5 policies that will test Gavin Newsom’s national dreams

Newsom, who last year spurned a recall election and is running for a second term this year, must navigate a California version of the Progressive-Moderate divide. On one side are the governor’s progressive allies and the unions. On the other: the moderates and business interests that any CEO in California needs to stay in power.

Overlapping the two isn’t easy and could cost Newsom dearly, says Democratic strategist Roger Salazar.

“You don’t want to go over that gradual cascade. You want to continue down this path, but you don’t want to go overboard and end up crashing,” said Salazar, who worked for ousted former Governor Gray Davis. “Most states aren’t as progressive as California, so you don’t want to get to the point where you end up alienating people, which ends up hurting your political strength.”

It all comes amid speculation about Newsom’s presidential ambitions which he has helped fuel with strategic ad buys in Republican states and visits to Washington, even as he continues to insist he doesn’t. has no interest in running for president in 2024. Lawmakers and lobbyists generally believe Newsom makes decisions through that lens.

His moves in the coming weeks could give him some progressive new policies to brag about to the world. They could also give his enemies an avalanche of ammunition for attack ads. Or both.

Here’s a look at some of the tests Newsom will face:

Supervised injections

Should California relax its laws to allow drug use in certain settings? State Senator Scott Wiener thinks so. The San Francisco Democrat’s proposal to let some of California’s major cities test supervised injection sites is already on Newsom’s desk. Another Wiener bill that would decriminalize hallucinogens and ecstasy is within a few votes.

Newsom said in 2018 that he was “very open” to government-run drug consumption sites as a way to prevent overdose deaths, distinguishing himself from the government at the time. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill. But Newsom has yet to take a public stance on a recently passed bill that would set up pilot programs in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. Some public health experts believe safe injection sites can save lives, and the idea echoes a broader desire to move away from a prosecution-focused approach to addiction.

But the bill also opens Newsom up to ready-made attacks that he allowed to use drugs, coupled with images of urban misery. The measure barely passed the Legislature as moderate Democrats warned the bill would exacerbate rather than address widespread addiction. “Let’s put the hammer on the people” selling fentanyl, said Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove). “You don’t want to do this. You want to play well. Republicans also flayed the bill. Senator Brian Dahle, who is running to unseat Newsom, has warned his passage will lead to other states following suit.

“He’s promoting that California is the right way,” Dahle said. “I don’t know what planet he’s on, but I look around California, you have people living on the streets, you’re walking through human feces and needles.”

Climate action

Environmentalists have a mixed view of Newsom these days. While he has set himself ambitious climate goals, he has angered Green Democrats by seeking billions for emergency electricity supplies that could mean maintaining nuclear and fossil fuel power plants. He further frustrated environmentalists by vigorously opposing a Lyft-funded ballot initiative that would pay for electric vehicles by raising taxes on the wealthy.

But now it is gaining momentum. Newsom recently wrote to California’s air quality regulator advocating for more ambitious climate action and followed last week with rare appearances before Senate and House Democratic caucuses, emphasizing goals such as carbon neutrality, separating oil wells from homes and schools, and carbon capture. Some of his top environment officials have met with lawmakers and environmental groups.

“It is quite rare for Governor Newsom to present such bold actions and directives to the Legislative Assembly, and every conversation I had with lawmakers indicated that they were ready to step in,” said Laura Deehan, California State Director of the Environment. .

The question now: what will happen? Newsom has called for environmental legislation before only to watch it die from the sidelines, and he hasn’t stepped in to save bills that would have accomplished what he asked for. A powerful labor-oil alliance has derailed past efforts. Lawmakers are keen to make sure they don’t subscribe to a budget item extending a lifeline for dirty electricity sources. Newsom will play a key role in determining what emerges — and a deal could elevate his national reputation and match the White House’s climate breakthrough.

“The governor is all-out” on the climate, spokesman Anthony York said. “He will push.”

Labor rights

Despite Newsom’s reputation outside of California as a spendthrift liberal, he has been business-friendly since serving as mayor of San Francisco. That can fuel tensions with unions that wield significant influence in Sacramento — not to mention the Democratic primaries — and often clash with industry groups.

Two bills, in particular, could test this dynamic. Labor has lobbied for fast food industry standards, and a bill to create an advisory board on wages and working conditions has drawn significant opposition from restaurant organizations and franchise. Last year, Newsom vetoed a United Farmworkers bill making it easier for farmworkers to vote in union elections – but a similar measure on his way to office is drawing fire from major farming interests.

“I know Gavin Newsom was seen as very liberal on a lot of issues, usually social issues – when it came to labor issues he was a good Democrat. He was not a warrior,” California Federation of Labor executive secretary-treasurer Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a former state legislator, said in an interview. “The question is, will Gavin Newsom follow the lead of Californians, who obviously side with farmhands and fast food workers rather than big business and big farms?”

Salary equity

It’s an idea that seeks to tackle the heart of workplace inequality: forcing California companies to disclose how much they pay their workers. Proponents believe that a A bill to make this information public, disaggregated by gender and race, would help alleviate the imbalances in pay for women and people of color.

But the The legislation is a prime target for business groups who warn it would give companies another reason to avoid operating in California. These interests have a good deal of power to kill or water down legislation – and to persuade governors to veto bills. They lobbied to keep the names of the companies confidential, which the bill’s author called a non-starter that defeats the purpose.

Another variable: first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, a strong advocate for women’s equality in the workplace and beyond. The governor proudly praised his wife’s work. “In California we have some of the strictest wage laws in the country, but CA women still only earn $0.86 on the dollar and that number drops for women of color,” Siebel Newsom tweeted on the day of the announcement. equal pay (his office did not respond to a request for comment).

“We certainly know that this is an issue that is of great concern to the first partner,” said Senator Monique Limón, who is carrying the bill, but “we know that there is very strong opposition, and this opposition speaks to lawmakers and make sure the governor’s office understands this position.

children online

Social media companies are facing a political toll as policymakers grapple with growing evidence of its harmful effects on children. That’s true in both Washington and Sacramento, where landmark legislation would hold the companies that own Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram accountable for how their products affect young people.

Industry opposition has already led the bill’s authors to drop a provision allowing private suits. But the bill still targets a fundamental business practice — and tests the tech industry’s influence in Meta and Snap’s home state capital.

Newsom has not publicly stated his position, but he has forged deep ties to Silicon Valley over the years. In 2020, he vetoed legislation that would have imposed parental consent requirements on social media companies, writing that it was redundant due to federal law and would “not significantly expand the safeguards for children”.


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