As we welcome a new year, we continue our look at several new laws that took effect as of January 1. Employers will be prohibited from asking job applicants to disclose arrests made while they were juveniles, if the arrest didn’t result in a conviction.
If you’re stressed by your visit to the beauty parlor or barber and want a drink to relax, salons and barber shops will now be able to offer complimentary beer and wine to their patrons.
It is now legal to use marijuana recreationally, although you can’t legally buy it anywhere yet.
Powdered alcohol will be illegal to possess, sell, make, or use.


It’s now illegal for California drivers to even hold their phones while behind the wheel, no matter the reason. The new law is expected to cut down on distracted-driving accidents and deaths, in which eight out of 10 accidents involve inattentive driving, and talking or texting on a mobile phone are the top sources of driver distractions. Last year in California handheld cell phone use contributed to 12 fatal collisions, more than 500 injuries, and nearly 700 property-damage collisions. Managing editor Tami Roleff has more about the new law…
There’s a new reality for morning commuters: no more multitasking behind the wheel. As of this week, it’s now the law that if you use your phone while driving, you may be looking at a $160 fine. That means no texting, no calls, and no social media updates when you’re behind the wheel. Chris Cochran, with California’s Office of Traffic Safety, says this initiative is aimed at keeping drivers’ hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, rather than on their smartphones.
“It pretty much outlaws anything that would require you to hold the cell phone or other device in your hand, or has you typing away at it with your fingers, or that type of thing.”
For drivers who bristle at this inconvenience, Cochran points out that phones mounted on the dashboard are still allowed.
Cochran says eight out of 10 accidents involve inattentive driving, and talking or texting on a mobile phone are the top sources of driver distractions. And while it takes some discipline in this hyper-connected world to not pick up that incoming call, he says very often, those “urgent” messages can wait.
“Most everything that is coming over those smartphones is not something that has to be reacted to while you’re driving, or this minute – or even in the next five or ten minutes.”
He says the window for avoiding an accident could be as small as two seconds – and nationwide, 3,000 people die a year from driver-related distractions.


The Sheriff’s Department and the County Fire Department are investigating a fire set in the restroom at the Little League ball field in Yucca Valley Tuesday morning. About 9:30, a town employee discovered that unknown suspects had taken all the toilet paper in the men’s restroom and put it in a trash can and set it on fire. Yucca Valley firefighters put out the smoldering fire. County Fire Battalion Chief Mike Snow said a group of juveniles hang out in the area while waiting for their school bus in the morning. Damage to the building in the 56600 block of Little League Drive was confined to smoke damage. Anyone with information should call the Sheriff’s Department at 760-366-4175.


An argument over infidelity turned violent Friday, and a Twentynine Palms man was arrested for allegedly breaking his wife’s finger. According to the Sheriff’s Department, a woman in the 73900 block of Two Mile Road texted her sister about 8 a.m. to say that Abram Martin, 22, a private first class rifleman in 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, threw her on the ground, ripped her clothes, threw items at her, and broke her finger. The woman’s sister contacted the Sheriff’s Department to check on the woman. After an investigation, deputies determined the couple had argued earlier in the week over infidelity, and Martin left home for a few days, but returned drunk. After an investigation, Abram Martin was arrested on suspicion of felony spouse abuse, booked into the Morongo Basin Jail, with his bail set at $50,000.


A Yucca Valley man was arrested Monday, accused of being in possession of a stolen motorcycle. According to a Sheriff’s report, a neighbor called about 1 p.m. to report a suspicious man in front of her home in the 56500 block of Antelope Trail. The arriving deputy discovered a motorcycle, which had been reported stolen from Riverside, was in the front yard. The resident said that the man, later identified as Forrest Jones, 24, had pushed the motorcycle there after it had run out of gas. The deputy searched the area for Jones and found him in the Stater Brothers parking lot. Jones told the deputy his brother had asked him to hold the motorcycle for him while he was in jail, but the deputy determined the motorcycle had been altered with a new paint job, a battery pack welded on, and a toggle switch. Forrest Jones was arrested for investigation of possession of a stolen vehicle, booked into the Morongo Basin Jail, with his bail set at $50,000.


