California rings in new year with slew of laws

Nearly 1,000 new laws went into effect in January.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 997 bills into law this year, while other statutes approved earlier also went into effect.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Jan. 4. I’m Andrew J. Campa 👋, a metro reporter writing from the San Gabriel Valley (you can thank us for Sriracha🌶️ anytime).

This weekend, champagne bottles🍾 welcomed the beginning of a new year — and with it a new batch laws affecting California residents.

For the record:

1:23 p.m. Jan. 4, 2023An earlier version of this newsletter reported that California has the highest minimum wage in the nation. California’s minimum wage ranks third, behind Washington, D.C., and Washington state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 997 bills into law in 2022, and some statutes approved years earlierwent into effect.


The Times’ Phil Willon wrote about the matter extensively and focused on a few dozen changes that cover abortion and health; the workplace; housing; climate change and the environment, criminal justice, policing and guns; civil rights and more.

Among the changes:

  • Senate Bill 1735 allows experienced nurse practitioners to work independently of doctors, while abortion care will require less or no physician oversight.
  • Around 3 million workers who earn minimum wage in California will receive an increase of 50 cents per hour, which raises their pay to $15.50. The bump comes from a provision in a 2016 wage law that raises the pay rate if inflation passes 7%. With the increase, California maintains one of the highest minimum wages in the nation.
  • Assembly Bill 2097 stops local governments from setting parking spot requirements at most developments located near transit stops.
  • Senate Bill 1137 bars the California Geological Management Division from approving new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of residences, an education and community resource, healthcare facility or any public building deemed a “sensitive receptor.” The oil industry is pushing back, with plans for a ballot measure campaign to counter the law.
  • The so-called “pink tax” — when businesses price similar products and goods, such as razors and deodorant, higher for women than men — is now banned.
  • School boards, city councils and similar governing bodies now have expanded authority to eject unruly members of the public. The bill expands language currently used to expel people who are “willingly interrupting” meetings to include any action that “substantially impairs or renders infeasible the orderly conduct of the meeting.”
  • Finally, state ballot measure Propositions 1 and 31, approved overwhelming by voters, went into effect in December. Proposition 1 enshrined a person’s “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion,” while Proposition 31 prohibited the vending of most flavored tobacco products.

With nearly 1,000 new laws in effect, there’s plenty to review. Read Phil’s story here. Happy New Year!

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


A Black woman stands at a lectern on a beach and speaks, raising her fist
Kavon Ward, center, who started the Justice for Bruce’s Beach movement, speaks in July 2022 at a ceremony to present the property deed to the Bruce family.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

Six months after a historic decision, the Bruce family is selling Bruce’s Beach back to Los Angeles County for $20 million. The Manhattan Beach shoreline property originally belonged to Willa and Charles Bruce. Last year, L.A. County returned the property to the Bruce family as it tried to “right the wrongs of the past.” The gesture was acknowledged as the first time the government ceded back property to a Black family after it had been stolen. Los Angeles Times


The clock winds down for the Dodgers to make a decision on pitcher Trevor Bauer. The National League West champions, coming off a disappointing playoff performance and off-season in which key stars left for greener pastures, have until Friday to trade, cut or reinstate Bauer. Major League Baseball decided Bauer violated the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy. He was given a 324-game suspension that was reduced to 194 contests and he is eligible to return. Los Angeles Times


Eric Garcetti speaks at a microphone
President Biden is expected to renew his support for former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s bid to become ambassador to India.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti may get another chance at the U.S. ambassadorship to India. Garcetti was initially named for the position in July 2021, but sexual harassment allegations against one of his top aides, Rick Jacobs, dogged the then-mayor and his nomination failed to advance. With an extra Democratic seat in the Senate, Biden is expected to renew his support for Garcetti. Los Angeles Times

Speaker of the House still eludes Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) after multiple votes Tuesday. McCarthy failed to reach the 218 votes needed to take over the position, which is second in line to the presidency after the vice president. No one has needed more than one ballot on the floor since 1923. Los Angeles Times


The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles said it was investigating a possible hacking. A ransomware gang is claiming responsibility for the attack. The group said it stole 15 terabytes of data from the housing agency, which services 19,000 low-income families from throughout the county. TechCrunch

The 2023 court docket includes a series of high-profile cases in San Diego. “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis is set to be sentenced in a San Diego federal courthouse as part of a large U.S. Navy corruption scandal, pending extradition from Venezuela. Also on the docket are the cases of a New Zealand porn king and a couple charged in the death of their 11-year-old daughter. San Diego Union-Tribune


Twitter’s landlord says the San Francisco-based social media giant owes it $136,260 in back rent. The owner, Columbia REIT, said Twitter has been in default of payment since Dec. 21 and filed a lawsuit in San Francisco State Superior Court. Twitter did not respond to requests for comment as it laid off its communications department. San Francisco Chronicle

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a wet sidewalk against a dark, rainy sky
Rain falls on New Year’s Eve at the Azusa train station in Azusa, Calif. More is expected to hit Southern California hard on Wednesday and Thursday.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Another round of heavy winds and rain is expected to pound Southern California. This atmospheric river is forecast to be strongest Wednesday and Thursday. Los Angeles County could see 2 to 4 inches of rain with some areas hitting 6 inches. A flood watch has been called for Northern California. Los Angeles Times

Fresno County declares a state of emergency as cases of flu, COVID-19 and RSV rise. Non-emergency patients are being asked to see personal physicians, urgent care centers or other services. The county board of supervisors voted in the resolution as a way to call on the state and federal governments for help. Fresno Bee


San Diego’s famous open-air Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park once hosted the Beastie Boys, Ella Fitzgerald and the Rolling Stones. Now the visitors include weeds that sprout among dilapidated benches and beer cans near the wooden stage. The Starlight Bowl has sat vacant for 12 years, but San Diego officials secured $500,000 in funding as the mayor and a nonprofit work to save the property. San Diego Union-Tribune


Why are these salmon eating so many anchovies? Researchers say California’s Chinook salmon may be heading toward extinction thanks to their salty diet. Anchovies contain an enzyme that destroys a vital vitamin known as thiamine, which could have contributed to a terrible 2022 spawning season. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: 60, rainy. San Diego: 65, cloudy. San Francisco: 58, high winds and rain. San Jose: 59, high winds and rain. Fresno: 60, scattered showers. Sacramento: 59, high wind and rain.


We’re trying something new down here! We asked readers to send us photos and blurbs about California landmarks that are interesting or important to you.

Today’s landmark love: Henry W. Coe State Park, submitted by Cupertino resident Pete Palmer.

A rock formation known as Eagle Pines in Henry W. Coe State Park.
(Pete Palmer)

Pete writes:

Henry Coe State Park is the largest state park in Northern California but is still largely invisible to the public. It has a rich history dating back to the Ohlone Native Americans who lived here for many centuries. The park includes three separate watersheds which drain into the San Joaquin Valley, San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay. It is home to tule elk, deer, wild pigs, coyotes, cougars, bobcats, tarantulas and many species of birds. The seasonal streams and waterfalls are truly special, as are the wildflower displays in the spring. The hills are steep enough to warrant the mantra, “People come to the Sierras to train for Coe.”

Wildflowers bloom on Steer Ridge in Henry W. Coe State Park in April 2018.
(Pete Palmer)

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

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