Here are 16 new laws Californians must start following in 2024

New California laws beginning in 2024 could affect your commute, your annual camping trip or your paycheck.

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Lawmakers in Sacramento pass plenty of complex, arcane measures every year that can be hard to wrap your head around. But they also pass laws that can have a pretty direct impact on everyday Californians’ lives, including some coming online in 2024 that could affect your commute, your annual camping trip or your paycheck.

Here are 16 new laws that will kick in next year, beginning with the ones that go into effect on Jan. 1.

Campsite reservations: Reservations at popular state campgrounds can get snapped up the moment they become available. New changes under AB 618 that begin Jan. 1 aim to deter last-minute cancellations and no-shows that can thwart public access to some of California’s best outdoor spaces.

New contractors brought on by the Department of Parks and Recreation to manage ReserveCalifornia, where campers reserve spaces online, will be required to withhold reservation fees plus the cost of a reservation’s first night when a camper cancels their booking within two to six days before its start date.

Campers who cancel reservations or don’t show multiple times will have future reservations limited by the system.

The law will also create a lottery system for reservations to the five most popular campgrounds in the state, but that won’t be implemented until 2025.

Gender-neutral toy sections: Large retail stores in the state will be required to maintain a gender-neutral toy section, where toys are displayed “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.”

The purpose of the bill isn’t just to eliminate stereotypes about what types of toys children should play with based on their gender; there’s a financial component too: Often similar products are priced differently depending on which gender they’re being marketed to. Placing similar items in the same section will allow shoppers to more easily compare prices, the Consumer Federation of California argued in its support of the bill, which passed in 2021 but goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

Speed cameras: Under a pilot program authorized to start in 2024, six California cities — including San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose — may use up to 33 cameras to enforce speed limits in school zones and designated “safety corridors.”

Supporters of the bill argue the cameras will help in multiple ways. They aim to deter speeding, which contributes to fatal collisions involving drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. And the cameras provide a color-blind enforcement mechanism that won’t target drivers based on skin color or other arbitrary factors.

The equity argument cuts both ways, though: Some opponents argue the fines levied by the cameras will hit drivers of color the hardest. Others are worried about the privacy implications posed by installing more cameras to keep tabs on citizens.

Though the cameras are authorized to go up beginning in January, it will likely take longer for cities to install them. 

Expanded paid sick and reproductive loss leave: Over the last decade, California has led the nation in carving out requirements that employers provide workers with a minimum amount of paid sick leave. The latest law bolsters the requirements: Employees must now receive no less than 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave by the 120th calendar day of employment and no less 40 hours or five days of paid sick leave by the 200th calendar day of employment.

Under a separate law, employers must also provide up to five days of leave to employees who experience reproductive loss — whether through a miscarriage or other reproductive loss event, failed adoption, failed surrogacy or unsuccessful round of intrauterine insemination.

The law does not require employers to provide paid leave, but an employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to them.

Employment protections for cannabis users: Two laws going into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, aim to prevent employers from punishing workers who legally use cannabis off the clock, or from discriminating against job applicants based on prior cannabis use.

AB2188, passed in 2022, makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees for their cannabis use in their personal lives. Workers can still be penalized for coming to work high.

AB2188 also calls for employers to use drug tests that check for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, “the chemical compound in cannabis that can indicate impairment and cause psychoactive effects,” instead of tests that detect only inactive cannabis compounds, such as urine, blood or hair tests. Such tests can detect marijuana use from days, weeks and even months prior.

Meanwhile, SB700 prevents employers from asking about a prospective employee’s past cannabis use, with some exceptions. Sen. Steven Bradford, the bill’s author, said the measure “promotes equity by ensuring that individuals are not discriminated against solely for their legal and recreational use of cannabis,” according to a legislative analysis.

Concealed carry: California Gov. Gavin Newsom, an outspoken gun control advocate, signed a number of gun restrictions into law in 2023, including SB2, which aims to limit where people can carry guns.

The measure was a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling striking down a New York law that required individuals to show a special need for self-defense in order to carry a concealed firearm in public. California has had a similar law, but since the Supreme Court ruling it no longer requires applicants to show a special need for self-defense. Instead, SB2 would increase the minimum age for carrying concealed weapons from 18 to 21 and prohibit them in “sensitive places” such as schools, parks, playgrounds and banks.

Gun proponents sued to block SB2 before it went into effect. That lawsuit could impact the law: A motion for an injunction — a legal order blocking the law from taking effect — is pending before a federal court in Santa Ana, but has not yet been heard by a judge. For now, the law is set to take effect Jan. 1. 

Conservatorship expansion: California will make it easier for counties to compel people with severe mental illness into medical treatment or temporary psychiatric holds next year. The new law expands the standards for deeming a person “gravely disabled” to include people whose mental illness or drug addiction inhibits their ability to keep themselves safe. SB43 by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, was sponsored by psychiatric organizations and other health care professionals who said it would get a small but troubled group of people off the streets and into conservatorships, which can include involuntary medical treatment.

