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 a thumbs down to hundreds of bills sent to him by the legislature.
In the first year, he used routine to demonstrate differences from his predecessor, signing dozens of bills that Jerry Brown had vetoed — but also vetoing a greater proportion of bills. than Brown usually did.
In the second year, with the legislature largely sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom signed fewer new laws than any governor in more than 50 years, instead governing by many executive orders.
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 largely demonstrated a traditional philosophy of government, using his veto power to block bills that cost more than the state budget, clashed with work already underway in his administration, or repeated ideas he had already 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. So many of them have flown under the radar. It took reading his veto messages for any explanation or rationale for why he didn’t think the proposals should become law in California. 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 the state had not budgeted, despite an unprecedented windfall of state revenue and federal aid.
That’s what Newsom said as he struck down a bill to increase the amount of pay workers can receive while taking paid family leave – even though he signed two extensions to the family leave program in the past few years. 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 invoked the cost argument by vetoing 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 wrote 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 message to veto similar legislation in 2019,” Newsom wrote in overturning a bill that would prohibit paying petition circulators per signature collected, “I appreciate the intent of this bill to incite popular support for the initiative, the referendum and 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.
Likewise, he vetoed legislation allowing state government supervisors to resolve disputes through binding arbitration saying it could increase costs and create conflicts with existing procedures,” the same concerns I had with a previous, almost identical bill…which I also vetoed.”
Brown — who has seen plenty of repeats as California’s longest-serving governor — also used to use his veto posts to highlight the rationale for his previous 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, said the bill was unnecessary because the state added security measures to its camping reservation website.
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. Vetoing the bill, he said he would 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 legislation, saying it would “increase signage and alcohol advertisements in public spaces and would disadvantage small alcohol manufacturers who cannot compete”. with the marketing budgets of multi-billion dollar corporations.
Caution in evaluating certain 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 crimes won bipartisan support from lawmakers in both houses, but Newsom vetoed it, saying it would lead to “treatment forced” that could impede 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. against 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 to encourage them 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. This bill cleared the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, but was opposed by Newsom’s finance department.
Likewise, he blocked two proposals to change the rules of the road for walkers 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 pointed to 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 crashes and deaths, especially among “children, who may not know how to gauge vehicle speeds or exercise caution to yield to traffic if necessary”.
CalMatters reporter Sameea Kamal contributed to this story.
CalMatters is a nonprofit newsroom committed to explaining California politics and politics.