New Year means new laws for Californians |

New Year means new laws for Californians

Break out the bubbly, 2007 is just a few days away, and that means a plethora of new laws to celebrate.

The 910 new edicts include such things as selling only so-called fire-safe cigarettes, stiffer penalties for college hazing and testing volunteers for the amount of contaminants in their bodies.

“It sure does seem that the state of California is right on track with their continuance of regulating your person, your property and your wallet,” said Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens.

Come midnight Jan. 1 there will be more than $80 billion in new state debt as a result of seven propositions ” 1B through 1E, 83 and 84 ” approved by voters in the November election.

Same-sex couples who register as domestic partners in California will receive all the benefits and responsibilities of married spouses, except for the right to file joint federal income taxes. Domestic partners will, however, be able to file joint state taxes.

In addition, California insurance companies won’t be able to treat domestic partners differently than married couples ” the first law of its kind in the nation.

“Yes, we are happy about any expansion of benefits because we desperately need them, but are they the same as or as good as marriage? Absolutely not,” said Grass Valley resident Christine Allen, state secretary for Equality California, a nonprofit civil rights group.

The war in Iraq inspired two new California laws: Troops from that state stationed abroad can vote by fax and marry by proxy. And the California Department of Motor Vehicles is waiving vehicle registration late fees for members of the armed forces or the National Guard.

But the law that will likely impact the most people is SB 1835, which raised the California minimum wage to $7.50 an hour. That’s roughly an additional $80 a month for 40-hour work weeks.

Seventeen other states will also increase their minimum wages, with seven raising it above the $5.15 federal minimum for the first time. That brings the total number of states with wages above the federal minimum to 29.

That’s good for the workers and their households, said Truckee Mayor Richard Anderson, but the downside is that it increases pressure on the profit line.

“Businesses that rely on minimum-wage workers will experience drops in profitability. I’m not sure if these drops, if they are significant, can be covered by charging higher prices,” Anderson said. “Retail and meal prices in our region are already high and probably stretching the limits of consumer acceptance.”

Owens added that while he sees both the ups and downs of the wage increase, it’s likely, in his view, that economic impacts to Truckee and the North Shore will even themselves out by next year.

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