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This story appeared on Calmatters

A folder with legislative bills on at desk in the press room at the Capitol Annex Swing Space in Sacramento, prior to being signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 26, 2023

Gov. Gavin Newsom took a day off from bills signings and vetoes on Monday. 

But he unleashed such a big flood of bill decisions over the weekend — about 470 — that legislators and advocacy groups, not to mention reporters, are still catching up.

Some key ones signed:

  • Cosmetic chemicals: By 2027, California will ban 26 potentially toxic ingredients from personal care products, according to CalMatters’ economic reporter Levi Sumagaysay. The chemicals — found in nail polish, perfume and more — can raise the risk of cancer, birth defects and reproductive problems, and are already banned by the European Union. Read more in Levi’s story.
  • Student financial aid: Newsom signed into law a measure to make it easier for community college students to get financial aid by requiring schools to drop requirements that exceed federal mandates for aid eligibility, such as meeting a certain grade point average.
  • Child sexual abuse on social media: Social media sites, including TikTok and Instagram, will soon be held liable for spreading content depicting child sexual abuse or trafficking, and can be fined as much as $4 million for each act of exploitation on their platforms.
  • Lunar New Year: California community colleges can observe Lunar New Year as a state holiday. In a statement, Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco and author of the bill said the measure will help “strengthen cultural identity” and “create opportunities for people to learn about each other.”

Some consequential vetoes:

  • Social Security benefits for foster children: Going against a nationwide trend, the governor vetoed a measure Sunday that would have prohibited county child welfare agencies from reimbursing themselves with money meant for foster youths. As CalMatters’ Jeanne Kuang reports, the move defied children’s advocates who argue that the funds should be accessible to the children when they’re adults. Read more in Jeanne’s story.
  • Undocumented seniors: Newsom struck down a proposal to expand an existing state program — which gave cash assistance elderly, blind or disabled immigrants — to eligible undocumented seniors. In his message, the governor emphasized his current efforts to “support the undocumented community,” but wrote that without providing funding, passing this measure would “not be prudent nor would (the policy) meet its intended purpose.”
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Navigating ‘climate distress’

Maksim Batuyev is an environmental activist who runs climate cafes in Los Angeles. Sept. 27, 2023. Photo by Lauren Justice for Cal Matters
Maksim Batuyev, an environmental activist who runs climate cafes, in Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 2023. Photo by Lauren Justice for Cal Matters

Besides intensifying wildfires, upending local and global economies and disrupting vulnerable agricultural and environmental systems, climate change is the center of yet another troubling matter: mental anguish. 

As CalMatters’ health reporting intern Shreya Agrawal explains, a 2022 Blue Shield of California survey found that 80% of California youths ages 14 to 24 experienced some form of “climate distress” — a range of emotions that include grief, anger, anxiety and hopelessness.

Seeking some form of help and community, 25-year-old Maksim Batuyev co-founded Climate Cafe L.A., a support group where like-minded people can discuss these overwhelming emotions.

  • Batuyev: “I was questioning the sheer gravity of it all and how all of it is systemic. None of it has an easy solution. That really started to bring me into some dark places.”

Educators are flagging their concerns as well. One Redondo Beach teacher told Shreya that kids start experiencing climate distress around 5th or 6th grade: “They feel angry… and they feel cheated, because their planet is at risk, other people did it and they have to figure it out.”

In 2021, Newsom approved $6 million for an environmental justice program in San Mateo County schools that includes group activities to build social and emotional resilience against the climate crisis. And the California Association of School Counselors is currently building a curriculum that includes discussions on how to address climate change. 

But mental health advocates say this won’t be enough. They argue that many therapists aren’t trained to deal with climate emotions, and developing strong community-based systems as an alternative to therapy requires funding and resources they don’t have.

For more on climate distress, read Shreya’s story.

2
CA officials voice support for Israel

Israel supporters counter-protest during a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in San Francisco on Oct. 8, 2023

Israel supporters counter-protest during a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in San Francisco on Oct. 8, 2023. Photo by Michael Ho Wai Lee, SOPA Images/Sipa USA via Reuters

While hundreds rallied in favor of Palestinian rights in San Francisco, California officialdom is steadfastly in support of Israel after the surprise attack by Hamas over the weekend.

Gov. Newsom ordered the state Capitol lit Monday night in Israel’s national colors of blue and white and issued a statement “unequivocally” condemning the assault. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and other statewide officials also voiced their shock and support.  

Monday, state Senate Republicans joined a parade of legislative groups backing what they argued as Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists.

  • California Senate Republicans, in a statement: “Not since the Holocaust has this large a number of Jews been killed in a single day. There is no justification for this appalling violence…. Israel has every right to defend itself and must secure the region by all means necessary. Hamas must be defeated and pay for their war crimes. We stand with Israel. California stands with Israel. America stands with Israel.”

Legislative leaders and the various ethnic caucuses within the Legislature shared the initial statement released over the weekend by the 18-member Legislative Jewish Caucus.

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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Progressive Santa Monica is fighting a change to its city council elections that might lead to more diverse representation.

Freeways that crisscross neglected neighborhoods are choking residents with harmful pollution, but a bill would extend a clean transportation program that can help, writes Prisma Alvarez, a middle school office coordinator in South Los Angeles.

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