New Laws Take Effect Sunday: Robotripping, Internet Voting, Sterile Needles

Laws authored by San Mateo County politicians are varied in their intent.


Beginning Sunday, California will become the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to minors.

The prohibition is the direct result of a law authored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), Senate Bill 514.

DXM reportedly causes a life-threatening high, and the act of abusing is commonly known as “robotripping.”  Starting January 1, store clerks must check ID's to ensure that no one under 18 purchases these medications.

The law was suggested by a constituent in Simitian's "There Oughta to Be A Law" contest.

Simitian, State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and State Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) all represent parts of San Mateo County, and all authored bills that will become law on January 1.

Here's a rundown of some of their other noteworthy bills passed in Sacramento and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown:

Authored by Simitian:

SB 2X requires private and public utilities to obtain 33 percent of their electricity from renewable resources – such as solar, wind, and geothermal – by 2020. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has called SB 2X a “groundbreaking piece of legislation that would put California at the forefront of the clean-energy economy.”

SB 24 strengthens and standardizes the notification requirements when someone’s personal information has been hacked into, stolen, or lost. The bill also requires state agencies, businesses and others to notify the Attorney General if more than 500 Californians are affected by a data breach, so law enforcement can zero in on patterns of identity theft.

SB445 extends library privacy protections to electronic content: online records, emails or other communications with library staff, computer research, social media communications and online courses.

SB221 expands California consumers’ access to Small Claims Court, considered an efficient and cost-effective way to resolve minor disputes, by increasing the limit of damages from $7,500 to $10,000.

Authored by Yee:

SB 397 allows citizens to register to vote via the internet. Under the bill, citizens will input their voter information online and the county elections office can use the voter’s signature from the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify authenticity.

SB 41 allows pharmacies to sell sterile syringes to an adult without a prescription.

SB 602 requires government agencies to seek a court order if they want to access consumers’ reading records from bookstores and online retailers.

SB 216 requires PG&E and other gas utility companies to install automatic and remotely-controlled shutoff valves throughout California’s pipelines.

Assemblyman Hill authored additional pipeline legislation in the aftermath of the San Bruno explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

Authored by Hill:

AB56 requires remote-controlled shut off valves in high population areas and the comprehensive testing and record-keeping of gas transmission lines. It also prohibits utilities from using ratepayer money to pay penalties for safety violations assessed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and requires natural gas corporations to meet annually with local fire departments to review emergency response plans.

AB1601 empowers judges to suspend a driver’s license for 10 years after a third DUI conviction. The current limit is three years and the authority to suspend a license rests with the Department of Motor Vehicles. According to Hill's office, if every judge utilized the 10-year license revocation created in this legislation, over 10,000 repeat DUI offenders could be removed from California roadways every year.

AB75 closes loopholes with respect to notary services and misleading solicitations sent to homes and businesses.  Hill says solicitors often send official looking letters that contain threats of penalties, fines, and license suspension unless payment is remitted immediately. The letters appear to be from government agencies and cause many unsuspecting individuals and businesses to pay hundreds of dollars. The bill requires disclosure of nongovernmental status to be placed at the top of the first page of the solicitation to avoid any deception. The law was suggested by a constituent in Hill's 2010 "Oughta Be A Law...Or Not" contest.

AB459 says California, in conjunction with other states, will award all of its electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The legislation does not go into effect until it is adopted by states representing a majority of the Electoral College. His 2011 "Oughta Be A Law...Or Not" contest provided this idea.

John Pivirotto December 29, 2011 at 06:11 PM
There oughta be a law that stops the legislators from writing more laws until they go back and review the laws in place that are no longer applicable or necessary and remove them. More laws is not the way to an efficient government, just a way for our perpetually publicity hungry public servants to get their name out in front of the voters.
George December 30, 2011 at 05:10 PM
I totally agree. There are many laws on the books right now that are not enforced. How about gun laws for instance, or illegal aliens. Had laws for both of those major issues been enforced since day one, we wouldn't have the screwed up mess we are dealing with today. No amnesty, illegals go home or follow the rules like all have done before you.....and don't even think about changing the second Amendment!
SMRTNUP December 30, 2011 at 07:50 PM
Every time someone lobbies or demands a new law to further restrict citizens of a FREE society they are, in fact, insisting that government should be even more intrusive into the lives of law-abiding people. . . We have MILLIONS of laws already which nobody even knows exist anymore. . . Where is the "Tipping" point at which we cease to be a Free Nation ? . . . STOP demanding that government make more laws to regulate all of us !!! . . . If YOU need more CONTROL, . . Move to a Communist country where they do it YOUR WAY !!! . . .
Alan January 24, 2012 at 01:51 AM
18 and over for cough syrup now? Only those 18 and over can buy 5 hour energy at some stores? Yes, its horrible to think of those 18 and under buying cough syrup with the intent to take the whole bottle to get high, but those who at least bought it instead of shoplifting are going to just steal it, which already adds to the percentage of people who steal OTC medication to get high, which than makes cough syrup an even larger "problem". Thats obviously what they want to make DXM an illegal substance. I'm all for the right to put whatever a person wants to put into their body that being DXM or any other drug. I personally have done DXM in my past, and there are risks but everything in the media is so over exagerated, and most of the attention gets given to those who dont realize how DXM can mess them up for a few hours and are caught with the usual first timer negetive effects, or how Coricidin, or something with drugs other than DXM in the cough syrup are the reason because something such as chlorpheniramine maleate killed or almost killed them, but DXM was the blame. I understand fully that this 18 and over law is TRYING to prevent DXM abuse in minors that dont understand that they could get high off of such a small dose but take a whole bottle or take a whole box of pills and have such a negetive expirence. But in the mind if a minor who wants something and is denied their right to purchase, they will just steal it and get into more trouble with the law if they get caught.
Sarah H. January 24, 2012 at 04:45 AM
While I feel deeply for the parents of any teenager who has been injured by such substances, I tend to agree that the over 18 laws on buying certain OTC medications are heavy-handed and not necessarily well thought out. I mean, at some point, perhaps the answer is to just make all OTC medications - and supplements - unavailable to those under 18 unless a parent is making the purchase. Where do you draw the line? There are all kinds of medicines that could be harmful to teens or anyone if abused. Diet pills or diet supplements for a kid who shows a proclivity toward anorexia could be disasterous. St. John's Wort for a teen with bi-polar disorder might just send the child into a downward spiral. Dramamine can cause hallucinations. Taking too much Tylenol (acetaminophen) can cause irreversible liver damage. I remember when my son was a baby, in some stores, having to request infant formula behind the counter because some people were using it to "cut" cocaine or other drugs. I'm sorry if this comes across as glib, but I do believe that we need to either (1) draw the line somewhere, (2) put no restrictions on OTCs at all, (3) make them available by Rx only (for minors), or (4) just simply make all OTCs unavailable for minors unless purchased by a parent, period. What we're doing is cherry-picking certain drugs in response to publicized trends of misuse/abuse. It's reactionary legislation and I think we can do better.


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