The state Legislature and outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fell $7 billion short of balancing their own budget, but still found time last year to micromanage 36 million Californians' lives. Consequently, 2011 brings more than 700 new laws, largely unneeded, often aggravating and even egregious.
As annoying as any is the extension of the ban on trans fats to doughnuts. This Nanny State fixation extends a previous ban in restaurants to bakery goods.
Also on the food front, a law signed in 2008 finally goes into effect, requiring all restaurant chains with more than 20 establishments to "include calorie counts for each food item on all menus, and on menu boards above the front counter." Calorie-minded consumers would gravitate to restaurants voluntarily providing such information. Why the government mandate? As is all too often the case, because the government can.
It's now a misdemeanor to "knowingly and without consent credibly impersonate another person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person." We, too, are opposed to harassment, fraud and bullying. But existing laws cover such problems, and this one clumsily attempts to preserve freedom of speech exceptions by outlawing only "credible" impersonations. The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that there's potential for abuse, such as quashing parodies, perhaps even political speech.
Ever mindful of favored constituencies, the Legislature provided celebrities extra protection. Penalties are stiffening for paparazzi driving recklessly in pursuit of stars. Paparazzi may be more likely to drive recklessly, but do they really need their own category?
Inflation was acknowledged by increasing the minimum threshold from $490 to $950 for a crime to be considered grand theft. We wonder how many victims who lose $949 to a thief will consider the theft petty.
It could have been worse, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed many bills, including 41 the California Chamber of Commerce described as "job killers." Among them were bills to erode cost-saving workers' compensation reforms and removal of the overtime exemption for agricultural employees.