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It could become easier for California businesses to resolve civil disputes next year under a state law that streamlines trial procedures. The law by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, allows one-day jury trials with 8 instead of 12 jurors The catch? Both sides must agree.

California starts the year by downgrading possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

Though the fine remains $100, there’s no jail time or notation on your criminal record.  Good news for those that use this herb.

Also in a cost-cutting move, the state will be releasing severely sick or dying inmates through medical parole. That’s causing public safety concerns among Republicans who call the guidelines too dangerous.  Not sure about this one, I am sure we will here more about it.

The paparazzi, known to surround or block celebrities while driving, just to take their picture, may be liable for damages under false imprisonment.  Yes, we must protect our celebrities, where would Cali be without them?

You also might see a Blue Alert on those highway signs telling you an officer is down and the suspect is still on the loose.  This is similar to our Amber alert and will be on the same signs from what I understand.

If you have one of those yellow hybrid stickers, you’ll still be able to use the carpool lane as a solo driver six more months.  The way our freeways are, I don’t think there are that many hybrid drivers using the lane.

Another new law creates a state commission to help beekeepers fight Colony Collapse Disorder, a disease that has devastated honey bee colonies in recent years. The cause isn’t known, but the commission will recommend ways to control it.  A world without honey just can’t happen!

California nursing homes will be required to post federal ratings of their facilities starting Jan. 1. The federal program gives ratings from one to five stars, depending on quality of care, making it easier for residents and their families to choose the right facility, according to supporters.

Nursing homes that fail to post the ratings can be fined.  Well, now I will be able to choose  a five star home that my grandkids keep telling me they will come visit me in, lol.

Lawmakers even went after some Internet users. It’ll be a misdemeanor to impersonate someone if the intention is to deceive or injure another person.

The real estate lending business will be affected by a change. Starting Saturday, the law protects homeowners who are “underwater” on their loans, preventing first deed lenders from obtaining deficiency judgments against the sellers in short sales.

A lender who approves a sale for less than what is owed must accept the sales proceeds as full payment.  This will certainly be good news to many who need to sell their homes.

California businesses with 15 or more employees must provide 30 days’ paid leave for workers who donate organs and five days for those who give bone marrow.

Parents of children (kindergarten through eighth grade) are charged with a misdemeanor if the child misses 10-percent or more of the school year without an excuse.  The new California law can punish offending parents with up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,000.  Who doesn’t send their children to school?  Apparently enough parents to warrant this law.

In cases where a caregiver causes serious injury (such as a coma or paralysis) they will now be prosecuted for punishment which can now include life in prison.  The new California law includes relatives and non-relatives.

‘Chelsea’s Law’ ups the penalties for forcible sex acts against minors and creates a penalty of ‘life without the possibility of parole’ for specific acts and imposes lifetime parole for certain sex offenses.  The new California law also punishes such acts committed within public parks more severely.

It is a crime to conduct a “malicious, credible impersonation” through a social media site, email or website. The new California law punishes the harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding of another person online with up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

California businesses with 15 or more employees must provide 30 days’ paid leave for workers who donate organs and five days for those who give bone marrow.

Bakeries must stop using artery-clogging trans fat oil in 2011. California passed the law in 2008, but it didn’t affect bakers until now. Restaurants, fast-food outlets and cafeterias came under the prohibition a year ago.  Wonder if I will still enjoy the occasional donut without all that fat?

This is just a smidgen of the 700 new laws, yes 700, that go into effect on January 1, 2011.

Here’s a great video, with some wonderful “adult” signs to enjoy.  Happy New Year to all my fellow paralegals.  Stay safe, stay happy and see you all next year!

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