Guns, recycling, housing and pets. A rundown of major new laws going into effect January 1

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Starting Jan. 1, new California laws affecting everything from what you can recycle to where you can carry a concealed handgun will go on the books.

Here’s a rundown of the key bills Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in 2023:

Crime

SB 2, which limits where concealed weapons may be carried, is facing a legal challenge.

The law requires people wishing to carry firearms in public to be 21 or older and have at least 16 hours of training. It bars them from carrying at schools, courts, government buildings, prisons, hospitals, airports or bars.

For the first time in 20 years, California is poised to add a crime to the state’s “Three Strikes” law, which can result in people receiving much longer prison sentences.

SB 14 sparked an outcry when the bill initially was voted down in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas to work to get the bill passed and signed into law.

Critics of the law argue that it will not reduce crime, but that it will result in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color.

A pair of bills are set to crack down on the purchasing of body armor in the state.

AB 92 makes it a misdemeanor to acquire body armor if one is legally prohibited from owning a firearm, while AB 301 makes the purchase of body armor into criteria a judge can consider when authorizing a gun violence restraining order.

Recycling

Just in time for you to ring in the New Year with a sparkling beverage of your choice, a 2022 California law effective Jan. 1 will allow you to recycle the bottle when it is empty.

SB 1013 amends the state’s beverage container recycling law to include wine and spirits containers, including bottles, boxes, bladders and pouches. If you take them to a recycling center, you can redeem them for 5, 10 or 25 cents, depending on what you are turning in.

The beverage container recycling law will change on Jan. 1 to also include any size of fruit or vegetable juice container.

Previously, the law restricted container size to 45 ounces or smaller. But SB 353 lifts that restriction.

The environment

Oil companies looking to purchase abandoned wells will be required to pay to plug and clean them in full, beginning this January.

AB 1167 is intended to prevent the wells from becoming “orphaned,” posing hazards to nearby communities.

The bill overcame stiff opposition from the oil industry, which argued that it would not make a significant difference but only add to the burden of smaller oil companies looking to buy wells from larger ones.

Newsom too expressed concern about the law resulting in oil companies “deserting these hazardous wells,” and said in his signing statement that he is willing to work with lawmakers in 2024 and beyond to make any necessary changes.

Housing

Churches and nonprofit education institutions will be allowed to build affordable housing on their land without having to go through an expensive, laborious rezoning process or review under California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

SB 4, dubbed the “Yes In God’s Backyard” (YIGBY) law, will allow for development of an estimated 171, 000 acres across the state, according to the UC Berkeley Terner Center.

The measure stipulates that any organization building streamlined affordable housing on their property must maintain the affordability of those homes for a minimum of 55 years for rentals and 45 years for owner-occupied units.

Speaking of CEQA, AB 1633 clarifies that the law cannot be used to delay or block housing projects once all legal requirements have been met. The law is intended to curb bad faith environmental reviews from being used to block affordable housing projects.

Pets

Beginning in January, pet owners will be able to see the vet via video conferencing.

AB 1399 is intended to provide owners more flexibility, and to compensate for the state’s shortage of veterinary workers.

And finally, with natural disasters a sad fact of life, California residents will be able to take their pets with them in the event that they are forced to evacuate. AB 781 requires that local governments designate pet-friendly emergency shelters. It is intended to prevent people from being forced to choose between their pets and their personal safety.