Dozens of new state laws will go into effect in 2018. All will have an impact in Bakersfield, but five in particular stand out.
A new ban on guns on school campuses, even for those with concealed carry permits, whether school boards OK them or not, goes into, effect.
California embarks on “sanctuary state” status, with ramifications for undocumented immigrants and prospective employers, including labor-starved growers, who may hire them.
Also, pesticide spraying will be prohibited near schools; ammunition purchases face new restrictions; and the Department of Motor Vehicles will be required to tighten its oversight of the state disabled placard program.
GUNS ON CAMPUS
The Kern High School District is one of only a few school districts in California that has allowed non-staff with concealed carry weapon permits to bring guns on KHSD campuses. A second policy to allow teachers and other staff members to carry was passed during a special session in November 2016. However, the district has not finalized the details, and the policy has not been put into practice.
Now neither policy can be continued or implemented.
Assembly Bill 424, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, eliminates the policy that gave school administrators authority to decide whether individuals with concealed carry permits should be allowed to bring firearms onto campus. The new law, which goes into effect Monday, prohibits the practice.
Law enforcement, security guards, military personnel and armored vehicle guards remain exempt from the gun ban.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, the author of the new legislation, said in a statement that the law provides a safe learning environment that otherwise wouldn't be possible with districts allowing armed civilians to roam campuses.
"The Legislature's approval of AB 424 is a common-sense step, supported by campus police officers, to make sure schools are gun-free," McCarty said.
But KHSD trustee Phillip Peters, who championed the policy, told The Californian the gun ban is "a big step backward for student safety."
Trustees spent months debating the issue. But the new law effectively ends the controversy.
For good? Probably not.
Senate Bill 54 is due to go into effect on the first day of the new year. It allows state authorities to refuse cooperation with some federal immigration laws. In essence, it makes California a sanctuary state, limiting state and local law enforcement efforts when dealing with immigration.
It also would make public schools, hospitals and courthouses safe havens for California residents, regardless of immigration status.
Under the new law, local law enforcement cannot arrest, detain, interrogate or inquire about a person's immigration status unless they have committed one or more offenses from a list of about 800 crimes. The list of crimes includes felony DUI, child abuse and gang-related offenses.
But in a Community Voices letter to The Californian opposing SB 54, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said his deputies "already don’t do any of" those things.
"So, the intent of SB 54 must be something else. And it is," Youngblood said. "SB 54 is designed to protect people who are in this country illegally and committing crimes."
If law enforcement officers are not allowed to hand over criminal immigrants to ICE, then they will be released back into our communities, Youngblood said.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who introduced the legislation, said in a statement the signing of SB 54 comes at a critical time in the nation’s history.
“With the election of Donald Trump, we have witnessed a growing racial divide we have not seen in decades," de León said.
“Over and over again the president has deployed fear and division to advance his ambitions. The result of this constant barrage of dog whistles is a sickening rise in racism turning American against American.
“We will not stand idly by as President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seek to divide this nation by scapegoating honest, hardworking families and casting immigrants as threats to be neutralized."
STOPPING 'DEAD' DRIVERS
Last year, a California audit revealed an impossible statistic. According to a report Friday in The Sacramento Bee, more than 26,000 people over age 100 in the Golden State had blue disabled placards, allowing them to park at any street meter for free, all day, or at prime blue-stenciled stalls at the front of store parking lots.
But there are only about 8,000 people older than 100 in California, and not many of them are driving anymore, according to state officials. Those vehicles parking for free in prime spots with centenarian placards are likely being driven by children or friends of formerly disabled drivers who have died, or in some cases by others who purchased the placards illegally, The Bee reported.
After years of disabled placard abuse in California, a new state law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to tighten its oversight of the state disabled placard program. That includes reviewing the federal Social Security Administration's "death file" and canceling placards of deceased drivers.
"Taking unfair advantage of our state’s disabled placard program is an act of fraud," state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said in a statement introducing the bill. "We must ensure that the DMV is equipped with the tools to effectively oversee the program so that it properly serves disabled drivers and works to eliminate abuse of the system."
Auditors estimated that several hundred thousand of the state's 3 million placards were likely being used fraudulently.
CHEMICAL SPRAYING AND SCHOOLS
Starting Monday, new regulations will prohibit pesticide spraying within a quarter-mile of schools and licensed child day-care facilities between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Most dust and powder pesticide applications, such as sulfur, will also be prohibited during this time.
Milton O'Haire, agricultural commissioner for Stanislaus County, told California Ag Today that the new regulations are further limiting growers.
"With these new regulations and even with our permit conditions, growers have been restricted as far as spraying around schools," O'Haire told the publication. "It's making it harder for growers to actually practice agriculture because their windows for applying crop protection has shrunk even more."
But Tom Frantz, an environmental activist and air quality advocate who farms 40 acres of almonds near Shafter, said he and neighboring growers can easily live within the new law.
"It is not a bad rule," Frantz said. "Waiting until the weekend or at night in a few locations is not a hardship on most operations. We also now have to check for school site activities on non-school days."
Gun owners should be aware of new restrictions on buying ammunition. While background checks will likely not be required until 2019, customers must now purchase ammunition through a licensed vendor. That means even when ammunition is ordered online, it must be shipped it to a vendor and picked up by the customer.