An aerial view of downtown San Jose
A Santa Clara County vendor disparity study released last week found that local, minority-owned businesses amount to only about 15% of the county’s total payments. File Photo.

California residents can expect a variety of new laws to take effect in 2024, after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed hundreds of bills to tackle the state’s most pressing issues.

These bills range from updates to mental health services and housing to worker protections to safe drinking water, and Silicon Valley lawmakers championed many of them.

Here are a few laws taking effect next year:

Worker protections

Newsom signed an agreement between unions and restaurant owners, resulting in Assembly Bill 1228 to increase fast-food worker wages to $20 per hour starting in April. It also triggers the creation of a nine-member council to monitor the industry.

Advocates say this law will protect fast-food employees by addressing wage theft, violence and safety issues in the workplace. It takes effect Jan. 1 and sunsets in 2029.

“I really like the idea of the worker council,” workers rights attorney and columnist Ruth Silver Taube told San José Spotlight. “It’s an industry where there’s really egregious violations. Sexual harassment is very common, and child labor law violations and wage theft is rampant. It’s an opportunity for workers and employers to sit across the table and talk about these things, and hammer out solutions.”

Assembly Bill 2188 creates employment protections for cannabis users, which prevents employers from using hair- and urine-based drug test results when deciding to hire, fire or reprimand workers. Additionally, Senate Bill 700 amends existing state law to prevent employers from asking potential hires about past cannabis use.

Silver Taube said the cannabis protections build on gaps in prior law to better protect workers. She also pointed out Senate Bill 497, approved this year, which increases worker protections against retaliation and firing for protected conduct.

Local recreation

Assembly Bill 436 addresses an issue key to many in San Jose—cruising. It repeals existing law preventing the operation of a vehicle modified to have less clearance from the surface of a road than is between the road and the vehicle’s lowest wheel rims.

Prior to AB 436, San Jose lifted its citywide cruising ban after critics said the four-decade ban was a racist policy that discriminated against the Latino community. The city celebrated its first annual Lowrider Day in September.

Locals and tourists will also take note of lodging changes thanks to Assemblymember Mark Berman’s Assembly Bill 537. The bill prohibits hidden fees at lodgings and ensures that hotels and other short-term lodging disclose upfront the advertised or offered cost of the stay.

Berman said this will ensure customers know what they will pay when deciding when and where to travel.


Berman’s Assembly Bill 948 will lower out-of-pocket drug costs by permanently extending a $250 co-pay cap for a 30-day prescription that was set to expire next year.

“Without these critically important protections in place, consumers could once again pay thousands of dollars in one month alone for essential medication,” Berman said in a statement.

Senate Bill 43 defines people eligible for conservatorship to include those unable to provide for their personal safety or necessary medical care, food, clothing or shelter, due to a serious mental illness or substance use disorder.

In an October statement, Newsom said the bill is meant to modernize the state’s conservatorship laws for the first time in more than 50 years.

“The mental health crisis affects us all, and people who need the most help have been too often overlooked,” Newsom said. “We are working to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and that people get the help they need and the respect they deserve.”

Water conservation and preservation

Senate Bill 745 by state Sen. Dave Cortese aims to make the state more water efficient. New state building standards will require a decrease in water usage and adopt design systems to capture recycled water for building and landscaping uses.

“Estimates show that by 2050, our state will receive just two-thirds of the snow that has historically blanketed our mountains and trickled down into our reservoirs,” Cortese said in a statement. “California needs to adapt by cutting the amount of water used in new buildings. SB 745 is a crucial step toward fortifying California against the persistent water shortages and droughts that will intensify in the coming years.”

San Jose Assemblymember Alex Lee authored Assembly Bill 604, a bill on water protection to ensure mobile home residents don’t get hit with unfair water service charges. In addition to that, Assembly Bill 664 requires landlords to assume responsibility for making sure tenants have access to safe drinking water.

Contact Natalie Hanson at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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