New Year, New Laws

The New Year brings with it new laws that will impact most all Californians. One of the most significant new laws on the medical front involves prescription drugs. Assembly Bill 1073 requires California pharmacists to provide translations of prescription instructions in the most common languages other than English. They include:  Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Korean.

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Assembly Bill 1073 will benefit residents in California with limited proficiency in English and help them to gain better healthcare access and information. California will now join New York as the only other state in the nation to require pharmacists to provide non-English medication information.

Here are some additional laws that will affect consumers.

  • SB254-Mattress Recycling: California and Connecticut are the only states in the nation that currently offer a recycling program for used mattresses and box springs. Residents can find their nearest participating collection site or recycling facility by visiting www.byebyemattress.com.
  • B604–Hoverboard Law: There’s a law for that shiny, new Hoverboard you got for Christmas. For starters, you must be at least 16 years old to ride it. Wearing a helmet is also required while operating the Hoverboard on highways, bikeways, or other public bicycle path, sidewalk, or trails.
  • SB675—Hospital Patient Discharges—This law enables hospitals to take specified actions relating to family caregivers, including, among others, notifying the family caregiver of the patient’s discharge or transfer to another facility. They also must provide information and counseling regarding the post-hospital care needs of the patient, but only if the patient has consented to the disclosure of this information.
  •  SB277—Child Vaccinations—This new State law requires that schoolchildren must be fully vaccinated to attend public or private school, regardless of their parents’ personal or religious beliefs. Parents can no longer demand “personal belief exemptions” from immunization after Jan. 1.
  • SB270—Grocery Store Bags–Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out at checkout counters at large grocery stores and supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers. However, it does allow grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.
  •  AB10–Minimum Wage Law– California’s minimum wage went up from $9 to $10-an-hour. State lawmakers passed the minimum wage increase in 2013, raising it to $9 in July 2014 and $10 beginning January 1, 2016.

 

 

Should you really have a yearly furnace tune-up?

In a word, yes.

Proper maintenance of your heating system performed by a qualified heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) contractor is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent future problems, according to Energy Star, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program that helps businesses and individuals save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. Dirt and neglect are the top causes of heating and cooling system inefficiency and failure.

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A cleaned, lubricated, and properly adjusted furnace runs more efficiently and uses less energy, and regular maintenance and inspections can help prevent more costly repairs later on. Furnace manufacturers typically include language in their product warranties requiring proper maintenance to ensure coverage. Most importantly, an improperly working system could be a safety hazard. Energy Star recommends having a qualified HVAC technician come in and do at least the following:

  • Check all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion, and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.
  • Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components. Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increase the amount of electricity you use.
  • Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
  • Check thermostat settings to ensure the system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.

Maintenance you can do yourself includes inspecting, cleaning, or changing air filters once a month in your furnace and/or heat pump. Your HVAC contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.

Ask neighbors, friends, and family for HVAC contractor recommendations. Check the contractor’s license before you hire at www.cslb.ca.gov. HVAC contractors get busy once summer and winter come, so it’s best to check the heating system in the fall, but it’s never too late.

What is a Professional Fiduciary?

New brochure provides the answers

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The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Professional Fiduciaries Bureau has created a new brochure which explains what a professional fiduciary is and describes the important services provided by these individuals.

According to Julia Ansel, bureau chief of the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, many people don’t understand the duties and responsibilities of professional fiduciaries.

“The Bureau’s role is to license and regulate fiduciaries. Most consumers are unaware of what a professional fiduciary is, much less the important services they are able to provide their clients.  Given our aging population, it is vital that California consumers are aware of this profession,” Ansel said.

The Professional Fiduciaries Bureau protects consumers through licensing, education, and enforcement by ensuring the competency and ethical standards of professional fiduciaries.

A professional fiduciary is someone who takes care of the property or estate of another person or has power of attorney for them. Often, these duties are done by family members, but in California anyone who does this for a person they are not related to must be licensed with the state by the bureau.

Professional fiduciaries are neutral, objective parties who serve vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those who can no longer care for themselves. If a person becomes incapacitated or dies, the fiduciary can manage their estate. Sometimes professional fiduciaries serve independent, productive people who need assistance in making sound financial, health care and day-to-day decisions.

Services provided by professional fiduciaries include banking, paying bills, cash flow management, daily care, housing, estate management and administration, tax preparation and payment, and household maintenance and upkeep.

They can also manage services such as medical care, insurance needs, investments, real estate, personal property, public benefits and assets and distribution.

The bureau licenses different types of fiduciaries including trustee, guardian, conservator and agent under durable power of attorney.

Before hiring a professional fiduciary, it is important to verify that the person is licensed.

To verify a license, click here  or go to www.fiduciary.ca.gov and under Quick Hits, click on License Verification.

To learn more, check out the new professional fiduciary brochure here.

Warriors ‘Splash Brothers’ Show Support for State’s Save Our Water Program

splash brothersMaking it rain on the court is one thing, but making it rain enough in California is another, says NBA MVP Stephen Curry and All-Star guard Klay Thompson of the NBA champion Warriors in a recent Save Our Water public service announcement (PSA). The “Splash Brothers” urge Californians to conserve water, despite recent rain, during our historic five-year drought.

