New California laws that take effect January 2022

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 770 new bills into law in October, but here is a look at what new legislation will impact your life beginning January 1, 2022.

To-go alcoholic beverages

SB-389 states that restaurants and other establishments with a liquor license will be permitted to continue selling to-go wine and cocktails until December 31, 2026.

California minimum wage

California's minimum wage will hit $14 on January 1 for employers with 25 employees or less, and increase to $15 for those with 26 or more employees.

Spousal rape

AB-1171 alters California's penal code so that spousal rape is no longer treated differently than rape.

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Mugshots released by police

AB-1475 limits the circumstances in which law enforcement is allowed to release the mugshot of a suspect on social media in order to better protect the rights of people who have been arrested but not yet prosecuted.

Equestrian safety

AB-974 introduces new safety regulations for anyone riding horses on paved highways. With this bill, any riders under 18 will be required to wear a helmet, and anyone riding at night will be required to have either reflective equipment or a light on their body or the animal.

Tribal emergency vehicles

California will extend rights for Native American tribes' use of emergency vehicles. Starting in 2022, the definition of "emergency vehicle" will be expanded to include those owned or operated by a federally recognized tribe, responding to emergencies, fires, etc. AB-798 would also exempt drivers of tribal ambulances from needing a license from the CHP Commissioner. 

Living conditions for farm animals

California voters approved Proposition 12 in 2018. This proposition adds specifications on living conditions for certain farm animals, including veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. The proposition will set higher standards for animals' freedom of movement and increase the maximum floor space of containment units.

Vote by mail

Starting in 2022, the state will require elections officials to mail ballots to all registered voters for all elections and will allow any registered voter to vote by mail for any election. AB-37 will also set minimum standards for ballot drop-off boxes. In counties that don't allow for all mail-in voting, the new law will require either at least two drop boxes in the jurisdiction where the election is held, or one for every 30,000 registered voters, whichever is more. With the expansion of mail-in ballots, election officials will be allowed to process votes early, on the 29th day before any election. 

RELATED: All California voters will receive mail-in ballots under new law

Using a mail-in ballot is not mandatory, however, election officials are required to send a ballot to every voter. There will continue to be polling places open for early voting and Election Day. 

Emotional support animals

A new law would require emotional support animal providers to specify in writing that the animals aren't entitled to the same rights as guide, service, and signal animals. Doctors will also only be al allowed to recommend emotional support animals if certain conditions are met, including having a relation with a patient for longer than 30 days.


Among two-dozen new higher education laws are two that try to make it easier for students in community colleges to transfer into public universities. One streamlines an application process that students have described as a maze, while another requires community college classes to have the same course numbers as the comparable courses in four-year colleges to reduce confusion.

Warehouse distribution center quotas

AB-701 would require warehouses and distribution centers to provide new employees a written description of all quotas within 30 days of hire.

Genetic data privacy

AB-825 expands on the Information Practices Act of 1977. That law requires companies that hold data about Californians to disclose when they've had a data breach. In 2022, that law will expand to include all genetic data, such as samples sent to family ancestry companies.

Gender-neutral store displays

California becomes the first state to require large department stores — those with at least 500 employees — to display products like toys and toothbrushes in gender-neutral ways. The requirement does not include clothes and does not ban traditional boys’ and girls’ sections. But it says large stores must also have a gender-neutral section displaying a "reasonable selection" of items "regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys." Enforcement won’t start until Jan. 1, 2024.

Wage theft

AB-1003 classifies intentional theft of wages by an employer, over $950 over 12 months as grand theft, which is punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $5,000. Under this law, wage theft includes tips, benefits and more.

Public contractors

AB-1023 would require all contractors and subcontractors on public works projects to be able to provide payroll records electronically.

Protected time off

Among other things, AB-1033 would expand protected unpaid leave under California Family Rights Act to include leave to care for a parent-in-law.

Virtual administrative hearings

AB-1578 amends current law to allow for virtual administrative hearings. The new law notes that administrative hearings shall be open to the public, including by live audio or video. 

Traffic safety

Under AB-43, local authorities are authorized to reduce speed limits to protect the safety of vulnerable groups such as pedestrians and cyclists.


The sausage-making stems from a 2018 ballot measure where California voters set the nation’s toughest living space standards for breeding pigs starting Jan. 1. Industry lawsuits opposing the initiative failed, but grocers and restauranteurs are now suing to force a 28-month delay. Critics including some lawmakers of both parties have called for putting off enforcement until 2024 for fear prices will rise and jobs will be lost. California is allowing the continued sale of pork processed under the old rules, which proponents say should blunt any shortage and price surge.

Food delivery apps

AB-286 makes it illegal for food delivery apps to retain any portion of a tip or gratuity, ensuring that it goes directly for the driver. If the order is for pickup, the gratuity must go to the restaurant.

Police misconduct

SB-2 is the most notable police reform bill that was signed into law in 2021. The new law allows the state’s law enforcement accrediting body to decertify officers for serious misconduct — essentially kicking them out of the profession for things like sexual assault, perjury and wrongfully killing civilians. Previously, they could typically find employment in the same profession in other jurisdictions without repercussions.

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