Disability-rights groups objected to the expansion of detention and forced treatment and argued that voluntary care was more effective, but both legislative houses approved the measure unanimously. It takes effect in January.

Some counties, including San Francisco, say they will work to implement the law quickly. Others may opt to delay implementation by as much as two years, as allowed by the law.

New S.F. housing scrutiny: California’s housing agency will assess San Francisco’s progress toward its state-mandated housing goals every year starting next year, subjecting the city to a higher level of scrutiny than any part of the state. Other cities and counties will be evaluated every four years.

The law’s author, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said he decided to subject his own city to a higher level of scrutiny because it has proven to be so slow to approve new housing. He blamed the Board of Supervisors for rejecting projects and the city’s notoriously slow permitting process. The new law, SB423, will add to the pressure San Francisco is already facing after the state housing agency conducted an unprecedented audit of its housing approval process and is threatening that the city must cut some of its red tape or lose control over permitting.

Fentanyl sentences: People convicted of dealing or attempting to deal more than a kilogram of fentanyl will face years of additional prison time under a new law that increases punishment for people who deal the deadly drug. AB701 by Carlos Villapudua, D-Stockton, managed to earn approval from the state Assembly and Senate in a year when most bills to increase punishments were blocked by progressive Democrats in the Legislature wary of continuing a “war on drugs”-style approach to combating the state’s opioid overdose crisis. Instead of punishment, lawmakers largely favored measures that increased treatment for people addicted to opioids over ones that punish people who sell them.

The measure won approval from Newsom, who has generally been much more interested in pursuing a law-and-order approach to the problem, in addition to treatment-focused tactics

Child sex trafficking: People convicted of child sex trafficking could face additional years of prison time starting Jan. 1. Child sex trafficking is already a felony in California that carries a prison sentence of five to 12 years, or 15 to life if the crime involves force, deceit, coercion or violence. 

The new law adds child sex trafficking to the list of crimes like rape and murder that automatically qualify as serious felonies, which would mean people convicted of the offense could spend many more years in prison. California’s “three strikes” law adds years of prison time if someone is convicted of two serious felonies and imposes a sentence of 25 years to life for a person who has been convicted of three such offenses. Classifying the offense as a serious felony would also limit instances when someone accused of child sex trafficking could negotiate a plea bargain. 

By making all child sex trafficking crimes serious felonies, the new law could increase jail time for people convicted of the crime even if they were not convicted of using force, deceit, coercion or violence in the commission of the crime.

The bill, SB14, faced an unusual path to passage in the Legislature after it was struck down in committee but then resurrected a couple days later when Newsom intervened. The incident represented the rare situation where Newsom publicly got involved with the Legislature’s work and legislative leaders took the unusual step of publicly questioning the committee votes of their fellow Democrats. It was especially remarkable for a bill written by one of the Legislature’s most conservative members, Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield.

Mobile opioid treatment: Mobile pharmacies that serve homeless people will be able to dispense the opioid addiction treatment buprenorphine starting next year. Mobile pharmacies couldn’t previously dispense the medication, which is also known by the brand names Subutex and Suboxone, because of its classification as a controlled substance. Advocates for the new law see this change as an important step to help address the raging overdose crisis fueled by fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opioid involved in a majority of overdose deaths in the state.

Coming later next year

New minimum wages for fast-food and health care workers: Hundreds of thousands of California health care workers will see a significant boost in pay under a law set to increase their wages gradually, with the first bump kicking in on June 1, 2024. Here’s how it will apply to various health care employers:

  • Large health systems and dialysis clinics with 10,000 or more full-time employees will have to pay workers a minimum of $23 an hour starting June 1, 2024; $24 starting June 1, 2025; and $25 starting June 1, 2026. 
  • Hospitals that get most of their funding from Medi-Cal and Medicare, and small rural hospitals, will have to pay workers at least $18 an hour starting June 1, 2024, with annual 3.5% raises. They will have to pay workers a minimum of $25 an hour starting in 2033.
  • Primary care clinics, community clinics and urgent care clinics owned by primary care providers will have to pay employees at least $21 an hour starting June 1, 2024; $22 starting June 1, 2026; and $25 starting June 2027.
  • All other health care facilities must pay workers at least $21 an hour starting June 1, 2024; $23 starting June 1, 2026; and $25 starting June 1, 2028.

And they’re not the only ones benefiting from new wage laws. Under a compromise law signed this year, fast-food workers in the state will see their minimum wage rise to $20 an hour beginning in April, and increase by up to 3.5% a year through 2029. The law implementing the pay requirements also creates a state commission that will consider improvements to fast-food employees’ working conditions.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle


  1. Will this really change anything for the better? Increasing minimum wages will help a select few. And the majority will probably lose their jobs or have hours cut. Once again the people under the dome get it wrong and face no consequences for their wrong decisions.

  2. Robin Itzler - Patriot Neighbors says

    The headline should read: 16 New Laws That Will Encourage More People to Leave California.

  3. Exactly.

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