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A New Year, a New Season of State Law

January 01, 1986|JERRY GILLAM and LEO WOLINSKY | Times Staff Writers

The new year promises trouble for bike riders who like cycling to the sounds of rock music over radio headsets, for hot tubbers counting on a big tax break for their high-tech solar covers and for condominiiumm dwellers who don't like rules adopted by their neighbors. It's also bound to be more pleasant for lovers of museums and alcohol-laden candy and for working parents who need affordable child care. Here's a look at some of the 1,607 new laws taking effect today:

TRANSPORTATION

Seat Belts--Motorists must use their seat belts or face fines of $20 on first offense and up to $50 for subsequent violations. Auto makers also must install automatic crash devices such as air bags on new cars sold in California beginning in 1989. Some delivery trucks and people with physical disabilities are exempt.

Potholes--California's deteriorating streets and highways will receive $340 million for repair of potholes. A proposed gas tax increase for a much larger highway restoration project was rejected.

Radios--Bicycle riders are prohibited from wearing radio headsets while cycling on public roads. The fine is $20 to $25, depending on the county.

Registration--Owners of unregistered motor vehicles face stiffer fines after a one-time, three-month amnesty period during which they can pay back fees without penalty. The amnesty period begins today (Jan 1).

Motorcycles--Motorcycle owners must pay a $2 annual registration surcharge to finance a California Highway Patrol motorcycle safety program.

Highriders--Drivers of "high-rider" trucks and cars, specially modified to create an exessively high center of gravity, can be ticketed by law enforcement officers.

Insure--Motorists involved in traffic accidents that are not their fault are protected from insurance rate increases or policy cancellations by a prohibition against sale by the state of accident information to insurance companies.

Phones--People who eavesdrop on automobile telephone conversations or sell electronic eavesdropping equipment to do so can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Smog--Owners of diesel-powered vehicles, now exempt from state-required smog checks, will be included in the smog check program as soon as the technology becomes available, probably early this year.

Towing--Towing companies called to remove a vehicle from private property may charge no more than $20 if the owner returns before the vehicle is removed. In the event the vehicle is towed, owners cannot be billed more than that charged to police departments. Firms exceeding the limit are liable for four times the overcharge.

Licenses--Vehicle owners must pay an additional $1 for reflectorized license plates that are required beginning in 1987. Reflectorized plates are now optional for a $5 additional fee.

Buses--Public transit users face fines up to $250 for infractions such as evasion of fares, misuse of transfers and loud playing of radios or tape recorders. The previous maximum fine was $50.

CHILDREN

Latchkey--Children of working parents, often referred to as "latchkey children," are eligible for state-supported afterschool care under a new $30-million program.

Fingerprints--All elementary schools are required to offer voluntary fingerprinting of students to help parents find lost or stolen children.

Kidnap--Those convicted of kidnaping children under age 14 face an additional sentence of five years in state prison if their intent was to keep the children permanently.

Lewd--Probation will be denied to most offenders convicted of using obscene material while committing lewd acts with children.

Visits--Parents or guardians are allowed to make unannounced visits to childcare facilities where their children are being taken care of during normal working hours.

CHILD ABUSE

Testimony--Judges may allow certain child abuse victims and witnesses to testify outside the courtroom via two-way, closed-circuit television. The law was sparked by the McMartin Preschool molestation case in Manhattan Beach.

Court--A variety of relaxed courtroom procedures may be ordered to make it less threatening for children to testify in child abuse cases. Judges may dress in street clothes, the young witnesses may be given more frequent breaks and may be accompanied in the courtroom by up to two support persons.

Counselors--Social workers and state-licensed marriage, family and child conselors must be trained in child abuse assessment and reporting beginning Jan. 1, 1987.

Records--State officials may review records of the state's child abuse central registry before granting a license to anyone seeking to care for children.

EDUCATION

Morality--All state-adopted grade school books are required to stress the principles of morality, truth, justice and patriotism.

Economics--High school students must pass a one-semester course in economics in order to graduate beginning in the 1988-89 school year.

Dropouts--Potential high school dropouts will be identified and counseled under a $3.1-million program designed to keep them in school.

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