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Psychedelics, Caste, High School Condoms and Jury Pay: The Biggest Bills Vetoed by Newsom So Far

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A person in a suit gesticulates with their hands.
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks in Sacramento on Sept. 12, 2023. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Updated 1:41 p.m. Tuesday

This is the time of year when Californians learn which bills their governor has decided to take forward to become state law — and which will be rejected in the process known as vetoing.

Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed several bills in September, with two specifically about labor concerns that have been in heated discussion in California. And Newsom has hundreds of more bills to look over by October 14, either to sign them in or veto them.

More bills were vetoed by the governor on October 7, including a bill that would have banned discrimination on grounds of caste, and one that would have decriminalized the possession and use of psychedelic substances for those over the age of 21.

If a bill is vetoed by a governor, it goes back to the state Legislature where it needs a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override the veto. However, it has been decades since that has happened in California.

Keep reading for an overview of some of the most notable vetoes Newsom has made so far, starting with his latest. You can follow a complete list of Newsom’s vetoes on the state’s website under “Governor Newsom Legislative Updates,” which includes a variety of topics such as hazing in schools, providing broadband access and a cap on campaign finances.

A bill that would have required more mental health training for school staff

When did this veto happen? October 13

Who does this affect? School staff, students, parents

What’s the deeper dive? State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) introduced this bill to address the growing mental health crisis among young Californians. SB 509 would have mandated youth behavioral health training for all certified staff and for 40 percent of classified employees who interact with students.

In his veto message, Newsom said he had concerns with aspects of the bill, including the scope of the training and the “the lack of an appropriate mechanism to fund the bill via the Gun Violence Prevention and School Safety Fund.” He referred to the Department of Finance to propose new language – meaning there is a chance for the bill in January’s state budget proposal.

A bill that would have prevented counties from taking foster kids’ money

When did this veto happen? October 8

Who does this affect? Foster children or people once in the foster care system

What’s the deeper dive? After an investigation by criminal justice outlet The Marshall Project and NPR, states like Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon have been cracking down on agencies who have been taking benefits from foster children’s Social Security checks. California’s AB 1512 would have prevented counties from using those benefits to pay for the cost of foster care, instead of going to the children directly.

Newsom, however, said changing this reimbursement practice would cost the state too much.

“…This bill creates implementation challenges that should be considered as part of the annual budget process,” he wrote in his veto message. “Both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and foster care benefits are intended to provide for the daily care and supervision of youth, including costs for housing and food. If counties are not permitted to use SSI to cover the cost of providing care to foster youth, the General Fund will need to offset those costs.”

A bill that would have allowed cannabis cafes in California

When did this veto happen? October 8

Who does this affect? Businesses, people who use cannabis recreationally

What’s the deeper dive? This bill would have allowed “Amsterdam-style” cannabis cafes in California, with food and live music. In his message vetoing the bill, Newsom said he was concerned about its conflict with California’s smoke-free workplace protections. The governor said he nonetheless “appreciates the author’s intent to provide cannabis retailers with increased business opportunities.”

A bill that would have expanded benefits to Californians, regardless of immigration status

When did this veto happen? October 8

Who does this affect? Undocumented Californians

What’s the deeper dive? AB 1536 would have extended a state-funded, monthly cash assistance to lower-income aged, blind, or disabled immigrants in California – regardless of whether they are undocumented or not.

Newsom vetoed the bill, saying that despite supporting the goal of the bill, he couldn’t approve the policy without funding.

A bill that would have paid lower-income jurors $100 for their service

When did this happen? October 8

Who does this affect? Lower-income California residents

What’s the deeper dive? Expanding on a San Francisco pilot program called Be the Jury, this bill would have paid lower-to-moderate income jurors $100 for each day of service, in hopes of making jury duty more accessible and diverse. Californians are currently given $15 a day to serve on a jury.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed called the concept “groundbreaking” in a report about the pilot program.

“In our country’s history, laws barred certain communities from serving on juries,” said Breed, according to the release. “…Even when those discriminatory laws changed, low-income jurors — many being Black, Asian, Latino — struggled to be able to serve because they couldn’t give up their wages.” Breed called the SF pilot program “the kind of smart, innovative change that will create a more equitable and fair criminal justice system.”

Newsom vetoed this for a statewide measure, citing budget concerns.

