Gov. Gavin Newsom is in the home stretch of signing and vetoing about 1,000 bills the Legislature sent him this year. He has only about 100 left to decide on by the deadline this Saturday.
As you might expect with a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature, most of Newsom’s decisions amount to a big “Yes.” He typically signs between 84% to 87% of the bills that reach his desk. That’s what makes the “Nos” more interesting.
Newsom’s vetoes this year show that he’s acting as a moderating force on the liberal Legislature. One reason is simply that the Legislature was unusually progressive this year, passing significant labor-backed bills that had failed in the past. Another is that the state’s finances are shakier than they were earlier in Newsom’s tenure, dooming many proposals that involved spending money.
And then there is the fact that Newsom, as he likes to say, is “a future ex-governor.” He’ll be termed out of California’s top office in three years, and it’s obvious Newsom has an interest in national politics. He established his liberal bona fides in his first term as governor. If he decides to run for president in the future, showing some moderation in his second term will likely be a benefit.
I’m Laurel Rosenhall, the Times’ Sacramento bureau chief, here to share three trends I’ve spotted in Newsom’s recent vetoes.
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Newsom was a little stingy
The governor vetoed dozens of bills using the same boilerplate paragraph that argued he won’t approve spending outside of the annual state budget.
“We enacted a budget that closed a shortfall of more than $30 billion through balanced solutions,” Newsom wrote.
“This year, however, the Legislature sent me bills outside of this budget process that, if all enacted, would add nearly $19 billion of unaccounted costs in the budget.”
He cited ongoing uncertainty about the economic future and wrote that “it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications.”
This was the argument Newsom made in vetoing legislation to require independent redistricting in Los Angeles, as well as numerous other measures. Among them: proposals to develop housing for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, expand the availability of free diapers to low-income families, and require health plans to cover treatment for emergency mental health and substance abuse without prior authorization.
Newsom showed his roots as a businessman
Newsom was an entrepreneur before he got into politics, and still has ownership stakes in wine and hospitality businesses valued at many millions of dollars.
While he rode to office with the support of organized labor — and has approved many union-backed measures, including higher wages for fast food workers and an increase in paid sick days — Newsom rejected some labor priorities with vetoes that showed the mind-set of a business owner.
In vetoing a bill that would have allowed workers to receive unemployment benefits when they strike, Newsom wrote that doing so would increase the debt California owes the federal government for unemployment payments and could “significantly [increase] taxes on employers.”
His veto of a bill that would have given workplace safety protections to nannies and housekeepers argued that “private households and families cannot be regulated in the exact same manner as traditional businesses.” In particular, Newsom called out workplace regulations that require “providing an eyewash station if household workers use chemicals like bleach.”
Newsom showed support for Silicon Valley in putting the kibosh on two bills that sought to rein in Big Tech. He vetoed a bill that would have required human drivers in autonomous trucks and another that responded to massive job losses in the tech industry by increasing the notice period companies must give workers of impending layoffs.
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Sometimes Newsom just acts like a dad
From his earliest days as governor, Newsom made clear that his role as the father of four young children would shape his priorities in leading the state. He delivered his 2019 inauguration speech with his toddler Dutch on his hip and championed family-friendly policies including universal preschool and longer paid leave for new parents.
Newsom’s veto messages don’t explicitly say anything personal. They contain formal arguments based on policy, law and budget. But in reading some of his vetoes this year, and knowing that his older kids are moving into their teenage years, I felt the dad vibes coming through – especially on issues related to sex and drugs.
Newsom vetoed a bill designed to make it easier for teenagers to get condoms with an argument about funding. In vetoing the measure that would have prohibited stores from refusing to sell condoms to youth and required high schools to distribute condoms for free, Newsom wrote that the bill would have created an unfunded program that was not included in the state’s annual budget.
While Newsom signed several bills to expand rights for LGBTQ+ youth, he vetoed one that would have made a child’s gender identity an issue in custody disputes between parents. The bill would have instructed judges to consider, among other factors, a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or expression when determining custody or visitation rights. Newsom wrote that he held “a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians” but that courts are already required to consider a child’s health, safety and welfare when making custody decisions.
Newsom also vetoed two bills that would have given Californians more legal leeway to use drugs. He wrote that legislation to allow Amsterdam-style cafes for smoking cannabis would violate California’s longstanding ban on smoking in workplaces. He quashed an attempt to decriminalize the use of some psychedelic drugs, including magic mushrooms, by arguing that the state should develop rules for safe use of psychedelics in medical treatments before loosening the law.
Of course, looking at legislation through a dad lens also means avoiding some national headlines about crazy California. And that could be what Newsom is aiming for.
