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Newsom Vetoes Free Condoms for Students, Decriminalizing Transit Fare Cheaters



On Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have required free condoms be made available to all public high school students. (AP File)
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Gov. Gavin Newsom took a day off from bill signings and vetoes on Monday.

Lynn La


But he unleashed such a big flood of bill decisions over the weekend — about 470 — that legislators and advocacy groups, not to mention reporters, are still catching up.

Key Bills Signed

• Cosmetic chemicals: By 2027, California will ban 26 potentially toxic ingredients from personal care products, according to CalMatters’ economic reporter Levi Sumagaysay. The chemicals — found in nail polish, perfume, and more — can raise the risk of cancer, birth defects, and reproductive problems, and are already banned by the European Union.

• Student financial aid: Newsom signed into law a measure to make it easier for community college students to get financial aid by requiring schools to drop requirements that exceed federal mandates for aid eligibility, such as meeting a certain grade point average.

• Firefighters’ mental health: The governor approved extending to 2029 an expansion of workers’ compensation coverage for firefighters struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

• Child sexual abuse on social media: Social media sites, including TikTok and Instagram, will soon be held liable for spreading content depicting child sexual abuse or trafficking, and can be fined as much as $4 million for each act of exploitation on their platforms.

• Lunar New Year: California community colleges can observe Lunar New Year as a state holiday. In a statement, Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco and author of the bill said the measure will help “strengthen cultural identity” and “create opportunities for people to learn about each other.”

Consequential Vetoes

• Social Security benefits for foster children: Going against a nationwide trend, the governor vetoed a measure Sunday that would have prohibited county child welfare agencies from reimbursing themselves with money meant for foster youths. The move defied children’s advocates who argue that the funds should be accessible to the children when they’re adults.

• Missing foster children: The governor also vetoed a measure to establish additional notification procedures for social workers and probation officers when a child in the foster care system goes missing. The veto, which came a day before Indigenous Peoples’ Day, is especially acute for Indigenous communities, as California is one of the top five states with the highest caseload of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

• Undocumented seniors: Newsom struck down a proposal to expand an existing state program — which gave cash assistance to elderly, blind, or disabled immigrants — to eligible undocumented seniors. In his message, the governor emphasized his current efforts to “support the undocumented community” but wrote that without providing funding, passing this measure would “not be prudent nor would (the policy) meet its intended purpose.”

• Fare evasion: In agreement with the BART board and other critics, the governor vetoed a measure to decriminalize transit fare evaders, writing that he “cannot take an action… that could, in turn, contribute to an increase in crime on transit.” (Meanwhile, BART continues to roll out its tougher fare gates in an effort to combat fare evaders.)

• Free condoms: Though the governor supported improving “adolescent sexual health,” he ultimately axed a measure to require California high schools to provide students free condoms, again due to costs. “This bill would create an unfunded mandate to public schools that should be considered in the annual budget process,” Newsom wrote in a message explaining why he vetoed the bill, known as Senate bill 541.

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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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