Gavin Newsom Casts His Final Vote on High-Profile Bills

Gov. Gavin Newsom, photographed during a television interview last month, had hundreds of bills on his desk and faced a Saturday deadline to sign or reject them.Credit…Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

It’s been an especially busy few days for Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The governor is approaching a Saturday deadline to decide on hundreds of bills that the State Legislature sent to his desk last month for approval. The measures tackle a broad range of issues, including increasing mandatory paid sick leave, installing speeding cameras and banning certain additives in sweets.

Though many bills remain pending — of the more than 2,600 bills introduced this legislative session, the most in a decade, roughly 900 of them made it to Newsom’s desk — the governor has already cast his final vote on some particularly high-profile and closely watched measures.

On Tuesday, the governor signed a bill to make it easier to detain people with mental health and addiction issues and force them into treatment. The new law, which critics say infringes on civil liberties, is part of a broader effort to overhaul the state’s mental health system and address homelessness in California.

Newsom is expected to approve putting an initiative on the March primary election ballot to finance housing for homeless people with mental illness. More than 170,000 people are homeless in California, accounting for about one third of the nation’s homeless population.

“The mental health crisis affects us all, and people who need the most help have been too often overlooked,” Newsom said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are working to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and that people get the help they need and the respect they deserve.”

Over the holiday weekend, the governor signed a landmark bill requiring major companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, a requirement that could have national and global repercussions in the fight against climate change.

He signed a bill making TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites liable if they fail to combat the spread of content that depicts child sexual abuse; another that allows California’s legislative staff members to unionize; and one requiring that employers — and not workers — in the food service industry pay the cost of mandatory food safety training.

Newsom has also vetoed many measures this year: 143 over the weekend alone, according to CalMatters. Among his particularly consequential rejections:

  • A bill that would have made California the first state to ban caste discrimination. My colleague Amy Qin wrote about Newsom’s decision.

  • An initiative that would have given lower-income jurors in some parts of the state, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, $100 a day for serving on a criminal trial, a big jump from the current rate of $15 a day. The increase was intended to make jury pools more racially and economically diverse.

  • A bill that would have required California high schools to provide free condoms to students. Newsom said the measure would have cost the state too much.

  • A requirement that California employers with 50 or more workers give 75 days’ notice of impending layoffs; the state currently requires 60 days’ notice.

  • A bill that would have required that electoral maps of large cities be drawn by independent redistricting commissions, part of an effort to reduce gerrymandering.

  • A measure that would have decriminalized possession of psychedelic mushrooms for people 21 and older. Newsom said it would not make sense to take that step until the state had more guardrails in place for safe and therapeutic use of the mushrooms.

State Senator Steven Bradford, center, created the legislation to have an “Ebony Alert,” intended to help find missing Black children.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

The rest of the news

  • California will be the first state to have an “Ebony Alert,” intended specifically to help find missing Black children, NBC News reports.

Southern California

  • Steve Garvey, the former first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, announced that he would run as a Republican for the Senate seat left open by Dianne Feinstein’s death.

  • Baseball, softball, flag football, lacrosse and cricket are among the sports being proposed for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Northern California

  • After nearly three years, Vice President Kamala Harris is still struggling to make the case for herself — and feels she shouldn’t have to.

  • San Francisco wants a case about removal of homeless encampments from city streets transferred to a judge who is overseeing an earlier local dispute over street tents and camps, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • A court ruling allowing noncitizen parents in San Francisco to vote in local school board elections became final when the leader of a conservative nonprofit said he wouldn’t appeal it, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Credit…Adam Perez for The New York Times

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Kathleen Kilpatrick, who recommends a road trip through Owens Valley in eastern California:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tell us

We’re looking to feature more of your favorite places to visit in California. Send us suggestions for day trips, scenic outlooks, hikes and more. Email your suggestions to [email protected].

The campus at the University of California, Irvine, which was part of an inaugural program for incarcerated people to pursue bachelor’s degrees in prison.Credit…Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times, via, Getty Images

And before you go, some good news

Patrick Acuña spent most of the last 30 years in California’s state prisons serving a life sentence he received at age 19. Now, a year after his release, Acuña is beginning his final year at the University of California, Irvine, where he will graduate with a degree in social ecology.

Acuña began taking community college courses decades ago while still in prison and earned two associate degrees. But the glimmer of higher education remained elusive for him until 2022, when the University of California system inaugurated a program for incarcerated people to pursue bachelor’s degrees in prison. Acuña became one of just 26 people at his San Diego facility to be admitted to U.C. Irvine.

In 2018, his case was retried and his sentence commuted, leading to his release last October and an eventual move to Irvine’s campus, a first for his program. The change was often difficult but worthwhile, he said, crediting his rehabilitation to education.

“We engage in education because once we get a taste of it, we understand that it transforms our lives in ways we don’t even initially understand,” Acuña told EdSource in an interview. “It broadens our perspective.”

Yesterday’s newsletter misstated Representative Nancy Pelosi’s connection to an all-girls high school in San Francisco, the Convent of the Sacred Heart. Her daughters attended the school, but Ms. Pelosi did not. (She went to high school in Baltimore.)

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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