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Newsom Gives His Veto Pen a Workout. Which Big Bills Did He Bounce?
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By CalMatters
Published 6 months ago on
October 9, 2023

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Up against an Oct. 14 deadline and with more than 700 bills on his desk heading into the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom decided the fate of bills —  a lot of bills.

Lynn La

CalMatters

The governor’s office put out a big batch of nearly 150 actions on Saturday, a second one on Sunday of about 130, and a third one late Sunday night of about 190 more. That unusual volume for a weekend means he still has some 260 bills to go.

And he may have run out of ink in his veto pen this weekend: He blocked 143, or 30%. The reasons he cited touched on a few common themes: The bills were unnecessary, or they went too far on policy too fast. Or they could cost the state lots of money — a common rationale governors use for bills they don’t like.

In several veto messages, he repeated language about covering a $30 billion budget deficit without cutting major programs “relied on by millions of Californians.” He added that the Legislature “sent me bills outside of this budget process” that “would add nearly $19 billion of unaccounted costs.”

Last year, he vetoed a total of 169 bills, or about 14%, while signing 997. The Legislature can override vetoes, with a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and Senate. But that happens rarely, and in recent decades almost never.

The Vetoes

Some specific vetoes:

  • Juror pay: Though he praised the measure’s aim to “create a more equal justice system” in his veto message, Newsom said no to expanding to more counties a program to raise the daily stipend for jury service from $15 to $100 for low-income residents.
  • Cannabis cafes: Raising concerns about undermining the state’s “long-standing smoke-free” protections for workers, the governor vetoed a measure that would have let cannabis lounges sell food and host live events.
  • Caste discrimination: For now, California will not become the first state to explicitly ban caste discrimination. Calling it “unnecessary,” Newsom said that current state law already prohibits discrimination based on ancestry (which caste is considered a subset of), and that “civil rights protections shall be liberally construed” by the courts.
  • Decriminalizing psychedelics: Though Newsom said he supports “new opportunities to address mental health through psychedelic medicines,” he vetoed a bill to decriminalize the use of certain hallucinogens because of a lack of state guardrails for usage. He urged lawmakers to draft legislation next year that would include such “therapeutic guidelines.”
  • Public records ombudsperson: A measure to establish an ombudsperson who investigates whether denials of public records requests comply with state law.
  • Social housing, homeless youth housing: Budget concerns came up in vetoes of two housing-related bills: One aimed at developing state-owned social housing projects, and another would have required the state to help fund organizations that provide transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Hearing aids, insulin pricing, and perinatal care: Three health care-related bills got the ax: One to require health plans to cover hearing aids for individuals age 20 and younger; another that would have capped insulin copayments to $35 and a third that would have expanded perinatal care under Medi-Cal.

The Signings

Newsom still signed more bills than he blocked. Among them:

  • Water rights: A measure that spells out the state’s powers to investigate water rights claims and allows the California Water Board to take action against unauthorized water users.
  • Renter rights: Cities and counties will no longer be able to enact housing programs that encourage or require landlords to evict or penalize tenants who have interactions with law enforcement.
  • Worker rights: The California Labor Commissioner and state courts will assume employers are illegally retaliating if they take certain disciplinary actions against a worker who has made a wage claim.
  • Junk fees: A measure sponsored by Attorney General Rob Bonta will prohibit companies, starting July 1, from advertising the prices of goods or services that don’t include mandatory “junk” fees (think hotel reservations and concert tickets).
  • Legislative union: By 2026, legislative staffers will have the right to form a union. Democratic Assemblymember Tina McKinnor of Inglewood ,who authored the bill, called its passing “an incredible win for staff, Members, and California’s democracy.”
  • Climate accountability: One measure (which was weakened before reaching the governor) will require large companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions, and the other requires companies to biennially report their financial risks from climate change.
  • Food chemicals ban: The sale of food items that include four food additives will be prohibited in California beginning in 2027. Known as the “Skittles ban” when it was introduced, the measure has since dropped the chemical in that candy from its list. In his signing message, the governor said there had been many “misconceptions” about the bill and its impacts.

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About the Author

Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Prior to joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an ed-tech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento Bee as a Kaiser media fellow and was an intern reporter at Capitol Weekly. She’s a graduate of UC Davis and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

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