Multiple state laws are going into effect this month. Graphic by Catherine Vu
Fountain Valley High School

New year, new laws

As we welcome the new year, a series of new laws will go into effect in California. Although much of the legislation addresses typical areas like infrastructure and finance, some laws were written in response to major events of 2020, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against police use of force.

Read on to learn more about a few of these laws and how they’ll affect you.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage rose from $13 to $14 for businesses with over 25 employees, making California the state with the highest minimum wage, excluding Washington D.C. The increase will continue in accordance with a 2016 law that raises the minimum wage by $1 every year until 2023.

Ethnic Studies

The 23-campus California State University system will implement ethnic studies as part of its general education requirement, beginning with freshmen when classes start this fall. Under AB 1460, students must take three units on one or more of four ethnic groups: Latino/a Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans.


Police in California are now prohibited from using chokeholds or carotid restraints. AB 1196 came soon after the death of George Floyd in police custody, which sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

Another law, AB 1506, mandates that the deaths of unarmed people shot and killed by police be investigated.

Criminal Justice System

Some inmate firefighters will be able to become professional firefighters after serving time. Under AB 2147, those who work in prison fire camps and finish their sentences can petition for their criminal records to be expunged, which will allow them to apply for certain licenses needed for jobs like firefighting.

Last year, there were several large wildfires in the state. Inmates in prison fire camps worked for hours to fight the blazes but received very little compensation.

In another law, AB 646, those who are on parole for felonies regained the right to vote.

Pet Sales

Adopt, don’t shop. In California, it’s not a suggestion anymore but a law.

AB 2152 states that cats, dogs and rabbits cannot be obtained through retail sale, but they can be adopted from a store that has an agreement with a shelter or other approved place. Animals up for adoption have to be sterilized and fees must total $500 or less.

The law aims to crack down on puppy mills, where dogs are bred in inhumane conditions.