Which big California bills did Newsom veto?

Your guide to California policy and politics
Lynn La BY Lynn La October 9, 2023
Presented by UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Institute, Western States Petroleum Association, FIX PAGA: A Better, Fairer Way for Workers and Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership

Which big California bills did Newsom veto?

Up against an Oct. 14 deadline and with more than 700 bills on his desk heading into the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom decided the fate of bills —  a lot of bills. 

The governor’s office put out a big batch of nearly 150 actions on Saturday, a second one on Sunday of about 130 and a third one late Sunday night of about 190 more. That unusual volume for a weekend means he still has some 260 bills to go.

And he may have run out of ink in his veto pen this weekend: He blocked 143, or 30%. The reasons he cited touched on a few common themes: The bills were unnecessary, or they went too far on policy too fast. Or they could cost the state lots of money — a common rationale governors use for bills they don’t like. 

In several veto messages, he repeated language about covering a $30 billion budget deficit without cutting major programs “relied on by millions of Californians.” He added that the Legislature “sent me bills outside of this budget process” that “would add nearly $19 billion of unaccounted costs.”

Last year, he vetoed a total of 169 bills, or about 14%, while signing 997. The Legislature can override vetoes, with two-thirds majorities in both the Assembly and Senate. But that happens rarely, and in recent decades almost never

CalMatters is tracking Newsom’s calls on other key bills before his Saturday deadline. Bookmark this page for updates.

Some specific vetoes:

  • Cannabis cafes: Raising concerns about undermining the state’s “long-standing smoke-free” protections for workers, the governor vetoed a measure that would have let cannabis lounges sell food and host live events.
  • Caste discrimination: For now, California will not become the first state to explicitly ban caste discrimination. Calling it “unnecessary,” Newsom said that current state law already prohibits discrimination based on ancestry (which caste is considered a subset of), and that “civil rights protections shall be liberally construed” by the courts.
  • Decriminalizing psychedelics: Though Newsom said he supports “new opportunities to address mental health through psychedelic medicines,” he vetoed a bill to decriminalize the use of certain hallucinogens because of a lack of state guardrails for usage. He urged lawmakers to draft legislation next year that would include such “therapeutic guidelines.”
  • Public records ombudsperson: A measure to establish an ombudsperson who investigates whether denials of public records requests comply with state law.
  • Social housing, homeless youth housing: Budget concerns came up in vetoes of two housing-related bills: One aimed at developing state-owned social housing projects and another would have required the state to help fund organizations that provide transitional housing for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

Newsom still signed more bills than he blocked. Among them:

  • Water rights: A measure that spells out the state’s powers to investigate water rights claims and allows the California Water Board to take action against unauthorized water users. 
  • Food chemicals ban: The sale of food items that include four food additives will be prohibited in California beginning 2027. Known as the “Skittles ban” when it was introduced, the measure has since dropped the chemical in that candy from its list. In his signing message, the governor said there had been many “misconceptions” about the bill and its impacts.

CalMatters at Politifest: We teamed up with Voice of San Diego for the annual event over the weekend. Here’s a report from our engagement team.

Tell us what you think: We’re doing a survey of WhatMatters readers to make it even better and more useful. It’ll only take a few minutes. Fill it out here.


1 CA families getting final food aid payments

Los Angeles Unified School District food service workers pre-package hundreds of free school lunches in plastic bags at the Liechty Middle School in Los Angeles on July 15, 2021. Flush with cash from an unexpected budget surplus, California is launching the nation's largest statewide universal free lunch program. When classrooms open for the fall term, every one of California's 6.2 million public school students will have the option to eat school meals for free, regardless of their family's income. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
Los Angeles Unified School District food service workers pre-package hundreds of free school lunches in plastic bags at the Liechty Middle School in Los Angeles on July 15, 2021. Photo by Damian Dovarganes, AP Photo

From Felicia Mello of CalMatters’ California Divide team: 

A final round of extra pandemic food benefits has been landing in California families’ mailboxes this fall in the form of plastic electronic benefits cards.

The mailing of 4 million cards marks the end of a federally-funded program that sought to replace school meals children would have received if their education had not been disrupted by COVID-19.

The Pandemic-EBT debit cards contain a lump sum of $120 covering the summer of 2023 and an amount equal to $8.18 per day for each day a child had an excused absence during the 2022-23 school year.

Families are eligible if their income qualifies them to receive CalFresh benefits, or if their child attends a school that offers free or reduced-price meals to all students under the National School Lunch Program. They can use the cards anywhere that accepts CalFresh, including grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

But because many California school districts choose to make meals available to all their students, regardless of income, the cards went to an uncounted number of higher-income families, confusing some. 