Some Californians are scrambling to get their identification and work documents in order by January 20. As Kirby Davis reports, they are immigrants—concerned about President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to deport some 11 million undocumented people…
Immigrants in California are gathering their documents in anticipation of the new president’s swearing-in on January 20. But given the Golden State’s economic dependence on immigrants to meet labor needs, their advocates say it’s unlikely President-elect Donald Trump will carry out plans to deport 11 million undocumented people. Some experts think worker roundups are unlikely, given how dependent the economy is on immigrant labor. California’s lucrative agribusiness is structured around low-wage immigrants—and Steve Suppan at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says having to replace them with higher-paid workers could throw farm profits out of whack.
“Let’s say you take the average wage up to $15 an hour, and you include benefits. That changes the pricing structure of agriculture, and then it becomes questionable whether, for example, the confined animal-feed operation business model is viable.”
For the most part, California has been welcoming to its 2.4 million undocumented immigrants—with a pathway for obtaining driver’s licenses, health care through Medi-Cal, and college scholarships.
Now, there’s a proposal by Democratic state lawmakers for a fund to help cover legal fees in deportation disputes.
Given the powerful influence of the farm lobby, it may succeed in keeping its workforce in place, in California and across the country. But Suppan does think some deportations will happen, perhaps as a show of force by the new administration. “There are going to be, definitely, some fairly spectacular roundups, at least of the type that will show, you know, ‘victory for America’—the immigrant-deportation variation of the ‘Carrier saving 700 jobs.’ So, I expect to see a fair amount of public-relations outreach concerning migrants.”
Some California communities are already bracing for the possibility. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors votes in January on creating a $10 million fund for immigrant legal defense. Santa Clara County is also looking into the idea.


Cactus Sewables Quilt Guild will hold its general meeting on January 9 in the Yucca Room of the Yucca Valley Community Center, 57098 29Palms Hwy. Doors open at 12:30 and the meeting begins promptly at 1:00 p.m. New officers will be installed and outgoing officers and committee chairpersons will be recognized. Guests are welcome with a $3 donation.


The Joshua Basin Water District starts the new year with a fairly routine agenda. Reporter Mike Lipsitz has details…
The Joshua Basin Water District board of directors meet in regular session tonight. There are no action items on the agenda, but there will be a fiscal 2015/2016 audit report, as well as an update on surplus property. Those items are in addition to committee, staff and director’s reports. It all starts at 6:30 p.m. at district offices on Chollita Road in Joshua Tree.


The local chapter of the California Retired Teachers Association will meet on the third Friday in January rather than the usual second Friday. The meeting will be held January 20, at 10 a.m. at the Helen Gray Center on Whitefeather Road in Joshua Tree. Members will welcome Silver Sneakers instructor, Teresa Mizusawa, who will speak about health and fitness. In addition to speaking, Mizusawa will lead attendees in a few light exercises. Those who wish to participate should wear comfortable clothing and athletic shoes, and are invited to bring light weights and/or stretchy bands, as well. Reservations are required. (There is no cost to those who attend the meeting but choose not to order lunch, but seats still need to be reserved for those attending only the meeting.) Please call Gay Smith, at 760-369-2211, no later than Monday, January 16, if you plan to attend.


The 29 Palms Art Gallery has an exciting new youth art class. Here’s Rebecca Havely with your invitation…
Kicking off the new year at The 29 Palms Art Gallery is a youth art class called “The Tree House Project.” Artist Krista Wargo is a Yucca Valley High School teacher. She’ll teach youth to convert words into visual images. The class is January 14, from 9 to 11 a.m. Registration is open now for students ages 5 to 17 on line at or at the Gallery located at 74055 Cottonwood Drive in Twentynine Palms. For more information email or call 760-367-7819.


The Yucca Valley High School Lady Trojan basketball team traveled up the mountain to Big Bear High School last night and came home with a 59-39 non-conference win. Coach Jess Geeson said junior Savannah Beasley led the squad with a season high 28 points, while sophomore Angie Reutgen chipped in seven points for the Trojans, who outscored the Bears 37-22 in the second half. Juniors Kloee Scaccionoce and Hannah Hovious each added six points, as the girls upped their record to 9-5 on the season. The team travels Saturday to the So Cal Run and Gun Against Cancer Showcase in Carlsbad where they will face Sage Creek High School at 4 p.m.
In high school sports, today, the Twentynine Palms High School Wildcat boys’ basketball team will travel away to Hemet. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.