2013 is here, and so are the new laws

Hunters, homeowners, women among those affected

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 1, 2013 

— Out with the old, in with the new.

At the stroke of midnight Monday, thousands of people in Merced County said goodbye to 2012 and welcomed the new year.

Along with the new year comes a list of new state laws, many of them directly affecting Mercedians in 2013.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed about 876 state laws that will kick in today, and some of them will affect bear hunters, women seeking birth control and homeowners facing foreclosure.

SB 900, or the homeowner's bill of rights, will take some pressure off homeowners trying to catch up on late payments.

Under this new law, lenders are not allowed to start the foreclosure process during the time an application for loan modification is being reviewed. This provides relief to homeowners on the verge of losing their homes as they try negotiating payment options with their banks or lenders.

SB 1221, will ban bobcat and bear hunters from using trained dogs to track down bears and chase them into trees.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States, said the victory was a "tough fight" and called hound-hunting of black bears and bobcats in California an "unsporting and inhumane" practice in a blog post.

Pacelle said he started fighting to protect dogs, bears and bobcats from this practice in 1989.

But Joe Duncan, 42, has been an avid bear hunter his entire life and says the new law will cut revenues for himself and Merced County.

"The revenue loss is going to be outrageous for Merced," Duncan said, referring to the loss in bear tag sales, which generally cost more than $43 for one.

Duncan added that training, feeding and caring for his hound costs more than $10,000 a year and many hunters have resorted to selling their dogs.

"It's a sad thing that they can take this away from the public," he said. "I'll still bear hunt, but probably out of state. It's something I've been doing my whole life, and now it makes a criminal out of an honest person."

AB 2348 will allow registered nurses to dispense birth control such as the pill, patch and ring to women without them having to see a doctor.

Though women will still have to undergo a routine health assessment, the new law makes access to birth control quicker and easier.

SB 183, a carbon monoxide law from 2010, will require owners of apartment complexes to install carbon monoxide detectors in every unit that has a fossil fuel-burning furnace or appliance, fireplace or attached garage.

AB 472 will allow people to report a drug-related overdose to authorities or seek medical help for a drug overdose without the fear of being arrested.

This new law will prevent the reporting party from facing arrest on suspicion of possessing or being under the influence of illegal drugs. It will not protect people who sell drugs illegally or forcible administration of drugs.

For those starting a new job in 2013, they don't have to worry about their Facebook or Twitter accounts getting them in hot water with the boss.

AB 1844 prohibits employers from requiring or requesting an employee or job applicant disclose his or her password or user name for personal social media accounts.

In addition, employees can't be fired, disciplined or retaliated against for not complying with such requests.

SB 661 bans picketing at funerals and makes it a misdemeanor to engage in picketing or protesting from one hour before the services begin to one hour after they end.

Rebecca Cruz, office manager at Evergreen Funeral Home and Memorial Park, said she's never experienced this problem in Merced, but is happy the law passed because it protects the deceased person's family.

"Everybody wants to have something to express their opinion about, but a funeral is a private affair between the family and their loved ones. It's not for the public," Cruz said.

"So the law protects the families because picketing at funerals is truly in bad taste," she said. "If there were a problem, we would turn it over to the local authorities."

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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