California Introduces New Laws to Safeguard Reproductive Rights and Address Opioid Crisis

San Jose, California – A wave of new legislation in California is set to take effect with the start of the new year, aiming to address various issues and prioritize the well-being of Californians. Governor Gavin Newsom, in partnership with the Legislature, has highlighted a number of bills that focus on reproductive rights, affordable housing, workers’ rights, increasing voter access, holding oil companies accountable, addressing the opioid crisis, and tackling the mental health crisis.

California, known as “more than just a state of dreamers,” but also “a state of doers,” is taking significant steps to safeguard reproductive freedom for all Californians. In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, two bills have been introduced. AB352, led by Assembly District Representative Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, mandates the protection of electronic medical records related to sensitive services such as abortion and gender-affirming care. Meanwhile, SB 345, introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner, defends reproductive and gender-affirming health care services by shielding providers and individuals from enforcement actions based on laws that limit or criminalize such services.

To combat the ongoing opioid crisis, California is working to expand access to lifesaving treatment across communities. AB 663, introduced by Assembly Representative Matt Haney, allows for the establishment of more mobile pharmacies throughout the state. These mobile pharmacies will be able to dispense treatment medications for opioid use disorder, enhancing treatment accessibility.

Concerning workers’ rights, Governor Newsom signed SB 616 by Senator Lena A. Gonzalez, extending the availability of sick days for workers from three to five. This change aims to provide additional support for workers’ health and well-being.

In an effort to ensure equal voting opportunities, AB 545, introduced by Assembly Representative Gail Pellerin, enables voters with disabilities to complete a regular ballot through curbside voting. This process eliminates the requirement for voters to declare their inability to mark their ballot if they need assistance.

In response to price gouging concerns, SBX1-2, introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner, grants the California Energy Commission new authority to penalize refineries and set a maximum gross gasoline refining margin when necessary. Furthermore, it establishes a new independent state watchdog to investigate potential market or price manipulation.

To address the need for more affordable housing, two bills have been introduced. SB 423, led by Senator Scott Wiener, requires local governments that have failed to meet state housing planning goals to streamline affordable housing projects. In addition, SB 4, also introduced by Senator Wiener, allows religious or independent higher education institutions to develop housing on their property, without the need for discretionary local governance intervention.

Californians’ mental health needs are also being addressed through legislative measures. SB 326, introduced by Senator Dr. Susan Talamantes Eggman, reforms the Mental Health Services Act, ensuring its funds are effectively utilized to meet current needs and increasing accountability. Additionally, AB 531, led by Assembly Representative Jacqui Irwin, proposes issuing bonds to fund new behavioral health beds and outpatient treatment slots, with a total investment of $6.38 billion. These proposed reforms will be presented to voters for approval on the March ballot as Proposition 1.

Furthermore, Governor Newsom signed SB 14, introduced by Senator Shannon Grove, in a bid to combat human trafficking. The new law increases penalties for the trafficking of minors for commercial sex acts, designating it as a serious felony.

For students seeking to transfer to the University of California (UC) system, AB 1291, introduced by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, establishes the UC Associate Degree for Transfer Pilot Program. This program prioritizes admission for students who have earned an associate degree for transfer from selected community colleges, streamlining the transfer process and potentially saving students money.

As the new year begins, these new laws reflect California’s commitment to addressing pressing issues, protecting citizens’ rights, and ensuring a better future for all Californians.