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Mortgages, vaccinations, guns among new-law topics

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 30, 2012 at 6:16 am •  Published: December 30, 2012

Budget cuts had threatened to close 70 of the nearly 280 state parks last July, prompting lawmakers to seek new funding sources. That was before it was discovered that parks officials had kept $54 million hidden in two special funds, money that is now helping keep the threatened parks open.

Still, Californians will be able to help state parks in the future by buying specialty license plates or checking a box on their income tax returns. AB1589 also requires the department to seek new ways to raise money, such as creating an annual parks pass or charging more to use parks during peak times.

Several other laws respond to recent news developments.

Coaches and administrators in K-12 schools as well as higher education employees who have regular contact with children will be required to report suspected child sexual abuse. AB1434 and AB1435 were prompted by the scandal involving former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys. Authorities say some former co-workers knew of the abuse but failed to report it to law enforcement.

"Caylee's Law" is named after the 2-year-old daughter of Florida's Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of the girl's murder in 2011 despite waiting a month before telling authorities that her daughter was missing. AB1432 makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail if a parent or guardian fails to report the disappearance or death of a child under the age of 14 within 24 hours.

Attempts to pass similar laws in some other states failed because lawmakers were concerned the changes would be too broad.

AB45 is named after 19-year-old Brett Studebaker of San Mateo, who died in 2010 after drinking on a party bus and crashing his own vehicle while driving home an hour later. It holds party bus operators to the same standards as limousine drivers, making them legally responsible for drinking by underage passengers.

Another bill changes the makeup of the state Fish and Game Commission after the commission's former president, Dan Richards, posed for photos with a mountain lion he shot during a legal hunt in Idaho.

Killing mountain lions is illegal in California, but the photograph sparked a public debate and led to the commission's reorganization under AB2609. Another bill, AB2402, changes the name of the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of a larger effort to broaden the department's responsibilities and increase its funding.

Josh Brones, president of California Houndsmen for Conservation, said the bills reflect a changing culture. He sees the same message in SB1221, which outlaws the use of hounds to hunt bobcats and bears, and AB1527, which bans openly carrying rifles and shotguns in most California cities and towns.

"As the state becomes more urbanized, fewer people are participating in hunting and fishing and other forms of outdoor activity," he lamented. "With that decrease comes a decrease in the understanding of those activities, so they become easier to demonize by those that would like to see them come to an end."