A bill that would have enforced a nurse-to-patient ratio

When did this veto happen? October 8

Who does this affect? Healthcare workers

What’s the deeper dive? Encino Democrat Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel introduced a bill that would ask the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to annually review its enforcement of hospital nurse-to-patient ratio and submit a public report to the state legislature in January. Every two years, the CDPH would also have to hold a public hearing to receive input from nurses.

Newsroom vetoed the bill – amidst labor discussions among healthcare workers at one of California’s largest private insurers, Kaiser Permanente – writing in his message that since the CDPH already “prioritizes open engagement with stakeholders,” a biennial public hearing would be unnecessary for the state to make changes, and that the information the bill seeks is publicly available.

A bill that would have prevented public agencies from selling firearms

When did this happen? October 8

Who does this affect? Proponents of gun control

What’s the deeper dive? AB 733 aimed to prohibit public agencies – like police departments – from selling firearms, ammunition and body armor. Newsom wrote in his veto message that while he applauded the author’s efforts to curb gun violence, he was “concerned about the cost implications of this legislation” writing that “law enforcement agencies, both local and state, oftentimes sell their firearms to a dealer when they upgrade.”

“I am concerned that this bill, which limits these sales to a dealer who contractually agrees to resell only to a law enforcement agency, will restrict the ability to trade in these firearms and will cost law enforcement agencies across the state millions of dollars,” wrote Newsom – saying that this bill was being proposed “at a time when resources are limited, and staffing is low.”

A bill that would have allowed condoms to be sold to high schoolers

When did this veto happen? October 8

Who does this affect? Proponents of sex-ed, high school age Californians

What’s the deeper dive? Senate Bill 541 would require all public high schools to make free condoms available – and prohibit retailers from refusing to sell to teenagers.

Newsom said while evidence showed that increasing access to contraceptives improve adolescent sexual health, the bill would cause economic uncertainty for the state.

“With our state facing continuing economic risk and revenue uncertainty, it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications, such as this measure,” he wrote in his veto message.

A bill that would have capped insulin costs at $35

When did this veto happen? October 7

Who does this affect? Diabetes patients

What’s the deeper dive? Insulin – an important medication for most people with diabetes that helps control glucose levels – is uniquely expensive in America, with insulin costs tripling in the past decade. SB90 aimed to cap these costs at $35.

Newsom said bringing down costs of prescription drugs is a priority in his veto message. However, he said the state is creating its own line of CalRX biosimilar insulins, which will cost around $30.

“This is a fraction of the current price for most insulins, and CalRx biosimilar insulins will be available to insured and uninsured patients nationwide,” he wrote. “With CalRx, we are getting at the underlying cost, which is the true sustainable solution to high-cost pharmaceuticals. With copay caps however, the long-term costs are still passed down to consumers through higher premiums from health plans.”

A bill that would have decriminalized the possession and use of psychedelics for people over 21

When did this veto happen? October 7.

Who does this affect? Those over age 21 who use, or are interested in using, psychedelic treatments for therapeutic purposes.

What’s the deeper dive? Senate Bill 58, which was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would’ve decriminalized the possession and ingesting of certain quantities of mescaline; ibogaine; dimethyltryptamine (DMT); and the psychoactive ingredients — psilocybin and psilocin — in hallucinogenic mushrooms.

In a statement (PDF) Saturday, Gov. Newsom said “peer-reviewed science and powerful personal anecdotes” have led him to believe psychedelics can relieve people suffering from conditions such as depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and other addictive personality traits and that this was “an exciting frontier and California will be on the front-end of leading it.” But Newsom refused to sign the bill, saying that it doesn’t have guidelines for the drugs’ therapeutic use.

At an Assembly Health Committee hearing in July, Sen. Wiener argued that a “huge number” of people have already been using psychedelics despite the ban, and that decriminalizing these substances would promote responsible use. Numerous clinical trials have also shown promising results.

But Gov. Newsom left the door open for compromise.

“I urge the legislature to send me legislation next year that includes therapeutic guidelines,” read Newsom’s statement. “I am, additionally, committed to working with the legislature and sponsors of this bill to craft legislation that would authorize permissible uses and consider a framework for potential broader decriminalization in the future, once the impacts, dosing, best practice, and safety guardrails are thoroughly contemplated and put in place.”

