Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Our Redding transmitter is offline due to an internet outage at our Shasta Bally site. This outage also impacts our Burney and Dunsmuir translators. We are working with our provider to find a solution. We appreciate your patience during this outage.

New California laws that might affect your 2024

The Calif. state assembly chamber is in session Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.
Andrew Nixon
The Calif. state assembly chamber is in session Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.

This past year California lawmakers passed and Governor Gavin Newsom signed more than 1,000 bills, and most of those will become new laws in 2024. Plus there are bills from previous years that are also scheduled to take effect after Jan. 1.

Not all of those laws will impact your day-to-day life. The establishment of “Workplace Readiness Week” (now the week of April 28) or new procurement rules for transportation analytics software may not really change your 2024 (though maybe they will!).

We took a look at a few new laws that may, from new rules for building affordable housing to how you interact with police officers and new emission standards for certain small engines (think leaf blowers).

View past years: 
2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

Making it easier for faith groups and colleges to build affordable housing on their land

Religious institutions and nonprofit colleges in California will be allowed to build affordable housing on their properties without having to go through complex and expensive rezoning processes under a new state law that goes into effect in January.

Senate Bill 4, often called the Yes In God’s Backyard (YIGBY) bill, gained bipartisan support in the Legislature and was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October. State Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, authored the bill, which is officially called the Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act.

The law rezones land owned by nonprofit colleges and religious institutions, such as mosques, churches, and synagogues, to allow for affordable housing. Many faith-based groups and nonprofit colleges are currently located on lands where multi-family housing is expressly prohibited by local zoning rules.

It allows them to bypass most local permitting and environmental review standards that can take years to complete. The law is set to sunset in 2036.

Neither “CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) nor local political processes can be misused to stop these affordable housing projects,” according to a news release Wiener issued in October.

SB 4 requires that all housing built through this streamlined process must remain affordable through a deed restriction for at least 55 years for rental properties and 45 years for properties that can be owned. It must also adhere to state affordable housing density and height requirements.

Arecent report from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center found there are approximately 171,000 acres of land throughout the state that would be eligible for affordable housing under SB 4, including about 1,700 acres owned by faith-based organizations in Sacramento County.

Housing advocates say the lack of available land is one obstacle to building more affordable homes. Securing the necessary funding presents an equally large challenge.

The legislation was sponsored by the California Conference of Carpenters, Inner City Law Center, Jewish Public Affairs Committee, Non-profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) and Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing (SCANPH).

Several cities, local government and neighborhood groups opposed the bill due to concerns over the loss of local control. They said local zoning and land use planning documents would be ignored. Those opposed included the cities of Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach and Visalia, among others.

— Chris Nichols 

Leave for reproductive loss

Pregnant people who miscarry or couples who experience a failed adoption will now be eligible for five days of time off through California’s “reproductive loss leave.”

The law covers “miscarriage, unsuccessful assisted reproduction, failed adoption, failed surrogacy, diagnosis negatively impacting pregnancy, diagnosis negatively impacting fertility, or stillbirth,” and applies to both people in the couple. Previously, people could only get time off if they were incapacitated after the loss of a pregnancy, and family and bereavement leave don’t cover most situations.

“I wanted to ensure that this was for everyone, not just women who are pregnant, but those that want to be parents in other ways,” said bill author state Senator Susan Rubio, a Democrat who represents eastern Los Angeles County.

The law, SB 848, comes after Utah and Illinois passed their own reproductive loss laws last year.

Under California’s new law, employers are not obligated to pay employees for the time off and employees are only allowed to use 20 days of reproductive loss leave within a year-long period.

Rubio said a big part of putting forward the legislation was “signaling to women and those experiencing such a horrific loss that it's okay to speak about it,” she said. “I think for many years it felt like women did something wrong because they couldn't carry a child to term and it's not their fault.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, although the number is estimated to be higher when including people who never know they’re pregnant.

— Kate Wolffe

A California Highway Patrol officer stops a motorist along Interstate 5 freeway on April 23, 2020, in Anaheim, Calif.
Chris Carlson
AP Photo
A California Highway Patrol officer stops a motorist along Interstate 5 freeway on April 23, 2020, in Anaheim, Calif.

Police officers have to say why they stopped a driver

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

If you’ve been pulled over by police, you may have been asked that question.

Beginning in 2024, it will be illegal for law enforcement to make it the first thing they say to you. Instead, they’ll have to tell you why they stopped or pulled you over before engaging in any questioning.

Their reasoning for stopping individuals must also be documented on any citation and on police reports.

The only exception to the new law is if a police officer “reasonably believes that withholding the reason for the stop is necessary to protect life or property from imminent threat,” according to the text of the law.

People of color, particularly Black people, are stopped by police at higher rates than white people. The new law is meant to track that disparity and the outcomes of police stops. The law, AB 2773, was approved in 2022.

— Nicole Nixon

Expansion of traffic speed cameras

Your next speeding ticket could come from a traffic camera under a law authorizing some cities to set up surveillance in certain areas under a new pilot program.

