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Host of new state laws ushered in for new year
new laws artwork

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a number of bills into law that come into effect at the start of the new year on Sunday.

Changes are coming to laws governing traffic, official holidays, the workplace and more.

Here are some of the new laws to be aware of come Jan. 1.

Feather Alert System

The governor signed Assembly Bill 1314 earlier this year, which creates a system similar to Amber Alert but for indigenous people who have gone missing “under unexplained or suspicious circumstances.”

Minimum Wage Increase

The cost of labor is being pushed up higher by another increase in the state minimum wage – and sure to cause prices of goods and services to rise as well. The minimum wage will increase by 50 cents to $15.50. The state codified automatic annual minimum wage increases tied to inflation (but capped at 3.5 percent) in 2016.

Transparency of Pay Scales

Another new law requires companies with 15 or more employees to post pay scales in job postings.

The bill also requires companies with 100 or more employees to include “the median and mean hourly rate for each combination of race, ethnicity, and sex within each job category” in pay data reports they’re already required to submit to the state.

New Holidays

In September Newsom signed several new state holidays into law including Genocide Remembrance Day (April 24), Juneteenth (June 19), Lunar New Year (on the second or third new moon following the winter solstice) and Native American Day (fourth Friday of September).

Workers can use “eight hours of vacation, annual leave, or compensating time off in lieu of receiving eight hours of personal holiday credit” to celebrate Lunar Day, which falls on Jan. 22 this year.

“Recognizing this day as a state holiday acknowledges the diversity and cultural significance Asian Americans bring to California,” said Gov. Newsom, “and provides an opportunity for all Californians to participate in the significance of the Lunar New Year.”

Farm Workers

A bill expanding the rights of farm workers in California to unionize will take effect on Sunday but the state Legislature is already expected to alter the new law.

Newsom expressed problems with the bill but agreed to sign it after unions supporting the bill promised to work with lawmakers in the next legislative session to address those concerns.

Legalizing Jaywalking

The Freedom to Walk Act doesn’t technically legalize jaywalking, but it does state that police officers should not ticket rogue walkers unless the action creates an “immediate danger of a collision.”

A previous version of the law was vetoed by Newsom in 2021 due to safety concerns.

Passing Bicyclists

Previously, California law required drivers to maintain at least three feet between their vehicle when passing bicycles headed in the same direction but the new law will now require vehicles to move into another lane “with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, if practicable and not prohibited by law.”

Police use of rape kits will change

After a high-profile controversy within the San Francisco Police Department, rules around rape kits will be more restrictive.

Victims of sex assault may give permission for a physical exam, often referred to as a “rape kit.” The examination may include taking DNA samples from bodily fluids or fingernail scrapings and from those samples, a DNA profile can potentially offer a match to the rapist. A DNA profile is also created for the victim. The new state law means evidence from rape kits may only be used to identify the perpetrator of a sexual assault and that police can no longer retain the victim’s DNA.

Earlier this year, then-San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin alleged that SFPD was using victims’ DNA to provide evidence against rape victims in other cases. He claimed that in at least one instance, DNA from a woman’s rape kit was used to identify her as a suspect in an prior property crime.

Fast Food Labor Council

One law scheduled to come into effect on Jan. 1 is being met with efforts to overturn it until Californians can vote on it in 2024.

Newsom signed Assembly Bill 257 on Labor Day, which would create a council to oversee labor conditions in the fast-food industry. Since then, companies like McDonald’s, In-N-Out and their franchisees have been working to get a measure in front of voters to stop the council from being created.

The campaign announced last week that it turned in more than 1 million signatures to the Secretary of State’s office as part of the referendum process. If 623,212 of those signatures are found to be valid, the measure will likely be able to put the measure on hold until the November 2024 general election.


The controversial bill that bans arrests for “loitering with the intent of prostitution” faced significant criticism on both sides of the aisle in the state Senate before Newsom eventually signed it into law in July. 

“The Safer Streets for All Act,” authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, stops short of decriminalizing sex work, but instead repeals loitering offenses that advocates say targeted LGBTQ people and people of color. Critics say the law will make it harder for police to help prevent vulnerable people from being sex trafficked.

In signing the bill, Newsom said: “To be clear, this bill does not legalize prostitution. It simply revokes provisions of the law that have led to disproportionate harassment of women and transgender adults. Black and Latino women are particularly affected.”

No more new furs

Assembly Bill 44 outlaws the manufacturing and sale of all new fur products in the state. Mink coats, raccoon hats and chinchilla scarves have drastically declined in popularity over the past few decades since being a status symbol in the 1970s, when U.S. fur sales topped $600 million a year.

‘Pink tax’ ban

Assembly Bill 1287 states that a “person, firm, partnership, company, corporation, or business shall not charge a different price for any two goods that are substantially similar if those goods are priced differently based on the gender of the individuals for whom the goods are marketed and intended.”

Catalytic Converters

Two new laws specifically list who can sell catalytic converters to recyclers and require those recyclers to keep documentation such as the year, make, model, and copy of the vehicle title from which the catalytic converter was removed. The purpose of these laws is to help reduce catalytic converter theft.