Know your laws for 2004 |

Know your laws for 2004

For a virtually dysfunctional Legislature, California has no problem passing new laws. Sen. Pro Tem John Burton is up to his usual tricks, locking in funding mandates, pandering to labor unions and otherwise pushing our great state to the brink of bankruptcy. Let’s hope he’s met his match with Governor Arnie.

Here’s today’s bad dream – which has been discussed in Sacramento: Termed-out San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and soon-to-be termed-out state Sen. John Burton, swap jobs. Thankfully, that will not happen. San Francisco just elected the talented Gavin Newsom as its mayor, and Willie is talking about retirement from politics.

Paid family leave

Starting July 1, workers may take up to six weeks’ paid leave to care for an ill family member or to bond with a new baby. Workers will receive 55 percent of their salary, up to $728 a week. Employees will pay for this benefit through payroll deductions beginning Jan. 1, when most workers in California will see 0.08 percent of wages taken out to pay for the program.

The new law goes beyond the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and California Family Rights Act, which allows workers at most companies with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time for personal or family illness or to say home with a new baby. All employees will be paying for a handful, who will use the paid family leave benefits.

TV while you drive

Nearly 20 percent of vehicles sold these days include video screens, primarily visible to the backseat riders, but some car owners want screens on their dashboard, or even on their steering wheel.

Under a new law, front-seat screens are unlawful unless there is a safety device that prohibits use while the vehicle is moving. Of course, that takes roughly 10 minutes to dismantle. The new bill does not apply to GPS and other mapping devices that may be visible to the driver.

Recycling fees increased

Effective on Jan. 1, the refundable fee paid by buyers of recyclable containers will increase from 2.5 cents to 4 cents for drinks smaller than 24 ounces and from a nickel to 8 cents on larger containers. That includes glass, aluminum and plastic. The goal is to increase recycling, which has slipped from a high of 75 percent when the program was first ordered 10 years ago to today’s 58 percent. If recycling efforts do not increase by July 1, 2007, the fees will increase to 5 cents and 10 cents respectively.

One apparent downside of the legislation is that with the increased value of recyclables, theft will increase. If you are not using a “blue bag” in our area, please get with it. Bag your recyclables and leave them with your garbage for pickup. There is no excuse not to.

Mechanic’s lien change

We’ll do more about this later, but a change in the law that has received no publicity affects contractors and suppliers who record mechanic’s liens when they are not paid.

Other than residential homeowners of dwellings containing fewer than five units, private project owners must notify the original contractor and any other lien claimant who has provided the owner with a preliminary 20-day lien notice that a notice of completion or a notice of cessation of work has been recorded. Failure to do so within 10 days will extend the deadline to record liens; so if as an owner you are recording a notice that your job is completed or that work has stopped, you must inform the general contractor and any lien claimants that sent you a “prelim.”

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at or at the firm’s Web site

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