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Mortgages, guns among topics of new state laws

  • In this photo taken Dec. 7, 2012, Alma Ponce and her family, daughter Ruby, 10, left, son Heriberto Jr., 5, and husband Heriberto, pose for a photo outside their Woodland, Calif., home. Earlier this year, Wells Fargo began foreclosure proceedings on their home, even as the family sought to refinance. As part of a package of new laws to help homeowners, taking effect Jan. 1, lenders will be prohibited from foreclosing while they consider homeowners' request for alternatives. ((AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli))

SACRAMENTO — Homeowners will have increased protections from foreclosure under some of the hundreds of state laws taking effect with the new year.

California also is studying whether to create the nation's first state-administered retirement savings program for some 6 million private-sector workers, although it will take additional legislation before the program can be fully implemented.

Other laws address emotional issues such as guns and hunting. Second Amendment advocates can no longer carry rifles and shotguns in public to protest gun control laws, and hunters are banned from using hounds to track bobcats and bears.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed nearly 900 bills into law in 2012, most of which take effect Jan. 1. The legislation covers a wide range of topics, from pension changes for public employees to new funding mechanisms for a state park system that has been tainted by financial scandals.

A legislative package pushed by Attorney General Kamala Harris made California the first state to write into law much of the national mortgage settlement that states negotiated with the nation's top five banks.

Part of the settlement expands authorities' ability to investigate mortgage fraud. Large lenders also must provide a single point of contact for homeowners who want to negotiate loan modifications and are prohibited from foreclosing while they evaluate homeowners' requests for alternatives. Homeowners also can sue lenders to stop foreclosures or seek monetary damages if the lender violates state law.

"California's new law will help more homeowners avoid foreclosure and keep their homes," Consumers Union financial services manager Norma Garcia said in a statement. "Homeowners in all 50 states deserve these same strong protections and more."

Meanwhile, lower-income, private-sector workers whose employers do not offer retirement plans may be able to take advantage of the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program.

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