obtaining or renewing a driver’s license to sign a declaration that if someone is killed while the driver is perved on drugs or booze, the driver can be charged with murder.
5. Cell Out, Totally
Consider yourself lucky if Santa brought you a hands-free cell-phone accessory. You know, it looks like an oversize ladybug hanging off the ear? Taking effect July 1, the law forbids cruising Californians from mouthing off on their mobile without a “hands-free listening and talking operation.” That’s right, talking and driving with a cell phone in hand will be illegal come summer.
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Senate Bill 33, authored by Joseph Simitian of the Bay Area and neighboring Santa Cruz, also has a special new provision for young drivers. Teens who drive are flat-out banned from using any type of cell phone in the car. That means hands-free accessories, texting and regular ol’ cradling the phone are off limits for minors — except in the case of an emergency. Imagine the buzz: “OMG officer, my ex-best friend is totally in a crisis.” The damage for breaking the rules? $20 for a first violation and $50 for subsequent offenses.
6. Bend It Like Beckham
You may not have his winning smile or killer abs, but you can now legally buy Beck’s shoes. Well, sort of. The most obscure law of the bunch, Senate Bill 880 by Ron Calderon, who reps southeast Los Angeles County, legalizes the importation of nonendangered kangaroo leather. The material is used for the highly coveted Predator cleats worn by soccer star Beckham.
Soccer players say that the kanga cleats are lighter and mold easier to the foot. Kangaroo harvesters in Australia are happy to send over their bounty of marsupial. Don’t fret about the other, less plentiful members of the animal kingdom — polar bears and sable antelopes are still protected under California law. No clue why Calderon gives a rip, but watch for contributions to his next political campaign from companies that use leather from the Land Down Under.