During each legislative session, the members of the California State Legislature, composed of the California State Assembly and the California State Senate, propose hundreds of bills to be debated. All 80 assembly members and 40 state senators have the power to introduce, debate and vote on legislation on behalf of their constituents.
Due to the large amount of proposed legislation, only a portion of these bills are debated and even fewer pass the several votes required. Afterward, these bills are sent to Governor Gavin Newsom, pending his signature. This past 2022 legislative session convened on January 3 and adjourned on August 31. The activity of the legislature resulted in 997 bills signed by Governor Newsom.
These pieces of legislation serve a variety of purposes from creating new programs to establishing new policies. With the California State Legislature reconvening on Jan. 4 for the 2023-2024 legislation, here are some of the most important changes that occurred starting this year.
Addressing hate crimes
Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 2282 on Sept. 18, 2022, expanding the definition of hate symbols to include additional locations and symbols. These physical impressions include any symbols or marks with the intent to terrorize another person, such as Nazi symbols and nooses. The bill also emphasizes the need to address hate crimes with symbols against certain minority groups.
With the adoption of this bill, the display of these symbols is specifically banned in public places, including schools and parks, and private property. If such a symbol is found to be displayed at any of the locations mentioned in the bill, the person who placed that symbol would be punished by imprisonment, a fine or both. Punishments increase for subsequent convictions.
“When we punish [the] use of a burning cross more than a swastika, we are negating the psychological impact on and physical threat to a targeted group,” bill sponsor and Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan said in a press release. “With hate crimes increasing across the state, it’s critical to recognize the power and destructiveness of these symbols, and restrict their use equally.”
Increased minimum wage
Since Senate Bill (SB) 3 passed in 2016, the state minimum wage has increased every year since then. In 2017, the minimum wage began at $10 for employers with 25 employees or less and $10.50 for employers with 26 employees or more. In 2023, the minimum wage increased to $15.50 for all employers regardless of the number of employees. Each year’s increase considered several factors including job growth, state budget forecasts and inflation.
However, SB 3 only addressed a minimum wage up to 2022 and a high of $15. Future increases would be based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index and cost-of-living provisions. Therefore, a ballot measure successfully received approval for 2024 California voters to consider increasing the minimum wage to $18 by 2026.
“California is proving once again that it can get things done and help people get ahead,” former governor Edmund Brown, who signed SB 3, said in a press release. “This plan raises the minimum wage in a careful and responsible way and provides some flexibility if economic and budgetary conditions change.”
Legalization of jaywalking
Signed in 2022, AB 2147 removes laws and penalties preventing pedestrians from crossing a road. The bill argues that a “reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision” due to vehicles. Pedestrians do not have to use a crosswalk with traffic control signals and can choose to cross a roadway when no cars are present. Assessments will be conducted to examine the effects of the bill.
The bill’s other goals include effects on law enforcement resources and encouraging more people to walk rather than drive.
“It should not be a criminal offense to safely cross the street. When expensive tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police impact only certain communities, it’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians,” bill sponsor and Assemblymember Phil Ting said in a press release. “Plus, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk for health and environmental reasons.”
Pink tax abolished
The pink tax refers to price differences put into place based on the gender of the consumer. AB 1287 establishes that nobody can charge a different price for two similar goods, especially if each good is priced and sold for different genders. Violators of this law may face civil penalties and other court punishments.
Some examples of the pink tax as found by HuffPost included different prices for products such as ear plugs, personal care kits, ankle support and even calculators. The main difference between the products is that the products labeled and marketed toward females cost more.
“The ‘Pink Tax’ is a sexist penalty based purely on gender,” bill sponsor and Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan said in a press release. “Paying a financial cost for being a woman is unjust and only adds to the gender wage and wealth gaps. This type of arbitrary gendered pricing has no place in California. It’s past time to ensure price equality.”
Multiple bills establishing new state holidays passed the State Legislature and were signed by Governor Newsom. Last year, the state of California observed 11 holidays. One holiday on this list, Cesar Chavez Day on March 31, is not a federal holiday but has been observed by California since 1995.
AB 1801 established Genocide Remembrance Day on April 24 in honor of the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. AB 2596 recognizes the Lunar New Year, the celebration of the beginning of the new year according to the lunar calendar. Juneteenth and Native American Day also became recognized as state-paid holidays.
Under these bills and four new holidays, state employees can receive eight hours of vacation or compensation for time off due to personal holiday credit.
In multiple messages when signing these bills, Governor Newsom emphasized the importance of representing the diversity of backgrounds and experiences in California.
Out of the 997 bills signed by Governor Newsom, these represent some of the most major changes to begin in 2023. However, it’s important to recognize that each bill passed or law changed has an important impact on a certain aspect in our continuously changing way of life. Due to the votes and actions of the representatives that we voted for, we will experience the impacts of these changes.