It has been said the more laws on the books, the more lawbreakers. If so, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created countless new lawbreakers beginning New Year's Day.

The governor signed 750 new laws last year, but it could have been worse. The Legislature passed a whopping 964 bills, ever striving to improve things by outlawing things. Most new laws became effective Jan. 1. Some kick in mid-year.

If you want to put your cell phone to your ear while driving, do it now. On July 1 it will be against the law. If you won't be 18 years of age by July 1, you will be banned from talking on any kind of cell phone - hands-free or hand-held - while driving. It seems real-life consequences of traffic accidents caused by inattention are no longer adequate disincentive. Welcome to the Nanny State.

Since Tuesday it has been against the law for Segway (electric powered bicycles) riders to drive recklessly on sidewalks. Newly prohibited behavior also includes law enforcement employees leaking confidential information to the press for profit. This new misdemeanor grows out of leaking actor Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic comments after his drunken driving arrest and leaking heiress Paris Hilton's unflattering in-custody photos. This is much ado about not much. "It's a total waste of time," said Frank Griffin, co-founder of a Hollywood photo agency. "When was the last time a cop earned a thousand dollars for passing on a photo?"

Tobacco smokers riding in vehicles with children younger than 18 now face $100 fines. The law's author, Democrat Senator Jenny Oropeza, says this is necessary because "kids are basically held hostage in cars and ... it's important that we protect them from adult smokers." Apparently, it's OK to hold kids hostage in smoky cars, if grownups observe other driving laws. Police aren't permitted to pull over motorists simply for breaking the new law, but can add it to other infractions such as speeding. How long before that restraint disappears in Nanny California?

Proving no realm is beyond Sacramento's imaginative reach, a new law requires bands claiming to be popular originals to have at least one member who was among the original group. And proving there's no unsuccessful product Sacramento isn't willing to subsidize with your tax money, a new law provides $250 million in rebates for people who buy solar water heaters.

Fearful the free market is insufficient, Sacramento lawmakers also imposed an increase in the minimum wage to $8 an hour and a requirement companies redeem gift cards for cash if the balance is less than $10. This government interference with freely entered agreements will result in unintended adverse consequences and imposition of entirely arbitrary mandates. The higher minimum wage likely will result in fewer jobs for lowest paid workers, and higher costs for buyers of what they produce. Also, why mandate gift card redemptions for less than $10? Why not $50? Why not $100? It's yet another entirely arbitrary decision imposed by know-it-alls not even party to the transactions.

Sacramento lawmakers are party to one transaction they changed: their taxpayer-paid salaries, which already were the nation's highest. They didn't wait until the New Year. The Legislature's new $116,208 annual salaries began last month. Maybe they thought they deserved the $3,110-a-year increase because they created a $14 billion budget deficit. That's as reasonable as most of their new laws.