What did Newsom sign — and veto — this legislative season?

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California will soon be home to a task force dedicated to fentanyl overdose prevention. School districts will need to think through body shaming, and prepare policies on how to prevent it. And community colleges will be required to provide in-state tuition for some in Mexico, including low-income students that live less than 45 miles from California’s border. Those were among 100 new measures Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Friday, working through the last of a stack of 1,046 bills sent to his desk from the legislature dominated by his fellow Democrats. In his final day of bill signings Friday — the deadline was midnight Saturday — Newsom vetoed just two bills, for a total of 890 signed and 156 vetoed in 2023. That’s a slight uptick in rejecting proposed legislation that reflects both his concerns about the state’s finances in an uncertain economy, as well as his national political ambitions. “Newsom has been put in a position of serving as the legislature’s adult supervision,” said Dan Schnur, a political analyst and professor at the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Southern California and Pepperdine University. “He indulges their instincts when he can, but there are certain points, particularly on fiscal and public safety matters, where he has to rein them in.” Of the bills he vetoed Friday, AB 616 would have provided transparency over health provider finances he said was “premature.” SB 509 would have required school staff training in behavioral health issues that Newsom said should have been considered in the context of the state budget. But this year, Newsom has moved forward on a number of other hot button issues, such as education, gun safety and housing. Legislation that will trickle down to California’s public school students include bills that will increase support for LGBTQ+ students, prohibit book bans, and mandate schools have one gender-neutral restroom on each campus, among other topics. On Friday, Newsom added AB 446 requiring schools to teach cursive handwriting, AB 873 requiring media literacy instruction so they can spot misinformation from questionable online sources, and SB 765 making it easier to bring retired teachers back to the classroom. In the gun safety realm, Newsom cleared the way for an 11% tax on guns and ammunition, stronger concealed carry laws, and an enhanced process for removing firearms from those who aren’t allowed to own them. And in regard to housing, Newsom signed bills to strengthen renters’ rights and facilitate more housing development, among other related legislation. Newsom also pushed forward a number of bills related to the environment, directing the legislature to allocate $6 million toward the monitoring and researching of offshore wind projects, and mandating new buildings in California to become more water efficient, among other environmentally focused legislation. With a federal fraud trial underway over the collapse of cryptocurrency giant FTX, Newsom signed a pair of bills, AB 39 and SB 401, aimed at providing some oversight. He even penned a signing message for AB 39 saying “stronger consumer and investor protections will prevent fraud and ensure bad actors are held accountable.” Larry Gerston, professor emeritus of political science at San Jose State University, said bills Newsom signed largely were consistent with his progressive politics. “People will pick it all apart and say, well, he did this, or he did that,” Gerston said. “But I don’t see any big movement one way or the other. He’s been Newsom. He’s stayed left of center.” Newsom’s veto rates — 15% in 2023, 14% in 2022, 8% in 2021, and 13% in 2020 — have been more or less in line with his Democratic predecessor, Jerry Brown, and lower than those of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to the Senate research office survey. Still, many of Newsom’s vetoes were related to cost — and in a number of veto messages, Newsom repeatedly cited the state’s ongoing budget crisis. This year, California has been forced to deal with a $30 billion budget shortfall. According to Newsom’s repeated veto messages, the Legislature sent an array of bills to his desk which, if fully enacted, would have saddled the state with $19 billion of additional costs. “With our state facing continuing economic risk and revenue uncertainty, it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications,” Newsom wrote in a veto message for a bill that would have provided free condoms to teens in California’s public schools. While the legislature can override a governor’s veto, it’s incredibly hard to do. And because such a move requires a two-thirds vote in both houses, it hasn’t been done in more than four decades. Still, there were some notable vetoes over this legislative session of bills that — if passed — may have caused Newsom headaches in the heartland during a future run for president, such as bills to legalize psychedelic drugs and Amsterdam-style “cannabis cafes.” Even with financial constraints, Newsom seems to have stayed true to the topics he’s become known for, continuing to demonstrate the center-left stance that for years, experts say Newsom hasn’t wavered from. He’s given the labor movement some wins — including Friday SB 525, which sets a $25 minimum wage for health care workers — but not all of them, Gerston said. He’s remained a steadfast supporter of abortion rights. And he’s maintained California’s status as a sanctuary state for immigrants. “He remains front and center on all of those things, and depending upon one’s own evaluation of him, he’s at the top of his class or doesn’t belong in his class,” Gerston said. “That’s just a judgment call that people will make.”

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