California Governor Gavin Newsom spent the summer campaigning to keep his job and, with a landslide victory in hand, has continued to push progressive California to the left.
In the four weeks after an impeachment attempt, the Democrat signed laws requiring gender-neutral displays of children’s toys and toothbrushes in large department stores, outlawed removing a condom without consent during sex, and paved the way for the first attempt of a nation. ban on the sale of new gasoline-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers.
It also banned filming someone near an abortion clinic for intimidation purposes, banned secret employment deals that involve harassment or discrimination, and limited the use of rubber bullets by police during protests. It even prohibited restaurants from handing out packages of ketchup and other disposable condiments unless customers asked for them.
California is among the deepest blue states in the country: Democrats control all state offices and have supermajorities in the Legislature, which today often acts as a laboratory for liberal policies that would not be voted on in many other states. The governor wields immense power over what becomes law because California legislators rarely override vetoes.
Had this been a normal year with no elections, Newsom might have been more cautious heading into his 2022 reelection campaign. But in early September, just three days after the governor’s 30-day period to review the legislation, Newsom convincingly rejected the Republican-led effort to overthrow him.
Just three days after that election, Newsom signed two laws aimed at limiting the zoning of single-family homes in California, a sea change for a state with many communities defining suburban sprawl but now facing a shortage of affordable housing.
In all, Newsom signed 92% of the bills lawmakers put on their desk, the highest percentage during his three years in office, according to an analysis by veteran lobbyist Chris Micheli, who has tracked governor vetoes for years.
The result was “lots of progressive legislation and lots of virtual signage,” said Bill Whalen, a policy fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University.
“Traditionally, we have governors who have been more centrist than Newsom,” he said. “Now that the retreat is over, this is a governor who is not really threatened in any way.”
But what counts as progressive in most of the country can be viewed as moderate in California.
Newsom angered many members of the state’s left wing with his vetoes, including blocking a bill that would have required state contractors to confirm that their supply chains do not contribute to tropical deforestation.
It also removed a bill that would have legalized reckless crossing, a measure advocates have said is necessary because police disproportionately detain and fine blacks for the crime.
And he stopped a bill that would have allowed farmworkers to vote by mail in union elections, a decision that so infuriated some workers that they marched in protest to the French Laundry, the posh restaurant in the San Francisco Bay area where Newsom was photographed. dine without a mask during the pandemic. Newsom’s scene with lobbyist friends telling others to stay home helped fuel the withdrawal effort.
In the weeks leading up to the recall, lawmakers said the Newsom administration was unusually involved in the legislative process, prompting a series of amendments to tailor the bills to its liking. He signed a law that makes California the first state to ban mega-retailers like Amazon from firing workers for lack of quotas that interfere with restroom and breaks.
But he insisted that lawmakers remove language that directs regulators to impose a state standard on reasonable work speeds, according to Assemblywoman Lorena González, the author of the bill.
“From someone who considers himself probably to the left of this governor … I don’t think he’s gone that far,” said Gonzales, a San Diego Democrat and chairman of the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee. “If you look at some of the bills, how they started, and then where they ended because of input from the administration, then … you see what’s happening.”
Lawmakers didn’t send Newsom as many bills as they normally would. The pandemic limited where and how often lawmakers could hold committee hearings, prompting legislative leaders to limit lawmakers to writing 12 bills each. And this was the first year of a two-year legislative session, so many of the more controversial proposals were delayed for consideration until next year.
A bill would have eliminated the crime of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, a law that advocates say targets black women and transgender people. The bill was approved by the Legislature, but the author decided not to send it to Newsom yet.
González believes that legislators “had a lot of self-regulation” during the session, aware that forcing polarization issues in Newsom could harm him in the recall elections.
But Senator Sydney Kamlager, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said few lawmakers would have delayed the bills because they were concerned about how it would affect Newsom’s political future, saying “lawmakers have egos too.” He said the governor “is always involved” with the legislation.
“You would want a governor or an administration to be involved, you know, because a policy that doesn’t fit or can’t be implemented just ends up becoming a dream,” he said.
Next year, lawmakers could send legislation to Newsom to regulate health care prices and impose COVID testing or vaccination mandates for employers – decisions the governor must make in the midst of his re-election campaign. But those decisions could be easier for Newsom now that the retirement has asserted its political strength, despite protests from Republicans. Newsom defeated the recall attempt by more than 60% of the vote.
“Life has gotten harder and more expensive for families, yet Democrats are targeting things like banning takeout packets of ketchup and gasoline-powered lawn mowers,” said Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk. “I hope 2022 brings some common sense to Sacramento.”