Gavin Newsom gets out his veto pen

This story appeared on Calmatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a bill on his proposed oil profit penalty plan in Sacramento on March 28, 2023. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. , CalMatters

While the Legislature is on summer break until Aug. 14, Gov. Gavin Newsom is signing bills into law — or, in the case of one unfortunate proposal, vetoing them. 

He said “no” to Senate Bill 275, which would require state Senate confirmation of California’s oil and gas supervisor. In his veto message, the governor said he agreed with transparency in gubernatorial appointments, “especially when considering California’s ambitious and time-sensitive clean energy and carbon neutrality goals.”

But he said this particular position already goes through an “extensive and exhaustive identification, evaluation, and selection process” and reports to the Director of Conservation, who is subject to Senate confirmation.

The bill was authored by Republican Sen. Shannon Grove of oil-rich Bakersfield, so Newsom’s veto came with an interesting bit of timing: He announced it on Thursday, just hours after his intervention helped resurrect another of Grove’s bills — to increase punishments for child trafficking.  

Grove shouldn’t feel too bad. This is going to happen to many, many of her colleagues this year.

Last year, Newsom vetoed 169 bills, while signing 997, including some very significant ones. In 2021, he vetoed 66 and signed 770 into law.

The Legislature can override vetoes, with two-thirds votes in both the Assembly and Senate. But that doesn’t happen often, and in recent decades almost never.

From CalMatters politics reporter Alexei Koseff:

Another bill going nowhere fast: Senate Bill 584, a proposal to tax Airbnb and other short-term rentals to fund affordable housing projects, will not advance any further this legislative session.

The construction unions-backed measure cleared the state Senate at the end of May, but Sen. Monique Limón, the Santa Barbara Democrat who introduced the bill, quietly pulled it from consideration several weeks back. 

Her office said Limón did not have time to resolve a disagreement with the Assembly housing committee over wage and labor standards for projects that would be eligible for the grants.

Limón intends to revive the measure next year, though it may include additional changes. Her office said the senator is exploring whether she could reduce the proposed 15% tax rate, or exempt small operators while still raising enough money to make the fund worthwhile.

“While the bill is part of a desired and needed conversation about the impact short term rentals have on our housing market,” Limón said in a statement, “it is clear this bill could benefit from more time to continue discussions at the state and local level to understand the underlying issues the legislative process has uncovered.”


CalMatters for Learning: From our engagement team: lesson-plan-ready versions of our explainers on housing and homelessness, electric vehicles, wage theft, water and state government — all especially made for teachers, libraries and community groups, as part of the CalMatters for Learning initiative. 


Money from mental health to housing?

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference announcing a proposed a 2024 ballot initiative to improve mental health services across the state, at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, on March 19, 2023. Photo by Adriana Heldiz/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool
Gov. Gavin Newsom announces a proposed a 2024 ballot initiative to improve mental health services across the state, at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, on March 19, 2023. Photo by Adriana Heldiz/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool

Speaking of the governor and his priorities, CalMatters’ health policy reporter Kristen Hwang writes that the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office is raising the same red flags about Newsom’s mental health plan that local health officials have been raising for months.

During his State of the State tour in March, the governor proposed rerouting nearly one-third of the state’s Mental Health Services Act money to help address homelessness.

Since then, behavioral health providers and county officials have worried that the plan would potentially cut mental health services, particularly those that support children. And new number crunching from the Legislative Analyst’s Office corroborates these concerns — it reports that Newsom’s proposal would likely siphon away nearly $720 million annually from county government services, and reduce spending on current programs from $1.34 billion to $621 million.

Newsom’s office argues that reprioritizing money from the Mental Health Services Act is overdue given the significance of the state’s homelessness crisis. Supporters of his proposal also say that the state has invested in mental health programs with new funding sources, including changes to the Medi-Cal system and a $4.4 billion one-time infusion into the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative

But critics contend that those funding sources won’t reimburse for the non-clinical programs, such as family resource centers, which have historically been supported by the Mental Health Services Act. The analyst’s office also reported that, under the new plan, counties would have less flexibility to determine how money is spent, and the independent oversight of the current Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission would be reduced.

