Less Freedom, More Regulation, Higher Costs: 5 Bad New Laws for 2024 – Pacific Research Institute

Less Freedom, More Regulation, Higher Costs: 5 Bad New Laws for 2024


With the clock striking 12 on January 1st, hundreds of new laws will take effect in California.  An increasingly liberal legislature enacted many proposals in 2023 increasing employer burdens, raising consumer costs, and encouraging more outmigration.

Every day, PRI’s scholars cover the good, the bad, and the ugly coming from the State Capitol.  It’s hard to single out the worst of the worst, but here are 5 horrifically noteworthy new state laws with the potential to worsen the quality of life for all.

Higher Costs for Fast Food 

Assembly Bill 1228 will require, starting April 1, fast food locations with at least 60 locations to pay a $20 minimum wage.  As PRI’s Kerry Jackson and Wayne Winegarden wrote of the new law in the Bakersfield Californian, “and just like night follows day, so are higher prices for burgers and burritos.”  McDonald’s and Chipotle have both announced price hikes are on the menu for in California in 2024, which Chipotle anticipating a mid-to-high single-digit price increase.  

Toy Aisles Must Now Be “Gender Neutral” 

A new law taking effect on Jan. 1 requires “shops with more than 500 employees statewide (to) have a gender-neutral area by Jan. 1 or risk incurring up to a $500 fine.”  An example of a solution in search of a problem, our former colleague Evan Harris wrote of the measure in Right by the Bay that market forces have already addressed the issue. “Ask anyone who regularly takes their kids down a toy aisle and they’ll tell you that toy aisles are not set-up by gender anymore . . . they’re usually organized by age or types of toys.”  His message to Sacramento: “please, leave the toy aisle alone.” 

Increasing the Burdens on California’s Struggling Hospitals 

Health care providers would be required to pay certain health care workers in California a $25 minimum wage, phased in over a few years, under Senate Bill 525.  As PRI’s Sally Pipes told the Center Square, “increasing the minimum wage . . . is fiscally irresponsible, particularly at a time when the state is facing a ($68 billion) budget deficit.”  With low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates and a major doctor shortage affecting the ability to provide care, Pipes warns the new law could “definitely further harm those patients” as it could force spending cuts for care to accommodate the minimum wage hike. 

Another Expensive New Burden on Employers 

Senate Bill 616 increases the number of mandatory paid sick days from three to five, which is the equivalent of a 1.2 percent tax on wages.  Maybe the intention of the new law is noble, Kerry Jackson wrote of the new law in Right by the Bay, but “it matters not that few states place a heavier burden on businesses than California . . . what matters to the unions is making sure lawmakers drain businesses on their behalf, even if doing so stretches those businesses to the breaking point and beyond. 

Steppingstone to Single-Payer Health Care 

SB 770 would require the state to come up with a plan to secure federal dollars earmarked for Medi-Cal for a new government-run state health plan by June 2025.  Sally Pipes wrote of the new law in Newsmax that “while California lawmakers are pushing the state closer to single-payer, the patients forced to live under these tragically flawed health systems are clamoring for more private care.” 

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s vice president of marketing and communications.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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