In a position statement from July 2022 (PDF), the American Psychiatric Association stated “There is currently inadequate scientific evidence for endorsing the use of psychedelics to treat any psychiatric disorder except within the context of approved investigational studies.”

A bill that would’ve banned discrimination based on caste

When did this veto happen? October 7.

Who does this affect? Members of South Asian communities.

What’s the deeper dive? Gov. Newsom vetoed SB 403 from state Sen. Aisha Wahab, which would have made California the first state in the nation to ban discrimination on the basis of caste.

In his veto message (PDF), Newsom said the bill is “unnecessary” because caste discrimination is already prohibited under existing civil rights protections that “shall be liberally construed.”

But supporters of the bill argue that further legislation is needed in light of the emergence of several high profile discrimination claims in Silicon Valley’s South Asian community that were brought by Dalits, who belong to the lowest stratum of the castes in the Indian subcontinent, and who say they faced blatant prejudice from coworkers and were punished when they tried to speak out. The issue has led to protests and a hunger strike.

A South Asian woman in a gray suit speaks into a mic.
State Sen. Aisha Wahab (D-10) speaks during the 50th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade at San Francisco, City Hall on Jan. 25, 2023. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“It’s incredibly important to civil rights,” said Sen. Wahab, who represents California’s 10th district, including a large South Asian population. “It’s incredibly important to the state of California as we grow more and more diverse. Our laws need to go further and deeper to protect more people.”

Seattle was the first city to pass a caste discrimination ordinance earlier this year, and last month Fresno in the Central Valley also passed a city ordinance.

Opponents of the bill question the prevalence of caste discrimination in the United States and say the legal focus fuels negative stereotypes of South Asians and Hindus.

A bill that would have offered unemployment to striking workers

When did this veto happen? September 30.

Who does this affect?  Workers who are on strike.

What’s the deeper dive? Inspired by the widespread strikes in Hollywood and the hotel industry, Senate Bill 799 — sponsored by Burbank Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino — aimed to provide Unemployment Insurance to workers who have been on strike for more than two weeks.

Newsom said he supported the workers, but vetoed the bill (PDF) over concerns that the bill could significantly increase the number of people receiving unemployment insurance benefits, which are financed by taxes on employers. California borrowed billions of dollars from the federal government to keep the UI fund afloat after the state paid fraudulent claims during the pandemic.

“Any expansion of eligibility for (Unemployment Insurance) benefits could increase California’s outstanding federal UI debt projected to be nearly $20 billion by the end of the year and could jeopardize California’s Benefit Cost Ratio add-on waiver application, significantly increasing taxes on employers,” he wrote in a statement.

A bill that would have extended OSHA protections for domestic workers

When did this veto happen? September 30.

Who does this affect? An estimated 350,000 domestic workers in California, including nannies, housecleaners and home care aides

What’s the deeper dive? The California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 requires that employers comply with standards that ensure healthy and safe working conditions. However, domestic workers are not included in the act’s definition of employment. Senate Bill 686 is the third attempt by Los Angeles Democrat Sen. María Elena Durazo to change that — and this is the second time Newsom has vetoed it.

In his most recent veto, Newsom said while his administration approved an education grant and advisory committee for domestic workers, current OSHA regulations were meant for businesses (PDF), not private individuals. If this bill were to pass, private households employers would need to follow certain obligations, like an eyewash station if workers were using bleach, the governor said.

“The households that employ domestic workers include middle- and low-income families and older Californians who require daily assistance, ranging from personal care to home cleaning to childcare,” Newsom wrote. “I am particularly concerned given that approximately 44% of the households that employ domestic workers are low-income themselves, that this bill creates severe cost burdens and penalties for many people who cannot afford them.”

In a texted statement, Durazo told KQED she was “deeply disappointed that the Governor does not recognize the inherent worth and dignity of the women who care for our homes and families by vetoing SB 686.”

Kimberly Alvarenga, who directs the California Domestic Workers Coalition, said  that without the inclusion of domestic workers in health and safety protections, this workforce will continue to face the risk of injury and illness at their jobs.

“We have worked tirelessly over the last four years to create a framework to bring California forward, and the Governor’s office has been unwilling to recognize the women who make up this workforce as equal to other workers,” she wrote in a statement.