Keeping up with California politics
Former Dodgers star and Republican Steve Garvey enters U.S. Senate race
After nearly two decades of statewide Republican candidates being rejected by California’s left-leaning electorate, former Dodgers star Steve Garvey hopes to drag the GOP back toward political relevance. Garvey announced that he is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Dianne Feinstein, a gambit by a political newcomer banking on his baseball fame and affable demeanor to overcome the long odds Republicans face in this solidly Democratic state.
California Republicans are hoping Steve Garvey is in a league of his own
But if Republican Garvey is anywhere near as good a political candidate as he was a ballplayer, and Democrat Laphonza Butler, recently named to serve the rest of Feinstein’s term, steps onto the field, it may well mean this: Only one Democrat — not two as has been anticipated — will advance from the March primary to the November general election next year, writes columnist George Skelton.
How Newsom made his surprise decision for Senate pick
The death of Sen. Feinstein last month left a California U.S. Senate seat vacant and, seemingly, put Newsom in a no-win situation of his own making. But Newsom didn’t see it that way.
At forum for California’s Senate hopefuls, few policy differences but some fiery jabs
All three leading Democrats reiterated their support for “Medicare for all,” said the state and federal governments needed to build more housing and criticized Newsom for vetoing a bill that would have allowed striking workers to access unemployment insurance.
Column: Black women pulled together for a Senate seat. Now it’s pulling Black women apart
What the sisterhood — and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who echoed their message — didn’t see coming was that Newsom would refuse to appoint the Black woman they wanted, writes columnist Erika D. Smith. Instead of Rep. Barbara Lee, he elevated Butler.
How the carpenters’ union broke the California logjam over new housing laws
Newly signed laws to spur home building come after years of gridlock on housing proposals, leading to a rift between the California Conference of Carpenters, which is gaining newfound clout in the state Capitol, and the State Building and Construction Trades Council, one of the most influential players in Sacramento over the last decade.
Newsom signs bills to lower tenant security deposits, prevent more evictions
Newsom signed several new laws to protect tenants against eviction and high rental costs, including a bill that caps how much people must pay upfront in security deposits. The bills strengthen California’s already robust tenant protection laws and aim to prevent vulnerable, low-income renters from falling into homelessness.
Newsom signs bill that would make it easier to delete online personal data
Californians will be able to make a single request asking that data brokers delete their personal information, under a bill Newsom signed into law known as the Delete Act.
Newsom signs bill to curb spread of child sexual abuse material on social media
Newsom signed a bill into law that would hold social media platforms liable for failing to combat the spread of child sexual abuse materials. It’s a victory for child safety advocates who pushed for the legislation amid stiff opposition from tech groups that urged lawmakers to delay its passage for another year.
New California law takes a step toward single-payer healthcare
Newsom signed a bill that sets the stage for California to work toward universal healthcare, such as a single-payer system that progressive activists have sought for years.
Newsom vetoes bill banning caste discrimination in the workplace, housing and beyond
Newsom vetoed a bill highly watched by the South Asian community that would have banned discrimination on the basis of caste — a system of social hierarchy that dictates a person’s standing from the time they’re born. Newsom called the bill “unnecessary” in his veto message, saying existing laws already prohibit such discrimination.
Hoping to lower dropout rates, Newsom bans ‘willful defiance’ suspensions through high school
Newsom signed a bill that will ban “willful defiance” suspensions for middle and high school students who demonstrate bad behavior, including breaking the dress code, talking back to a teacher or using their phone in class.
Newsom signs bill to make California first state in nation to ban ‘toxic’ food additives
California became the first state in the nation to prohibit four food additives found in popular cereal, soda, candy and drinks after Newsom signed a ban on the manufacture, sale or distribution of brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye No. 3 — potentially affecting 12,000 products.
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Running a safe and aboveboard election is not simply a matter of turning on the lights at polling places, or sliding a letter opener through an envelope when mail-in ballots arrive.
Column: Nury, Kevin and Gil turn to the most weak salsa excuse of all for their racist remarks
“The truculent trio are all using the same tired bingo card of victimization politics that Donald Trump keeps in his breast pocket. But they’re also employing a novel tactic to argue that it wasn’t them who did any wrong — it was people like me,” writes Times columnist Gustavo Arellano.
‘Flying syringes’ and conspiracies: The far-right battle for a mosquito control board
Hard-right politicians — supported by members of a local militia, state of Jefferson secessionists and residents furious about COVID-19 pandemic restrictions — hold a majority on the powerful Shasta County Board of Supervisors. The appointment of Jon Knight to the vector control board is just the latest example of what many exasperated residents describe as Shasta County’s descent into a political sideshow.