California gov. Gavin Newsom makes a creepy face while answering questions after a Republican primary event in California.

What Is Going on With California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Veto Spree?

He's not running for reelection in California anymore

California’s controversial Governor Gavin Newsom made waves this past weekend when he pushed through about 470 of the approximately 700 bills he had waiting for him in his office with a deadline to be vetoed or signed into law by October 14. That’s a staggering amount of governor actions for just two days. Just like it sounds, this is roughly the gubernatorial equivalent of saving all your sixth-grade math worksheets until the last week of school and then panic-strikingly plowing your way through them without caring if they’re correct or not, just to get them in. 

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The biggest shock of Newsom’s extra productive weekend is that he vetoed an abnormally high 143 bills—roughly 30 percent of what he reviewed, with many of his choices eliciting shock. For reference, last year, he vetoed about 14 percent of all bills that came across his desk. So, could one reason Newsom sent so many vetoed bills back to lawmakers at one time be so each contentious veto would get less attention and negative air time for him? It’s likely.

Many of Newsom’s recent vetos show him taking drastic action against bills with significant bipartisan approval, as well as some that show him flip-flopping away from distinct campaign promises. Most of his reasoning, as written in his veto letters, comes down to money. And while balancing California’s many billions of debt dollars would be great, focusing on cash over people is a move out of the Republican playbook, not befitting the more liberal ideals Newsom has claimed to hold.

Some of Governor Newsom’s noteworthy recent vetos

AB 1512 would have stopped the state of California from its current practice of literally stealing survivors’ benefits, like social security checks, owed to foster children in the state’s care. 

AB 57 would have given underage transgender kids more protections within custody disputes, asking the judge to consider guardians’ acceptance of gender status, but Newsom said no thanks, citing “caution 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.”

SB 309 would have been potentially life-changing for the over three million Californians who have diabetes by capping the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 for a one-month supply. This is the same cost cap Presiden Biden has pointed to within the Inflation Reduction Act. Gavin, who purports to be a fellow Democrat, said no thanks, however, because the state has already signed a $50 million dollar contract to produce and sell its own brand of affordable insulin, which it will sell nationally. Newsom is thinking about that money again.

SB 541 aimed to give California high school students access to free condoms but Newsom said it would be too expensive, writing in his veto letter, “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.”

SB 799: This veto Newsom issued last week blocked legislation that would have allowed workers whose labor unions went on strike for two or more weeks, or if they lost their jobs altogether because of striking, the possibility of collecting a modest unemployment check from the state. Nope! Newsom says that’s too expensive for the state.

Other unexpected recent vetos include bills to provide insurance coverage for kids’ hearing aids, ban discrimination because of caste status, allow cannabis cafes, decriminalize psychedelics, build and manage state social housing, and, as supported by truck drivers and safety advocates, require humans to be present, for the meantime, in self-driving cars.

So many of these mass-vetos are concerned with the budget over the humans they affect, that they’re making Governor Newsom seem much more conservative than the promises he campaigned on. Was he trying to minimize the fallout from some of these choices by grouping them all at once? Probably—even though it arguably had the opposite effect, drawing a huge amount of attention to the vetoes.

Is he allowing his choices to be more conservative, cut-throat, and budget-balancing because this is his last term in office and he may be eyeing a higher seat in government? Double probably.

(featured image: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.