Why did Governor Newsom kill those California bills?

Governor Gavin Newsom has now completed three rounds of the annual ritual of deciding what should become law in California by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to hundreds of bills sent to him by the legislature .

During the first year, he used the process to demonstrate the differences from his predecessor, sign dozens of bills that Jerry Brown had vetoed — but also vetoing a greater proportion of bills than Brown typically did.

In the second year, with the legislature largely sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom signed fewer new laws than any governor in over 50 years, instead governing by many decrees.

And this year, his third, Newsom has used his veto pen at about half the rate he did in his first year as governor, saying ‘no’ to about 8% of the 836 bills that have hit his desk.

In doing so, Newsom amply demonstrated a traditional philosophy of government, using its veto power to block bills that cost more than the state budget, clashed with work already underway in its administration or were repetitions of ideas it had already been rejected. Essentially, Newsom’s vetoes in 2021 proved more what he has in common with his predecessors than his uniqueness.

“It’s similar to other governors in that there are consistent themes or bases for governors to veto legislation,” said Chris Micheli, a lobbyist and attorney who teaches law classes on the process. legislative.

“His first year in office was very different.”

As Newsom held celebratory public events with lawmakers to sign their bills into law, he announced vetoes by listing them at the end of press releases. One had to read his veto messages for any explanation or rationale as to why he did not believe the proposals should become law. On some bills, he cited several reasons.

Here are some key themes that emerged from Newsom’s 66 vetoes this year:

It’s not in the budget

Some bills advancing causes Newsom has championed in the past have nonetheless been defeated. Why? Because, he argued in numerous veto messages, the proposal would cost money that the state had not budgeted, despite a unprecedented windfall of state revenues and federal aid.

This is what newsom said by canceling a bill to increase the amount of wages workers can receive while taking paid family leave – even if he signed two extensions of the family leave program in past years. A spokesperson for Newsom’s finance department told CalMatters the bill would have increased the cost to employees and the state, including millions in computer upgrades and public outreach.

Newsom also made the cost argument in veto a huge expansion of financial aid to universities. Just a few months ago, he signed a budget that provides an additional $3.3 billion for colleges and universities, including $1.5 billion in increases for scholarships and work opportunities- studies. “Expanding access to financial assistance has been a priority for my administration,” he said. written in his veto. But, he told lawmakers, massive changes to the system should be considered through the regular budget process.

I already told you “no”

As he becomes more experienced as governor, a new theme emerges in Newsom’s vetoes: Calling repeats.

“As I stated in a veto message on similar legislation in 2019,” Newsom wrote: by striking down a bill that would prohibit paying petition distributors per signature collected, “I appreciate the intention of this bill to encourage grassroots support for the initiative, the referendum and the recall process “.

But, he said, changing the way workers are paid to collect signatures could make the process more costly, giving wealthy interests even more influence over the initiative process.

In the same way, he vetoed legislation allowing state government supervisors to resolve disputes through binding arbitration saying it could add costs and create conflicts with existing procedures, “the same concerns I had with a previous, almost identical bill…which I also vetoed”.

Former Governor Brown – who has seen many repeats as California’s longest-serving governor – also used to use his veto messages to highlight the justification for his earlier vetoes.

Overwhelming support is no guarantee

Newsom blocked a number of bills that were uncontroversial as they passed through the Legislative Assembly, taking his veto as a surprise after proposals had been put forward for months without drama.

An attempt to crack down on the use of “bots” to scoop up camping reservations at state parks, for example, passed the legislature with broad bipartisan support and met with no formal opposition. Newsom, however, says the bill is useless because the state has added security measures to its camping reservation site.

A measure requiring police officers to be trained in “interpersonal communication skills and ethical science-based interviewing” also passed through the Capitol without a single “no” vote. Newsom said he liked the idea but didn’t want to create a mandatory cost for police departments. In veto the billHe said he will ask the commission that trains the police to create the training course and leave it up to departments to decide whether their officers take it.

Patio umbrellas hardly seem to be a controversial topic. Lawmakers overwhelmingly agreed that state law should allow liquor manufacturers to give away promotional umbrellas to venues that sell their liquor. But Newsom – owner of wine and hospitality business Plumpjack, who often talks about starting a small wine shop as a young entrepreneur – vetoed the legislationclaiming that it would “increase alcohol signage and advertisements in public spaces and disadvantage small alcohol manufacturers who cannot compete with the marketing budgets of multi-billion dollar corporations”.

Careful when evaluating new ideas

On two bills intended to combat the scourge of drug addiction, Newsom just said no.

A bill allowing Yolo County to create a drug rehabilitation program for drug addicts who commit certain earned crimes bipartisan support lawmakers from both houses, but Newsom vetoed, saying it would lead to “forced treatment” that could hamper “participants’ long-term recovery from their substance use disorder.” Many progressive criminal justice reform groups opposed the bill, including the Drug Policy Alliance, whose board member George Soros donated $1 million to help Newsom fight last month’s recall.

At the same time, Newsom vetoed another bill backed by the Drug Policy Alliance, a measure to pay money to people recovering from drug addiction an incentive to stay sober. He wrote that the state is trying to launch a similar pilot project, the results of which he wants to evaluate before agreeing to any extension. The bill was approved by the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, but was opposed by Newsom’s finance department.

Likewise, he blocked two proposals to change the traffic code for pedestrians and cyclists. One would have decriminalized jaywalking and the other would have allowed cyclists to pass stop signs.

Supporters of the jaywalking bill said people of color were being unfairly targeted. Newsom agreed, but highlighted California’s high pedestrian fatality rate and warned that the bill will “unintentionally reduce pedestrian safety and potentially increase fatalities or serious injuries”.

Similarly, Newsom said the Cyclists Bill could backfire and increase collisions and fatalities, especially among “children, who may not know how to judge the speed of vehicles or exercise the necessary caution to yield to traffic when necessary.”

CalMatters reporter Sameea Kamal contributed to this story.

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Bernard P. Love