The act funds county mental health infrastructure by levying a 1% tax on income above $1 million. Last year, it generated about $3.8 billion. Because changes to the act require voter approval, Gov. Newsom wants the Legislature to put his proposal before voters next year, along with a bond measure to add psychiatric treatment beds.

Push, pull on CA travel ban

Attorney General Rob Bonta during a confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court of California in San Francisco on March 22, 2022. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a confirmation hearing for the state Supreme Court in San Francisco on March 22, 2022. Photo by Eric Risberg, AP Photo

Attorney General Rob Bonta followed current state law and added Missouri, Nebraska and Wyoming to the state-funded travel ban list on Friday due to recently enacted anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. The list now includes 26 states.

  • Bonta, in his announcement: “By preventing transgender individuals from participating in sports aligned with their gender identity, or by denying them access to critical healthcare, these legislative actions directly contradict the values of inclusivity and diversity. These laws pose significant risks for deepening the stigmatization and alienation of LGBTQ+ youth who are already subject to pervasive discrimination, bullying, and hate crimes.”

Bonta doesn’t mention it in his release, but the ban may not be law much longer. 

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, the first openly gay person in that position, says the ban isn’t working to prevent anti-LGBTQ legislation. So she’s pushing a bill, which passed the Senate in May and is alive and well in the Assembly, to repeal the travel ban and replace it with the “Bridge Project” to buy advertising in the targeted states to promote inclusion.

  • Atkins, in a tweet responding to Bonta’s announcement: “California’s state-funded travel ban didn’t stop 23 other states from passing anti-LGBTQ+ laws, and didn’t stop these latest three either. It’s time for a different approach.”

Hot labor summer heats up

Striking writers and actors take part in a rally outside Paramount studios in Los Angeles on Friday, July 14, 2023. This marks the first day actors formally joined the picket lines, more than two months after screenwriters began striking in their bid to get better pay and working conditions. Photo by Chris Pizzello, AP Photo

Striking writers and actors take part in a rally outside Paramount studios in Los Angeles on July 14, 2023. Photo by Chris Pizzello, AP Photo

On Friday, Hollywood’s actors union, SAG-AFTRA, went on strike to advocate for better pay and regulation over the use of artificial intelligence. They join the screenwriters union — a first in 60 years — which has been on strike since May. It’s the latest development in what has come to be called “hot labor summer” to describe the recent string of labor protests taking place across the state.

In addition to the film industry, Southern California employees in hospitality and fast food have also walked off the job after failed contract negotiations. While residents who don’t work in these fields may see these protests as having little to do with them, with so many labor groups on strike, there’s a reasonable possibility that average Californians may have to decide whether to cross some picket lines.

Case in point: Starting on July 24, the Democratic Governors Association will be holding a conference at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, where hotel workers are currently on strike, reports Politico. If a deal isn’t reached soon, officials from states with strong union influence will be placed in a sticky situation — Newsom, for instance, said he will not cross the picket line and union leaders are pushing to have the event moved to another venue.

And while A-list celebrities holding protest signs may draw plenty of headlines (according to AP News, SAG-AFTRA expects members to “spend their days on picket lines, outside the corporate headquarters and production hubs of studios”), more walk offs are anticipated to make waves of their own. The expected 10-day strike of UPS workers in August, for example, is estimated to cost the U.S. economy $7.1 billion

On the topic of Hollywood: Following the extension of tax credits for film and television studios in California and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus gathered together on Thursday to call out the recent departures of Black women executives from major entertainment companies.

  • Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, a Democrat from Inglewood: “Many of these women were involved in their studios’ diversity, equity and inclusion efforts….  The film industry must do better and take demonstrable steps to ensure these studios, which will benefit from the tax credit, also prioritize the hiring of individuals behind the camera that look like California.”

The caucus said it plans to meet with Newsom, industry executives and labor groups to push for studios to provide more data about their diversity efforts, according to the Los Angeles Times.

CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters is away and will return July 24.

California has spent billions of dollars in recent years to reduce homelessness, but the problem is only getting worse, write Kerry Jackson and Wayne Winegarden, fellows at the Pacific Research Institute.

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