The cameras would automatically capture the license plate information and ticket drivers who are traveling at least 11 miles per hour over the road’s speed limit. The first violation up to 15 mph over the limit would result in a warning.

For now, only six cities are allowed to set up the cameras: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Long Beach and Glendale.

The speeding cameras can only operate for five years and will only be allowed in school zones, safety corridors or areas where speeding is a common problem. They will not be allowed on freeways.

California law already allows traffic cameras to automatically ticket drivers for running a red light.

Pedestrian safety advocates say the new law will lead to safer streets and fewer crashes. Cities that install the speeding cameras will be required to report whether – and by how much – the cameras reduce traffic incidents.

— Nicole Nixon

Increasing city council member pay

Senate Bill 329 increases the maximum salaries most City Council members can receive and sets rules for increasing their pay. Advocates say the bill reduces financial barriers for people to serve in public office.

The bill applies to general law cities, but not charter cities such as Sacramento and Los Angeles. Charter cities operate under their own charters, while general law cities follow general state laws. Most of California’s 482 cities are general law cities, said Johnnie Pina, a legislative affairs lobbyist for the League of California Cities.

The state has not adjusted maximum salaries for council members in general law cities since 1984, Pina said. Increasing the maximum salaries allows cities to adjust council members’ pay for inflation.

New limits for council member pay range from $950 per month in cities with a population of 35,000 or fewer people to $3,200 per month in cities with a population of more than 250,000 people. The bill also allows council members to approve ordinances to increase their salaries past these maximums based on inflation or their previous pay adjustment.

The bill may increase the diversity of people who serve on City Councils, said Roger Dickinson, the policy director for CivicWell, a nonprofit that supports developing sustainable policies.

“There's a distinct need to have people sitting on City Councils who are able to devote sufficient time to the work … and to increase the diversity of those who serve on City Councils,” Dickinson said. “To make it more practical for not just not just people of color, but also people who may have less economic means to serve on City Councils.”

The law goes into effect Jan. 1, but a city can only implement salary increases for council members when at least one begins a new term.

— Kristin Lam

Ending suspensions for “willful defiance”

Introduced by state Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), SB 274 — also known as “Keep Students in School” — will prohibit the suspension or expulsion of public school students in 6-12th grade based on what’s known as “willful defiance.” The law goes into effect July 1, 2024 until July 1, 2029.

Willful defiance, outlined by the policy, is the disruption of school activities or defiance of authority such as supervisors, teachers, or administrators. Suspensions are still pursued by the superintendent or principal for actions including, but not limited to, physical injury to another person, unlawful possession or use of an intoxicant, and attempted damage to school property.

This legislation appends Skinner’s previous bill — SB 419 — which permanently eliminates willful defiance suspensions in grades TK to 5 and prohibits them in grades 6 to 8 until 2025.

Additionally, the bill mandates that school employees utilize intervention methods, including in-school and outside support, and document the actions taken within five days of the incident.

Mark Harris, the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility monitor for Sacramento City Unified School District, said he continues to be concerned about the underlying teacher subjectivity with deeming a student willfully defiant.

“No one yet has come up with what will replace the current system,” explained Harris. “So they no longer are going to be kicked off campus. But what are they going to do? And where are they gonna go and who's gonna teach? I don't know the answer to those questions.”

Sacramento City and Elk Grove Unified have been subject of high Black and brown suspension rates in the state as recently as 2019. Despite the policy demanding that the state reimburse the school for any expenses incurred in providing intervention, there are no actual monies associated with the bill.

— Srishti Prabha

LGBTQ+ cultural competency training for teachers

A law taking effect in the new year requires the California Department of Education to establish LGBTQ+ cultural competency training for teachers. It's called the "Safe and Supportive Schools Act."

"Now in this time, especially with the heightened attacks against the LGBTQ+ community,” said bill co-author Torrance Democratic Assembly member Al Muratsuchi, “I believe it is the position and the values of the state of California that we take this important step forward to lead the country in terms of the right thing to do."

Under the act, the DOE will need to set up a training curriculum for teachers and other certified school employees to support LGBTQ+ students.

Proponents of the legislation — including a transgender student from Sacramento County — urged state lawmakers to send it to the governor's desk.

One of those proponents identified himself as Adrian, a 10th grader attending a high school in Elk Grove.

Adrian told lawmakers he came out as transgender to a small group of people but didn't want it known by others. A teacher found out and attempted to affirm Adrian's gender identity by calling Adrian he/him in front of the whole class, without permission.

"I was mortified,” Adrian said during a legislative hearing. “All of a sudden, all control I had over my own decision to come out at school had been taken away from me."

The new law requires the Education Department to have an online training program in place by the 2025-26 school year. The online training will start with the 2025-26 school year and only apply to educators who teach seventh to 12th graders.

Researchers say LGBTQ+ students miss fewer classes and get better grades when they have supportive teachers.

— Steve Milne

Adding Asian American history, media literacy to California’s K-12 curriculum

California’s K-12 curriculum will undergo another overhaul soon — thanks to two bills, Assembly Bill 873 and Assembly Bill 1354, which respectively require the state’s Instructional Quality Commission to consider including media literacy content at each grade level and expanding instruction on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander history in the U.S.

