SACRAMENTO — The 1996 Legislature was split, with Republicans controlling the Assembly and Democrats holding the Senate. Still, California's legislators made dramatic changes in state law.
In all, Gov. Pete Wilson signed 1,174 bills into law, an increase of 192 from the year before. Most of them take effect Wednesday.
Some of the most important bills cut class sizes in lower grades, reduced business taxes to levels not seen since the 1970s, brought competition to the electrical utility industry and created an earthquake insurance authority.
All of this happened as Wilson and the Legislature continued to approve bills that get tougher on criminals, sex offenders and drug users. They also approved bills to make health insurance plans more humane, and took steps to roll back some environmental protections.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 1, 1997 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Proof of insurance--A new law requires motorists to submit proof of insurance when re-registering their cars, not when renewing their driver's licenses. A summary of new California laws in Monday's editions misstated terms of the law.
To obtain more detailed information about a law, write to the author at: State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.
Legislative information also is available on the Internet through Gopher and the World Wide Web, http://www.sen.ca.gov, or through e-mail, ftpmail@leg info.public.ca.gov.
Here's a look at some of the major laws that will be in place in 1997, the bill numbers and the authors. (Some authors are no longer in office.)
Class size reduction-- A total of $971 million was provided for public school districts to cut class size to 20 pupils per classroom in kindergarten through third grade. (SB 1777 by Sen. Jack O'Connell, D-Santa Barbara, and SB 1789 by Sen. Leroy Greene, D-Carmichael.)
Reading-- New programs, including teacher training and special textbooks, were adopted to improve reading in kindergarten through third grade, with an emphasis on phonics, at a cost of $152 million. (AB 3482 by Assemblywoman Susan A. Davis, D-San Diego.)
Remedial reading-- Schools can draw on a new state fund to add remedial reading instruction in grades one through three if more than 10% of the students in the district are a year behind in reading skills. (AB 2265 by Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa, D-Los Angeles.)
Driver's education-- Driver's education must include at least six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction. (AB 1088 by Assemblyman Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside.)
Teacher pay-- School districts and unions negotiating increases in teachers' salaries may use merit as one criterion, along with years of training and experience. (SB 98 by Sen. Byron Sher, D-Stanford, and Assemblyman Curt Pringle, R-Garden Grove.)
Teacher skills-- Candidates for teaching credentials in the primary grades must demonstrate a knowledge of effective reading instruction techniques. (AB 1178 by Assemblyman Jim Cunneen, R-San Jose.)
Teacher credentials-- An alternative teacher credentialing program will be expanded to allow more applicants from other professions to become public school teachers. (AB 1432 by Assemblyman Bernie Richter, R-Chico.)
Teacher assault-- Fines will increase to $1,000 from $200 against supervisors who fail to report to police assaults on teachers or other school employees. The threat of such assaults also must be reported. (SB 691 by Sen. Tom Hayden, D-Los Angeles.)
Sexual assault-- Students can be suspended immediately if they engage in or attempt to engage in sexual acts ranging from unwanted touching to assault. (AB 692 by Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica.)
School safety-- To counteract truancy, the state allocated an additional $10 million to school districts, and added $7.2 million to reduce campus violence. (AB 3492 by Assemblyman Peter Frusetta, R-Tres Pinos.)
Student loans-- Borrowers who default on student loans will be pursued by the state Franchise Tax Board in an effort to step up collection of a ballooning backlog of unpaid student loans. (AB 255 by former Assemblywoman Jackie Speier, D-Burlingame.)
School buses-- A fund of $50 million has been established to help buy school buses in low-income areas or where students live far from campus. (AB 2972 by Assemblyman Keith Olberg, R-Victorville.)
School bonds-- School districts statewide can issue revenue bonds--which do not require voter approval--of up to $400 million a year for construction. More districts also will qualify to issue the bonds. (SB 1185 by then-senator, now Assemblyman Bill Leonard, R-San Bernardino, and SB 1544 by Sen. Steve Peace, D-El Cajon.)
Sports agents-- Sports agents, including lawyers who act as agents, who give anything of value to student athletes face a misdemeanor charge. Schools can sue to enforce the law. (SB 1401 by Sen. Ruben Ayala, D-Chino.)
Earthquake insurance-- The California Earthquake Authority, a publicly run, privately financed agency, went into operation Dec. 1, offering homeowner coverage for earthquake damage. It is backed by the pooled financial resources of private companies and policyholders. (AB 2086 and AB 3232 by former Assemblyman David Knowles, R-Placerville, and SB 1993 by Sen. Charles M. Calderon, D-Whittier.)