What are the most interesting new laws for California in 2023?


Read this explainer in Spanish.

In 2022, the California Legislature passed nearly 1,200 bills — and nearly 1,000 became law with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature

Many of the new laws are minor fixes to laws that legislators and the governor previously enacted. Others are rather narrow or specific to a certain industry. Still others will be phased in over time. 

Newsom has highlighted several, including a law limiting prosecutors from using rap lyrics and music videos in court and another requiring oil companies to publicly post their profits (the governor has also called a special session on his plan to impose a penalty on oil refiners for excess profits.) 

And then there’s a select group of new laws that took effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — and that could have a noticeable impact on the daily lives of Californians, or on the policy direction of the state. 

Here are nine of them, including audio segments for a few:


Will this law stop gender bias in prices?

Photo via iStock
A new law is designed to end the “pink tax” on products marketed to women in California. Photo via iStock
CalMatters politics intern Ariel Gans summarizes the new “pink tax” law.

Shoppers may have noticed that shampoos and other personal care products marketed to women sometimes cost more than very similar versions for men.   

No longer. With this law, stores will be banned from charging a different price based on gender — and could be in the crosshairs of the attorney general’s office for any violations. Advocacy groups say that ending the “pink tax” is another step in the cause of gender equity.


How much does that job pay?

People work at their desks in Campbell on June 11, 2021. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group
People work at their desks in Campbell on June 11, 2021. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group
CalMatters economics reporter Grace Gedye outlines the new pay transparency law.

It’s hit and miss how much applicants can find out about how much a job pays. And advocates say that allows for unfair disparities in salaries.  

This new law will bring a little more transparency to California workplaces by requiring companies with at least 15 employees to put salary ranges into job postings. But intense business opposition blocked provisions that would have meant publication of pay data broken down by position, gender and race. And some specialists question how much difference the law will make.           


Is this a return to Wild West bounties?

Revolvers for sale at a gun store in Oceanside on April 12, 2021. REUTERS/Bing Guan
Revolvers for sale at a gun store in Oceanside on April 12, 2021. Photo by Bing Guan, Reuters

Back in the 1800s, the U.S. government offered bounties to stop the Union Army from getting cheated. In 2021, Texas passed a law restricting abortions and dangled $10,000 per violation to anyone who sued to help enforce it.

Not to be outdone, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature passed this new law that allows private citizens to collect $10,000 by suing those who make or sell illegal “ghost guns” or assault-style weapons. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, could throw out the Texas law and ones like it, including California’s. But that would be just fine with the governor and lawmakers.      


Will this law stop spread of COVID lies?

A doctor listens to a man's heart beat at a clinic in Bieber, California on July 23, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
A doctor listens to a man’s heartbeat at a clinic in Bieber on July 23, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

In our COVID world, one of many concerns is disinformation that can have dangerous, even deadly, consequences. Even some doctors have spread myths or lies about the virus and how best to treat it.

This law, supported by California’s medical establishment, makes it easier for the state medical board to punish physicians who deliberately spread misinformation. But some doctors have already sued to stop the law, saying it violates their free speech rights.        


Could this law correct state history?

Ruby Carino helps her 13-year-old daughter Nova get ready for the annual Labor Day Stockton Community Pow Wow in Stockton on Saturday, August 3, 2022. Photo by Clifford Oto, The Stockton Record via Reuters
Ruby Carino helps her 13-year-old daughter Nova get ready for the annual Labor Day Stockton Community Pow Wow in Stockton on August 3, 2022. Photo by Clifford Oto, The Stockton Record via Reuters
CalMatters education reporter Joe Hong discusses a new law on Native American history.

The history of California is complicated, not least because it’s such a diverse state of immigrants, but also home to Native American tribes here well before European explorers or the Gold Rush.

This law encourages school districts to work with tribes to develop history lessons to give students a fuller understanding. The legislation also aims to raise the graduation rate and close the achievement gap for Native American students.    


Will this law help stop sex trafficking?

The curtains are pulled shut at a hotel in Oakland on Feb. 9, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters
The curtains are pulled shut at a hotel in Oakland on Feb. 9, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters
CalMatters California Divide reporter Wendy Fry talks about the latest effort to combat sex trafficking.

Lawmakers took their latest steps in their fight against human trafficking by targeting what law enforcement says are frequent places where it happens. Civil liberties groups, however, say more law enforcement is the wrong approach. 

One new law calls for fines and civil penalties against hotels if supervisors know about sex trafficking but fail to notify law enforcement, a national hotline or victim advocacy group. Another new law adds beauty, hair and nail salons to those businesses, as well as airports and bus stations, that must post information on human trafficking, including how to contact nonprofits in the field.   


Could this law empty death row?

A guard stands on duty in California's Death Row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin on December 29, 2015. Photo by Stephen Lam, REUTERS
A guard stands on duty in California’s Death Row at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin on December 29, 2015. Photo by Stephen Lam, Reuters
CalMatters political reporter Alexei Koseff discusses the potential impact of a new law on racial bias in death sentences.

California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006. Even though voters want to keep the death penalty, a 2019 moratorium imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom prevents executions.

Advocates are also seeking to limit when capital punishment is applied. This law aims at the 674 inmates already on death row, giving them a way to challenge their death sentences as racially biased. A disproportionate number of the condemned inmates are Black.      


Does housing trump environment?

Abandoned businesses at a Fresno strip mall on Aug. 25, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
Abandoned businesses at a Fresno strip mall on Aug. 25, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

California has a severe and persistent shortage of affordable housing — what Gov. Newsom even calls the state’s “original sin.” 

These laws are designed to increase the supply, in part by bypassing some environmental reviews. One allows development along strip malls, as long as construction workers get union wages. A second is designed to ease the student housing crunch by exempting dorms from the California Environmental Quality Act.     


Will more abortion protections matter?

Undergraduate student Gracie Semmens attends a Prop 1 rally at UC Berkeley in Berkeley on Nov. 4, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento
Student Gracie Semmens attends a rally in support of Proposition 1 at UC Berkeley on Nov. 4, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

In large measure in response to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, California lawmakers passed a slew of additional safeguards for abortion access, as well as putting a constitutional amendment on the November ballot, which voters overwhelmingly approved.

A headliner among the new laws is one that shields women from prosecution if they end a pregnancy, even if it’s self-induced or outside the medical system. The new law also ends the requirement that coroners investigate stillbirths, after two Kings County women were charged after testing positive for drugs.      



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