With the new year comes a new beginning, New Year’s resolutions and even newly enforced California laws. Some of the most notable are Assembly Bill (AB) 1536, AB 970 and AB 1844.
Hands-free or voice operated devices allowed while driving
One law many have paid close attention to is AB 1536, authorizing the use of a voice-operated and hands-free device in order to dictate, send or listen to text-based communication while driving.
Apple’s Siri and similar devices appear to make the cut.
University Police Department chief George Hughes said there have been some instances of people texting and driving on campus, though there haven’t been any related accidents.
“Obviously when you’re driving around campus on patrol as a police officer, sometimes it’s kind of difficult (to tell) if someone is actually texting,” Hughes said. “We’ve had a few (cases), but not a whole bunch.”
Before this bill was introduced, using an electronic communication device to write, send or read a text-based communication while driving was prohibited based on the thought that drivers lose awareness when they are talking or are too busy on their phone to concentrate on the road ahead.
Hughes said there is a conflicting argument as to whether the bill will help lessen the number of accidents caused by texting and driving. While using a hands-free device would keep the driver’s hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, thinking about the phone conversation might still be a distraction.
“I see both sides of it,” Hughes said.
No surprise college fee increases
On the education side of things, the legislature is requiring the CSU Board of Trustees to communicate with students before any additional fee increases are made.
With Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of AB 970, California State Universities (CSU) and University of California (UC) regents are to notify students 30 days prior to tuition and fee increases, hopefully closing the communication gap between students and the CSU and UC.
The bill states that the UC and CSU are to “consult with their respective statewide student associations at least 30 days prior to providing public notice of the proposed mandatory systemwide fee increase.”
“The CSU came out in the support of the bill,” CSU spokesperson Liz Chapin said.
Throughout the difficult times the CSU has faced with budget cuts, Chapin said, the system has always attempted to give students as much time to prepare for any increases as possible.
AB 970 specifies that any increases are not to go into effect for 90 days, giving students and families time to plan for the change.
The bill creates the Working Families Student Fee Transparency and Accountability Act as part of the Donahoe Higher Education Act, an act that sets the roles of the different areas of public postsecondary education in California.
According to the bill, from 2006 to 2009, the total cost of attendance for a student living on campus at the CSU increased by 23 percent.
In addition to giving students 90 days to prepare for any increases, trustees and regents are required to provide the legislature with annual reports on expenditures of revenues from student fees as well as uses of financial aid.
As a whole, AB 970 prohibits students from generally experiencing the unpredictability of tuition hikes.
The bill is sponsored by the California State Student Association and the University of California Student Association.
Employers cannot ask for access to employee’s social media
In a nation where social media websites such as Facebook are widely used, AB 1844, in short, prohibits employers from asking for access to their employees’ or applicants’ social media accounts.
Considered an electronic service or account, social media is anything from blogs, podcasts, email accounts to website profiles such as Facebook.
San Luis Personnel Services Director of Placement Kim Murphy said she hasn’t heard of any instances where employers have asked employees or applicants to disclose any such information.
Employers are also prohibited from “discharging, disciplining, threatening to discharge or discipline, or otherwise retaliating against an employee or applicant for not complying with a request or demand by the employer that violates these provisions,” the bill reads.
Career Services program coordinator Carole Moore said she personally would not give employers her username or password to log onto her social media accounts. Moore said if it was her, she would be very careful about giving out any information.
As far as employers viewing an employee’s public Facebook profile, Murphy said it’s best to steer clear.
“I think it’s probably something that should stay private,” Murphy said. “A lot of the time you don’t want your employers knowing your political affiliation or things like that.”
Murphy suggests employees be smart about their social media pages and only list things they are ok with the entire world looking at or reading. Those pictures from Friday night may not be the first thing employers want to see on an employee’s public Facebook page, if they are indeed looking.
However, Murphy said she would advise employers to stay clear of viewing any applicant’s social media profiles.
“Any information that you can get and use in a discriminatory fashion is something you want to stay away from,” Murphy said. “If you don’t go out of your way to search that information, they can never come up with a claim to say they were (discriminating).”