A flurry of laws will go into effect in 2023, impacting the daily lives of Silicon Valley residents.
Here’s a look at the biggest changes involving housing, transportation, criminal justice and more next year. All laws go into effect Jan. 1 unless otherwise specified.
With the passage of AB 2011, also known as the Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act of 2022, affordable housing could pop up near the neighborhood mall. Developers will be able to take advantage of underused commercial areas with parking, office or retail buildings and repurpose the land for affordable housing projects. The bill goes into effect July 2023.
Sandy Perry, president of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, said AB 2011 is a response to COVID-19 pandemic measures that cleared commercial spaces like offices. More than 17% of Silicon Valley offices remain vacant today. But it’s not enough, he said, and widespread government action is still needed.
“There’s a lot of incremental changes which are being enacted now to increase housing production,” Perry told San José Spotlight. “They’re all good, but they’re not sufficient.”
California workers have more protections in 2023. AB 1041 lets workers use paid sick leave to take care of loved ones other than immediate family members.
“It’ll make a difference for the workers,” said Ruth Silver Taube, a worker’s rights attorney and San José Spotlight columnist. “People won’t be coming to work sick, and they’ll take time off.”
Other changes are in the works: SB 951 increases the amount of wages low-income workers can get during paid family leave. The law, which goes into full effect in 2025, allows employees that make 70% of California’s average wage to receive 90% of their wage while on leave.
Bicycle safety protections are on a roll. AB 1909, dubbed the “OmniBike Bill,” sets several changes in motion: eliminating ordinances that required cyclists to obtain a bike license, allowing e-bikes in bike lanes, allowing cyclists to cross with pedestrians on walk signals and requiring cars to change lanes to bypass cyclists on the road.
Sandhya Laddha, policy director for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, said safety is crucial for residents. The bill’s requirement for cars to shift an entire lane to avoid cyclists limits the possibility of collisions as people jostle for space on the road, she said. A recent study revealed San Jose is at the bottom of the list for bicycle safety across Silicon Valley cities.
“It enhances (a cyclist’s) experience, and it’s just safer for them to bike around,” Laddha told San José Spotlight.
Giving space to e-bikes also increases bike accessibility, Laddha said, especially for low-income residents looking to make quick trips to the grocery store or coffee shop.
AB 2147, the Freedom to Walk Act, decriminalizes jaywalking in California. It also requires a report by 2028 to examine the impacts the act has on pedestrian safety.
The passage of SB 903 requires the state to examine how many individuals, especially those with severe mental illnesses, are impacted by homelessness when they leave prison. The bill aims to highlight the need for housing services.
Meanwhile, SB 731 secures a series of protections for individuals with prior convictions starting July 2023. Existing law allows the possibility of sealed records for offenders arrested or charged with a misdemeanor. SB 731 would allow those arrested for a felony and those charged with a felony on or after Jan. 1, 2005 the same protections. Assemblymembers Ash Kalra and Alex Lee co-authored the bill.
California provides a safe haven for transgender individuals with the passage of SB 107, co-authored by Assemblymembers Kalra, Lee and Evan Low.
The law prevents state agencies from complying with information or extradition requests from other states that have laws against transgender health care. This also prevents California law enforcement from aiding out-of-state agencies in taking transgender children away from parents from states that punish families for allowing children to undergo gender-affirming procedures.
Adrienne Keel, director of the LGBTQ Youth Space in San Jose, said protections for the transgender community are vital as transphobia continues to manifest in nationwide conversations. Increases in protections, Keel said, should come with increases in resources, such as medical insurance coverage for gender-affirming care.
“There are countless examples of LGBTQ+ people being criminalized throughout history, simply for existing as their authentic selves,” Keel told San José Spotlight. “If we listen to young people and give them the space to voice their needs and receive the treatment that is right for them, it can be life-saving.”
Reproductive rights are also expanding next year with SB 1375, co-authored by Kalra. The law allows qualified nurses to perform first trimester abortions without doctor supervision.
Hate has no place on school campuses, with the passage of AB 2282. The law specifies individuals who display hate symbols, such as swastikas and nooses, at places like K-12 schools, college campuses, workplaces and places of worship can face fines and jail time. Local law enforcement launched hate crime investigations in November when dolls with dark complexions were found hanging at three Santa Clara County schools.
The state is also implementing a slew of other education laws focused on early education and nutrition.
AB 2693 requires workplaces to continue notifying employees of any COVID-19 infections and exposures. The bill is effective until January 2024.
Elected officials are working to tackle the tide of misinformation surrounding COVID, with the passage of AB 2098. The law, authored by Assemblymember Low, enables medical professionals, including doctors and surgeons, to face disciplinary action if they spread misinformation.
Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.