As merrymakers rang in the New Year, about 750 new laws passed by California voters and legislators last year took effect.
A number of those new laws may mean major change for some students.
In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed bills SB 1052 and SB 1053, bills which will allow students at UC, CSU and California community colleges to access textbooks and related materials digitally.
Fifty textbooks for lower-division courses will now be available digitally, free of charge. Students will also be able to buy print editions of these texts for $20. However, some students and professors still haven’t been won over by digital textbooks.
“They are the worst things. It just takes too much time to flip through, which is mostly how I read those things anyway,” said Garrett York, a psychology major at Cal State Fullerton.
Political science professor Matthew Jarvis, Ph.D., said that while he has made digital textbooks available for his students for years, he does not believe that many students have adopted them.
“I stress to my students that they should get whatever version will work best for their studying. If they’re only buying the digital version to save money, I argue that saving $40 is likely not worth getting a worse grade or not learning the material,” said Jarvis.
One of the more controversial laws now on the books is a major piece of the California DREAM Act passed in 2011.
Undocumented immigrants on the path to citizenship who attend California’s higher-learning institutions are now eligible for taxpayer funded financial aid.
The California Student Aid Commission predicts 20,000 applications for the Cal Grant from undocumented immigrants, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Cal Grant is awarded to low-income college students. About 370,000 students collected the Cal Grant in 2010.
“I’m in favor of the state Dream Act, it’s only fair,” said professor emeritus Ben Hubbard, Ph.D., who has taught political science. “Obama amazingly has last year deported 410,000 people and I think that the border enforcement has gotten much, much tougher with a lot more funding going into it,” said Hubbard.
“But in terms of people who are already here, I think the federal DREAM Act should be passed as well. It’s only equitable that these kids be given the right to get scholarships and state aid.”
Fee waivers at the community college level will now also be available to undocumented students.
Another bill will allow undocumented immigrants eligible for President Obama’s deferred action work permits to receive a license through the DMV.
The way the California State University establishes fees has also been changed. The CSU may not make new fees, or change existing fees without approval from student representatives. Fees may not be raised after the first 90 days of the school year.
SB 1349, authored by California Sen. Leland Yee, protects students and job-seekers from being required to divulge password to their social media accounts to employers or universities.
“California pioneered the social media revolution. These laws protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts,’’ Brown said, appropriately in a tweet.
California drivers will also be seeing some changes.
New guidelines will dampen the use of red-light cameras and make it easier to fight tickets issued by them.
Self-driving cars like those being developed by Google are now allowed to drive on the road with everyone else, as long as there is a human in the driver’s seat.
AB 2020 changes the drunk-driving law, eliminating the choice of a urine test and mandating a blood test instead.
Scores of other laws dealing with issues such as firearms, taxes and beer also took effect. A full list of new laws can be found on the official California legislation information website.