Gov. Gavin Newsom has until midnight Friday to determine the fate of the more than 550 bills on his desk — or risk turning into a pumpkin.
That last part may not be exactly true, but the bill tally from veteran Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli is, and underscores just how much work Newsom has ahead of him: He needs to sign or veto an average of about 110 bills per day to get through all of them by the Friday deadline.
CalMatters is tracking Newsom’s decisions on some of the most interesting, controversial or noteworthy bills state lawmakers sent him before the 2022 legislative session ended last month. Here’s a closer look at three proposals that especially caught our eye — and the politically fraught choices they may pose for Newsom:
- A bill that would usher in the nation’s most wide-ranging changes to solitary confinement by preventing inmates in California’s prisons, jails and immigration detention facilities from being held in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days, and for more than 45 days out of 180. The proposal would also ban the practice altogether for people younger than 26 or older than 59; women who are pregnant, recently had a baby or suffered a miscarriage; and those with physical or mental disabilities. The bill’s proponents say solitary confinement is tantamount to torture and does nothing to rehabilitate inmates. But a former member of the Mexican Mafia, who spent decades alone in 8-by-10 cells, much of it in solitary, told CalMatters’ Nigel Duara that he disagrees. “Without some kind of deterrent, I mean, you go whack a guy and you get 15 days in the hole and you’re back in a regular general population yard,” he said. “Is it a bad place? Sure. But they have to have bad places for bad people.”
- A bill that would extend by one year the lifespan of California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force, allowing it to deliberate until July 1, 2024 on how to best compensate African Americans for slavery and its lingering effects. The proposal would also permit state lawmakers to remove and replace people on the nine-member task force. Advocates voiced alarm about these provisions when the reparations task force met Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles, CalMatters’ Lil Kalish reports: Audience member Tiffany Quarles described the bill as “a betrayal of Black Americans,” adding, “We’ve been waiting for 400 years. We do not need an extension.” Meanwhile, Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, said the removal clause “politicizes” the process: “If some of the politicians don’t like the fact that we’re getting cash reparations, they could simply remove people on the task force who support them,” he said. During the two-day meeting, the task force also began putting dollar figures to potential compensation for Black Californians who can establish lineage to enslaved ancestors. For more, check out Lil’s story.
- A bill that would allow jaywalking on empty streets, permitting law enforcement officers to stop pedestrians only when “a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision,” CalMatters political intern Ariel Gans reports. Newsom last year vetoed a similar bill that would have repealed the state’s jaywalking laws and prohibited fines until Jan. 1, 2029, warning that it would “reduce pedestrian safety” even as he denounced the “unequal enforcement of jaywalking laws” and their use as a “pretext to stop people of color.”
- Last year, pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. hit a four-decade high, and California recorded the highest number of any state. At the same time, California’s local law enforcement agencies write thousands of jaywalking tickets every year, which studies find disproportionately impact people of color.
- Kevin Claxton, interim executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition: The bill “allows police to issue a ticket when someone crosses the street in a way that puts them or others in danger, but it will end biased and pretextual jaywalking stops that don’t improve public safety.”
- California District Attorneys Association CEO Greg Totten: “This is very bad public policy that’s going to endanger pedestrians and really tie the hands of law enforcement who are trying to do their job and keep pedestrians safe.”