“If we’re going to take on the drought we need some defense,” Curry continues. “We know California is in a serious drought and our hope with this PSA is to help raise awareness to encourage more Californians to conserve water,” adds Thompson. “As a community we all need to do our part to help the cause.”

Curry and Thompson earned their Splash Brothers nickname from their reputation as one of the best shooting backcourt duos in the NBA.

Comcast Sports News Bay Area partnered with the Warriors and the State’s water conservation program Save Our Water to produce the PSA. Save Our Water’s website, which is available in English and Spanish, has tips, tools, and news to inform about new and creative ways to conserve.

Home Safety Tips for Fireplaces and Chimneys

In all the flurry of the holiday season, you may not be thinking about your chimney, but it’s important not to neglect this area of your home. Here’s why:

The latest U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report on residential structure fires shows that more than 21,000 unwanted blazes were attributed to fireplaces, chimneys, or chimney systems in 2012. The report, issued in 2015, also said that fires involving fireplaces, chimneys, or chimney connections resulted in 20 deaths in 2012, 60 injuries, and an estimated $93.6 million in residential property loss. Confined fires—those fireplace_44148973confined to chimneys, flues or fuel burners—accounted for 84 percent of home heating fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, an entity of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, which recommends having your chimney or fireplace professionally inspected—and cleaned if necessary—every year to prevent these catastrophes.

Major causes of chimney fires include overloading the fire, damage to the fireplace such as missing bricks, obstructed flues, ignition of nearby combustibles, and flying sparks.

Prevention of chimney fires is only one—although critical—reason to keep up fireplace maintenance. You also want to ensure that it continues to vent properly to the outside and blockages (including bird nests) are removed that could cause carbon monoxide to enter your home rather than going up and out through the flue. Almost all heating appliances, whether they burn gas, oil, wood or coal, rely on the chimney to safely carry toxic gases produced by the heating system out of the house.

Prolonged water exposure can also be an issue, resulting in cracks or gaps in chimneys where creosote can collect and increase the risk of fire or where noxious gases can escape into your home.

When hiring a professional chimney sweep to maintain your chimney, ask neighbors, friends, and family for referrals and check the company’s status with the Better Business Bureau. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommends using a certified chimney sweep, because these professionals have passed an intensive examination based on fire codes, clearances and standards for the construction and maintenance of chimneys and venting systems. CSIA maintains a database—searchable by zip code—to help you find local qualified chimney sweeps (www.csia.org/search). CSIA is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to chimney and venting system safety and certifies industry professionals.

Remember that a chimney sweep who performs only cleaning and inspection does not need to be licensed by the Contractors State License Board. However, if an inspection reveals that your chimney needs bricks replaced or any other repair, the person who does the repair work does need to be licensed. Check the contractor’s license before you hire at www.cslb.ca.gov.

Time To Prepare Your Home For Winter

homeguttersleavesBy now we’ve all heard the warnings from weather forecasters that this winter could be the wettest and harshest yet for California due to the “El Niño” phenomenon.

But just what is “El Niño” and how will it impact Californians?

According to Mark Finan, Chief Meteorologist at KCRA Channel 3 in Sacramento, there are a few misconceptions people have about “El Niño.”

For starters, “El Niño” isn’t a storm,” said Finan. “There’s no such thing as an “El Niño” storm.  “El Niño” is really a climate pattern. When water is warmer or colder than average, it alters the jet stream and can increase the chances of a wet winter.”

Finan added that while drought-stricken California needs a “wet winter,” there’s just no way of knowing exactly how much precipitation the Golden State will get.

“Southern California has a better than average chance–nearly 90 percent–of having a wetter winter this year”, said Finan. “It’s an area that is also prone to major mudslides. The Sacramento area and Central Valley is much different.  We have to contend with flooding.”

Whatever the course, Finan maintains consumers shouldn’t underestimate the threat of “El Niño.”

In other words, be prepared.

“Take the same precautions to protect your home and property like you’d normally do each winter,” said Finan. “That means clean out the gutters, downspouts, insulate exposed pipes, seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors, trim overgrown trees and inspect your roof for loose or missing shingles.”

And by all means, don’t wait until the last minute. The time to act is now, especially since several roofing companies and gutter repair businesses say they are swamped with service calls from anxious consumers.

However, don’t panic and rush into hiring just anyone to do work around your home.  Be aware of unlicensed, fly-by-night, handyman services. They may be looking to take advantage of homeowners who need to have repairs done quickly and they may do shoddy work or no work at all.  Remember, by law, repairs that cost more than $500 must be performed by a licensed contractor. Don’t be left out in the cold. To protect yourself and your property, always hire a reputable, licensed contractor.

The Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) is a great resource that allows consumers to check the status of a contractor’s license by either calling the Contractors State License Board at (800) 321-CSLB (2752) or logging online to www.cslb.ca.gov.

Here are some additional tips to help prepare your home for winter.

  • POWER UP: Invest in a back-up generator, particularly if you live in an area that’s susceptible to power outages.
  • KEEP AN EMERGENCY KIT HANDY: It should contain flashlights, blankets, bottled water, insurance documents (stored on a thumb drive) and other family contact information.
  • CONSIDER PURCHASING FLOOD INSURANCE: Even if you don’t live in a “Flood Risk” zone, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.