With California’s economy flirting with a recession and the state’s fiscal picture growing cloudy, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed 156 of the bills lawmakers passed in the final frenetic weeks of this year’s legislative session.
Still, Newsom signed a number of big-splash new laws – including minimum wage increases for health care and fast-food workers, a tax on guns and ammunition, and new requirements for companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and their exposure to financial risk from climate change.
But the governor, in the first year of his second term, rejected about 14 percent of the bills passed by the Legislature. Many of the bills he returned to the Legislature came with an identical veto message noting that lawmakers sent him measures that collectively would have added $19 billion in costs that weren’t included in the state budget.
Here’s a quick look at some of Newsom’s actions on bills that have garnered much attention:
The governor signed three of organized labor’s highest priority bills, creating a $25 per hour minimum wage for health care workers, a $20 wage floor for a half million California fast food workers and five days of paid sick leave for most workers, up from the current three days. But he vetoed many other bills on labor’s wish list.
Newsom’s rejection of a bill giving unemployment benefits to striking workers drew fierce criticism from labor advocates who are typically his close allies. He also turned back a bill that would have added “caregiver status” to the list of characteristics that provide workers extra legal protection from discrimination in the workplace and another bill that would have required grocery stores to provide severance pay to workers laid off after company mergers. Also a casualty of Newsom’s veto pen: a bill that would have forced Californians to follow Cal-OSHA workplace safety rules for house cleaners and other domestic employees working in their homes.
And when it came to the battle over automation, Newsom vetoed a labor-backed proposal to require driverless trucks to have a human operator on board. The reason: Newsom said his administration is already ensuring that self-driving trucks will be safe.
The governor signed two major bills on climate change that will require companies operating in California to report the greenhouse gas emissions of their entire supply chains and disclose any risk that climate change poses to their company finances. But in an unusual move, he said that neither bill was workable in its final form and directed his administration to work with the bills’ authors and the Legislature to carry clean-up legislation next year that, among other things, could extend the timeline for implementation.
In his latest move to reduce homelessness, Newsom signed a controversial measure that will make it easier for the government to detain people if they are unable to provide for their personal safety or necessary medical care due to either substance abuse or serious mental health illness. Current law requires that someone be a danger to themselves or others before they can be detained.
Finally, Newsom waded into the conversation on several bills that got a lot of attention on social media and cable news channels. Some examples:
- He vetoed a bill backed by LGBTQIA+ advocacy organizations that would have required judges weighing child custody disputes to consider whether each parent accepted the child’s declared gender identity.
- He vetoed bills to allow Californians to smoke cannabis in special cafes – citing the state’s longstanding rules banning smoking in workplaces – and another to decriminalize “magic mushrooms” and some other psychedelic drugs.
- He signed several bills involving firearms, including one to apply an 11 percent tax on the purchase of guns and ammunition to fund security programs in the schools. If the law survives a court challenge, it will be the nation’s first state excise tax on guns. He also signed a bill to amend the state’s concealed weapons permit rules in an effort to comply with a recent US Supreme Court decision.
What’s next? With legislative work done for the year, Newsom now turns to his 2024-2025 budget proposal. But lawmakers looking to take his advice and shoehorn their bills into his spending plan may be disappointed. The state’s Legislative Analyst said recently that California might already have been in a recession, and if so, it’s unclear that it has ended. Either way, it looks like revenues will be tight as Newsom sets his priorities for the new year.