Gov. Newsom’s Pen Creates Winners and Losers

Gov. Gavin Newsom He may have run out of ink in his veto pen last weekend: He blocked 143, or 30% of the bills on his desk.

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.

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 before the deadline.

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 two-thirds majorities in both the Assembly and Senate. But that happens rarely, and in recent decades almost never.

Here are some of the 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.

Here are some bills Newsom signed into law:

Jeanne Kuang is a reporter with CalMatters.

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