“We will not back down from this fight,” wrote Alvarenga.

A big rig tractor trailer semi truck on a freeway.
A semitruck on a freeway. (Getty Images)

A bill that would have banned driverless testing of autonomous trucks

When did this veto happen? September 22.

Who does this affect? The Teamsters Union, which represents workers like freight drivers and warehouse employees.

What’s the deeper dive? This bill, introduced by Winters Democratic Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, aimed to require a human driver on board of a self-driving truck. The Teamsters heavily supported this bill, saying the bill is not a ban on self-driving trucks themselves.

“Rather, it protects good jobs and keeps roads safe by requiring a trained human operator behind the wheel of autonomous vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds,” a Teamsters’ news release from last month reads, pleading with Newsom to end his opposition to the bill and his support of “Big Tech.”

However, in his veto Newsom wrote that Assembly Bill 316 was “unnecessary,” (PDF) and that existing law provides sufficient regulations for self-driving vehicles. Newsom highlights the Department of Motor Vehicles as the body to monitor the testing and operations of automated vehicles.

A bill that would have included a parental recognition of a child’s gender identity in custody disputes

When did this veto happen? September 22.

Who does this affect? Parents in custody battles, transgender children.

What’s the deeper dive? Assembly Bill 957 — introduced by Suisun City Democratic Assemblymember Lori Wilson — would require that as the court determined the best interest of a child in a custody proceeding, it should determine a parent’s affirmation of their gender identity.

The bill attracted misinformation online, with critics like Tesla and X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk claiming it would take away custody from parents who chose not to affirm their child’s gender identity.

However, the bill does not actually suggest this, according to The Associated Press — and California prioritizes legal joint custody when parents can cooperate with decision-making. When it comes to parent affirmation, the “bill does not compel the court to come to a particular outcome,” a state Senate analysis reads.

In his veto, Newsom wrote that he appreciated the passion behind the bill, and shared the commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians. However, he said the existing law already takes a child’s health into consideration, and that would include a child’s gender identity.

That said, I urge caution (PDF) when the Executive and Legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate — in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic — legal standards for the Judicial branch to apply,” Newsom wrote. “Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”

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A bill that would have prevented state prisons from releasing information to ICE in some cases

When did this veto happen? September 22.

Who does this affect? Incarcerated non-citizens who are set to be released under recent criminal justice reforms.

What’s the deeper dive? Assembly Bill 1306 — by Los Angeles Democratic Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo — aimed to prohibit the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) from providing any information facilitating transfers to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), of non-citizens who win release under recent laws aimed at reducing mass incarceration.

“I believe current law strikes the right balance on limiting interaction to support community trust and cooperation between law enforcement and local communities,” Newsom wrote in his veto (PDF). “For this reason, I cannot sign this bill.”

Newsom also wrote that “as an Administration, we recognize that improvements in this process are important,” and as part of this, CDCR would “limit how it communicates with ICE as a federal law enforcement agency, so information is only provided to ICE when a non-citizen individual enters prison and is approaching their release date.” At that point, ICE would then “determine how it will proceed with its enforcement of federal law.”

Assemblymember Carrillo expressed her disappointment at the veto, saying it was never the intention of the Legislature to exclude immigrants from restorative justice reform policies.

In her statement, Carrillo referred to public records obtained by the ACLU that give a window into CDCR practices. In two months, the agency transferred over 200 people from CDCR facilities to ICE, according to the ACLU.

Emails between CDCR and ICE reveal that prison staff ignore their own records to flag people for ICE based on racist assumptions about their names, the languages they speak, and where they were born,” the ACLU report reads. “When marked with a ‘potential ICE hold’ — a category invented by CDCR — people are denied rehabilitation, training, education, and credit-earning opportunities, and have little to no recourse to challenge their treatment.”

“In one exchange, an official at Avenal State Prison joked ‘should we just put US citizen on a piece of paper fold it up and put it in a hat, and then write on another piece of paper Mexican, fold it up and also throw that in the hat and pick one,’” the ACLU release reads.

Read more of Newsom’s veto messages on the Office of the Governor’s website. We’ll be updating this story with more notable vetoes.

KQED’s Farida Jhabvala Romero, Tyche Hendricks, Lakshmi Sarah and Attila Pelit contributed to this story.

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