Wesley Bisheff, a 15-year-old sophomore at San Luis Obispo High School, said he and some  friends were surprised to get EBT cards in the mail, since their families aren’t food insecure.

“Some people were really excited, some thought it was a scam, but we were all confused about it,” he said. 

Handing out the cards this way, rather than more narrowly targeting the aid, allowed California to more quickly and easily reach families who needed them, while taking advantage of a federal emergency program with an approaching expiration date, said Becky Silva, government relations director for the California Association of Food Banks.

  • Silva, to CalMatters: “As a state agency, you have to balance getting the benefits out as quickly as you can to the many thousands of families who really need it and the potential project of sifting through a lot of data to determine precisely who is…eligible.”

Families who don’t think they need the money can destroy the cards without using them, but aren’t required to do so, state officials said.

California has issued more than $17 billion in Pandemic-EBT benefits since 2020, and about 85% of the cards in previous rounds were used. Most of the current batch of cards was scheduled to arrive by the end of September, but some families could receive them as late as November, according to the Department of Social Services. 

Government pandemic-era benefit programs drove a nationwide decrease in overall poverty and child poverty, research has shown. Anti-hunger advocates say they now worry about a spike in food insecurity as the extra benefits from the pandemic dry up. 

California food banks saw a surge in visits this year, and child poverty is rising again across the country. The state plans to experiment next year with increasing the minimum CalFresh benefit from $23 a month to $50 for each household of one or two people.

2 Labor holds one key to U.S. Senate race

Laphonza Butler during her swearing-in ceremony to the U.S. Senate at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on Oct. 3, 2023
Laphonza Butler during her swearing-in ceremony to the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3, 2023. Photo by Stephanie Scarbrough, AP Photo

Tuesday will mark one full week since Laphonza Butler was sworn into the U.S. Senate, and the former EMILYs List president hasn’t said whether she will run for either the final two months of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s term in a special election, for a full six-year term in 2024, or both.

But as CalMatters’ politics reporter Yue Stella Yu explains, one factor that may hold the key to her decision is Butler’s relationship with major labor groups. If she decides to run, Butler would have one claim over the three high-profile Democrats already in the race — actual experience with union organizing, having served as the president of both the SEIU California State Council and SEIU Local 2015.    

It’s this experience, political analysts say, that gives Butler an edge with union groups, especially since she was instrumental in the 2015 negotiations to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour — then the highest in the nation.

But it won’t be smooth sailing for Butler to snag union endorsements. Having never held elected office, she doesn’t have as much name recognition as other candidates. Her time consulting for Uber against gig workers in 2019 could also be hard to reconcile with worker advocacy groups.

Nevertheless, winning support from, say, the 700,000 California SEIU members and the 2-million-member California Labor Federation would be a boon to any candidate, given that labor groups are a powerful source of voters, potential campaign volunteers and money.

To secure an endorsement by the labor federation, Butler will have to get at least two-thirds of delegate votes, and the organization won’t make its endorsement until its Dec. 5 statewide convention — three days before the candidate filing deadline. The president of SEIU California said it will name  its Senate endorsement in the coming weeks. For more on Butler’s labor ties, read Stella’s story.


CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California has a new proposal for allocating water in the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but fundamental water conflicts remain.


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

Higher-income workers may get surprised by 2024 tax hike // San Francisco Chronicle

Nation’s largest health care strike ends with no contract deal // Politico

More violent crimes are being committed with guns in California // Los Angeles Times

Millennials, Gen Z committing fewer violent crimes // San Francisco Chronicle

Questions dog new UC Board of Regents appointee Greg Sarris // Capitol Weekly

Far-right battle for Shasta County’s mosquito control board // Los Angeles Times

Seconds from prison in kidnapping plot, wild events led to his acquittal // The Mercury News

Hayward teacher accused of antisemitism booted from district // San Francisco Chronicle

$300M in unneeded COVID-19 testing could put lab owner in prison for 20 years // Los Angeles Times 

CA can’t be sued for 2017 Oroville Dam spill that forced evacuations // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow


Tips, insight or feedback? Email lynn@calmatters.org.

Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.

Follow CalMatters on Facebook and Twitter.

CalMatters is now available in Spanish on Twitter, Facebook and RSS.

Sign In

We've recently sent you an authentication link. Please, check your inbox!

Sign in with a password below, or sign in using your email.

Get a code sent to your email to sign in, or sign in using a password.

Enter the code you received via email to sign in, or sign in using a password.

Subscribe to our newsletters: