These New California Laws May Change How You Live and Work in 2020

From healthcare policy to renter protections, keep an eye out for some changes starting January 1

We’re wrapping up Gavin Newsom’s first year as governor, during which he signed off on hundreds of new laws–many of which will go into effect on January 1, 2020. New laws on the books touch a broad range of issues, from new attempts to address workplace harassment to enacting new gun controls, protecting renters from predatory rent hikes, and cracking down on vaccine exemptions. Here are just a few of the new California laws you’ll want to pay attention to in the coming year.

Additional Restrictions on Medical Exemptions for Vaccines

Outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable illnesses were a common headline in 2019, yet some parents still opted to go around California’s mandatory vaccination rules by taking advantage of exemptions intended for vulnerable children who are medically unable to get vaccines. SB 276 and SB 714 attempt to address the issue by clarifying some details of the exemptions, like what conditions constitute a legitimate reason to be exempted and what types of doctors are credentialed to make that determination.

Health Care for Young Undocumented Immigrants 

California’s low-income health insurance program, Medi-Cal, has covered undocumented children since 2016. Under a new rule, low-income young people from age 19 to 26 will be able to stay covered by the plan. California will become the first state to extend health coverage to this group; some estimates suggest it will make medical care accessible to around 138,000 young adults.

State-Imposed Mandates for Health Insurance

In a policy that may remind you of a certain health care program from the era of a certain 44th president, this new law mandates that everyone in California must have health insurance or pay a penalty on their tax returns. To make getting that insurance easier, additional premium assistance will be available for lower income Covered California enrollees. A number of other new laws impact other facets of health care policy, including adding two more weeks to the Covered California sign-up window, reintroducing some optional Medi-Cal benefits that had been cut, and requiring that mental health care coverage be extended for mothers diagnosed with maternal mental health disorders.


The CROWN Act was designed to prevent discrimination in schools and workplaces based on physical traits like hair that are historically associated with a person’s race. Prior to the act, schools and jobs were allowed to set “grooming policies” that disproportionately impacted people of color, and could be used as an excuse to sideline those people, preventing them from advancing professionally.

Three New Protections for Renters

California renters will get a little help finding and staying in a home in 2020. AB 1482 sets a new statewide cap on annual rent increases at 5 percent plus inflation. Some cities, like Los Angeles, already have caps of various kinds in place; this just makes sure that there’s at least some type of cap everywhere. It also establishes some limitations on the circumstances under which a landlord can evict a tenant once that tenant has been in place for a year. Another new law, SB 329, bans landlords from discriminating against individuals who pay their rent with government assistance programs like Section 8.

New Campaign and Election Laws

You can now officially, legally take your “I voted” selfie. Smart phones will now be allowed in polling places, provided you’re not using the phone to conduct any other banned activity (like advertising for a candidate inside the facility or disrupting the election). Two other changes impact what you’ll experience before you get to the polling place: SB 47 and AB 2188 require new disclosures for digital campaign ads and ballot referenda petitions.

Fighting Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Domestic Violence

A series of new laws attempt to address a variety of concerns under the umbrella of sexual abuse and misconduct. Two laws extend the statue of limitations for victims to come forward about abuse: AB 218 allows a victim of childhood sexual abuse up to age 40 to report; SB 273 gives victims of felony domestic violence five years to report. At work, the time limit to file a claim of harassment with the state Department of Fair Employment has been extended to three years and employers will be required to provide sexual harassment training to more employees. Also, AB 602 explicitly allows a person whose likeness has been used to create “deepfake” pornography without their consent to sue for damages.

The Independent Contractor Rules of AB 5

AB 5 took the California Supreme Court’s decision in the 2018 case of Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles and codified it into a law. The rule puts the onus on employers to prove that they’re classifying independent contractors appropriately, and not using the status to skirt around protections available to employees. Legislators had “gig economy” workers like Uber and Lyft drivers in mind when they wrote the law, but those aren’t the only industries that rely on independent contractor labor, and reception has varied dramatically.

RELATED: California Just Became the First State to Ban Discrimination Against Natural Hair

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