Gavin Newsom Has Signed 92 Percent of Bills Sent to His Desk Into Law Amid Recall Election

Weeks after winning California's recall election, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed 92 percent of the bills lawmakers put on his desk as the year's legislative session comes to a close.

According to an analysis by veteran lobbyist Chris Micheli, who has tracked gubernatorial vetoes for years, this is the highest percentage of bills passed during Newsom's three years in office.

Newsom, who spent the summer fighting to keep his job, recently signed laws that require gender-neutral displays of children's toys and toothbrushes in department stores, made it illegal to remove a condom without consent during intercourse and made it illegal to film someone near an abortion clinic for the sake of intimidation.

Currently, California Democrats control all statewide offices with supermajorities in the legislature.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Newsom pushes California further to the left
California Governor Gavin Newsom wins recall election and signs numerous laws into place just weeks after his reelection. In this Sept. 14, 2021, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses reporters after beating back the recall attempt that aimed to remove him from office, in Sacramento, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo

The result of Newsom's work has meant "oodles of progressive legislation and oodles of virtual signaling," 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," Whalen said. "With the recall now gone, this is a governor who is really not threatened in any way."

But what counts as progressive in most of the country can be seen as moderate in California.

Newsom angered many among the state's left wing with his vetoes, including blocking a bill that would have required state contractors to confirm their supply chains don't contribute to tropical deforestation.

He also axed a bill that would have made jaywalking legal, a move advocates have said is needed because police disproportionally stop and ticket Black people for the offense.

And he halted a bill that would have let farm workers vote by mail in union elections, a decision that made some workers so angry they marched in protes t to the French Laundry, the fancy restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area where Newsom was famously photographed dining without a mask during the pandemic. The scene of Newsom out with lobbyist friends while telling others to stay home helped drive the recall effort.

In the weeks leading up to the recall, lawmakers said that the Newsom administration was unusually involved in the legislative process, prompting a flurry of amendments to tailor bills to his liking. He signed a law making California the first state to prohibit mega-retailers like Amazon from firing workers for missing quotas that interfere with bathroom and rest breaks.

But he insisted on lawmakers removing language ordering regulators to impose a statewide standard on reasonable work speeds, according to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of the bill.

"From somebody who considers themselves probably to the left of this governor, ... I don't think he went all that far," said Gonzales, a Democrat from San Diego and chair of the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee. "If you look at some of the bills, as they started, and then where they ended up because of input by the administration, then ... you kind of see what's happening."

Lawmakers did not 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 authoring 12 bills each. And this was the first year of a two-year legislative session, so many of the most controversial proposals were delayed for consideration until next year.

One bill would have eliminated the crime of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, a law advocates have said targets Black women and transgender people. The bill passed the Legislature, but the author decided not to send it to Newsom yet.

Gonzalez believes lawmakers "had a lot of self-regulation" during the session, cognizant that forcing polarizing issues on Newsom could hurt him in the recall election.

But Sen. Sydney Kamlager, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said few lawmakers would have delayed bills because they were worried about how it would impact Newsom's political future, saying "legislators also have egos." She said the governor is "always involved" with legislation.

"You would want a governor or an administration to be involved, you know, because policy that doesn't fit or can't be implemented just ends up becoming a dream," she said.

Next year, lawmakers could send Newsom legislation to regulate health care prices and impose COVID vaccine or testing mandates for employers, decisions the governor must make amid his re-election campaign. But those decisions could be easier for Newsom now that the recall has affirmed his political strength, despite protests from Republicans. Newsom defeated the recall attempt by more than 60% of the vote.

"Life has become harder and more expensive for families, yet Democrats focus on things like banning to-go ketchup packets and gas-powered lawn mowers," state Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk said. "I hope that 2022 brings some common-sense to Sacramento."