More than 1,000 New California Laws

As published on by Jennifer Wadsworth January 3, 2019

Jerry Brown signed more than 1,000 new laws into existence during his final year in office—some bizarre, some useful, some designed to temper the disruptive reign of President Donald Trump. The laws, most of which went into effect at the dawn of the New Year, tackle a vast range of issues, from corporate leadership and gun control, to crime, punishment and labor. Here’s a look at some of what was enacted in 2019.

Climate. California’s utility companies must generate at least 60 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. That’s 10 percent higher than before. Policymakers, who pitched the new mandate in reaction to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, also set a goal of weaning the state off fossil fuels by 2045.

At the behest of another new law, California will study ways to curb the effects of climate change, protect Obama-era plans to remove hydrofluorocarbons from refrigerants and promote use of bio-methane. The Trump administration is also banned from expanding oil drilling off the coast.

Justice. Kids younger than 16 can no longer be tried in court as adults—even for homicide. The reform legislation also keeps kids under 12 out of criminal detention unless they’re accused of murder or sexual assault.

Gender. California is the first state in the union to require publicly traded companies to appoint at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of this year. Companies need to have two female board members by the end of 2021.

Another law inspired by the MeToo movement bans secret legal settlements over sexual misconduct or discrimination claims. Meanwhile, Californians may now list their gender as non-binary on driver’s licenses.

Wildfires. Utilities can pass the buck for legal costs related to the fatal 2017 wildfires onto consumers, even if the companies are found at fault for the infernos that wreaked more than $10 billion in damages. That’s one among a raft of wildfire-related laws that took effect Jan. 1. Other fire-inspired legislation eases restrictions on logging and controlled burns, modernizes emergency alert systems and requires for-profit utilities to upgrade aging equipment that could potentially spark fires.

Guns. California bolstered its gun laws in response to a rash of high-profile mass shootings. From now on, anyone convicted of domestic violence will be barred for life from getting their hands on a gun. Meanwhile, those under 21 can no longer buy a rifle or shotgun unless they’re in the military or law enforcement or have a hunting license.

Labor. California’s hourly wage floor rose from $11 to $12 for businesses with 25 or more workers. For smaller employers, it went from $10.50 to $11. Locally, the minimum wage is markedly hire. In San Jose, it’s now $15 an hour.