On Jan. 1, California K-12 students won’t find their day-to-day curriculum disrupted immediately. But these laws jumpstart the work of updating the curriculum framework to encompass both subject areas.

Only three other states — New Jersey, Texas and Delaware — have passed similar legislation on media literacy curriculum. Democratic Assembly member Marc Berman, who introduced AB 837 and represents portions of the San Francisco peninsula, called media literacy education a “bipartisan issue.”

“This is really just about trying to make sure that the next generation has the skills that they need to navigate the reality of today,” he said.

And media literacy education has been on California legislators’ minds. In 2018, the state’s department of education, California School Library Association and KQED compiled media literacy information in three free databases to fulfill the requirements set forth in Senate Bill 830.

AB 1354 also reflects another legislative priority: responding to racist, xenophobic violence against Asian Americans that sprung up at the COVID-19 pandemic’s start.

Among the topics the instructional commission will consider incorporating into curriculum are “examples of racism, discrimination and violence perpetrated against Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States, including, but not limited to, hate crimes committed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” AB 1354 reads.

Even outside that, Asian American history is a particularly relevant issue. Asians are the fastest-growing ethnic group in California, a state which has the largest population of Asian Americans in the U.S. The bill aims to paint a fully contextual picture of history to “help prevent and decrease discrimination and violence perpetrated against the Asian American community.”

— Janelle Salanga

A pumpjack operates in Bakersfield, Calif., on Jan. 15, 2015.
Jae C. Hong
AP Photo
A pumpjack operates in Bakersfield, Calif., on Jan. 15, 2015.

Requiring owners to clean up “orphaned” oil wells

A new law targets California’s “orphaned” wells, which are inactive wells where the owner does not have the money to clean up the site. It requires companies interested in purchasing idle or low-producing oil wells to have money set aside to sufficiently cover the costs of plugging, abandoning and restoring the site of the well.

Advocates say this will help prevent large oil companies from selling wells to smaller companies who may not have the resources to clean up the site. Wells that aren’t properly maintained can contaminate groundwater, leak hazardous gasses like methane and pose health threats for nearby communities.

“Because California doesn't have a setback law on the books, which just means a mandatory distance between oil wells and … places where people live, work and play, these oil wells are right outside of people's homes,” said Jasmine Vazin, a field organizing strategist with the Sierra Club.

Vazin said negative health threats posed by these wells — which can include respiratory diseases and birth defects — are “impacts that are completely avoidable.” Although the law does not impact already existing orphaned wells, she said the law will prevent wells from becoming orphaned in the future.

— Manola Secaira

New emission rules for small gasoline engines

Small gasoline engines used to power lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other equipment will need to meet zero-emission requirements on Jan. 1.

The rule, approved by the California Air Resources Board in late 2021, applies to newly-manufactured small off-road engines, known by the acronym SORE. These small engines pollute well beyond their size and weight, with CARB saying a commercial operator using one backpack leaf blower for one hour generates the same smog-forming emissions as a car driving 1,100 miles.

According to CARB, the volume of smog-forming emissions from this type of equipment has surpassed emissions from light-duty passenger cars and is projected to be nearly twice those of passenger cars by 2031.

Generators and large power washers won't have to meet the zero-emission rule until 2028, but beginning on Jan. 1, they will have more stringent emissions standards — a reduction of 40 to 90%.

The Legislature has allocated $30 million to be dedicated to sole proprietors and other small landscaping businesses in California to help them purchase zero-emission small off-road equipment, including leaf blowers, lawn mowers and string trimmers.

— Mike Hagerty

Since 2015, Chris Nichols has worked as CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter where he fact-checks politicians in the Golden State both on-air and online. His work includes debunking social media misinformation and explaining complex statewide topics from California’s affordable housing and homelessness crises to election issues.
I’m interested in how health care policy impacts Sacramento and California, who gets access to care and the issues facing health care providers.
Nicole covers politics and government for CapRadio. Before moving to California, she won several awards, including a regional Edward R. Murrow Award, for her political reporting in her hometown of Salt Lake City. Besides public radio, Nicole is passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
As CapRadio’s Sacramento Government Reporter, I focus on covering Sacramento City Hall and connecting policy decisions to people’s daily lives.
As CapRadio and The Sacramento Observer education reporter covering K-12 schools, I will focus on holding schools and districts in Sacramento County accountable to their communities, while ensuring that minority voices are amplified.
The Central Valley is something that is incredibly personal to me. Having grown up, studied and worked in the valley, I’ve learned that there are stories in every corner of every city here: stories about intergenerational organizing, environmental (in)justice and the labor that feeds much of California, among others.
Steve Milne is the Morning Edition anchor at Capital Public Radio. He's also an award-winning reporter whose work has been heard on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered as well as Marketplace and The Voice of America.
To provide a trusted and indispensable source of information, music, and entertainment while strengthening the civic and cultural life of the communities we serve.