You may hear a lot from naysayers. But here are significant reasons for why Gavin Newsom is good for our state and local community. All information is from Cal Matters:
End the death penalty (for now): Newsom made no secret of his opposition to capital punishment during his 2018 campaign. Sure enough, one of his first acts as governor was to place a statewide moratorium on executions. It’s not a permanent ban — there are still more than 700 people on death row and a future governor can undo the move with the stroke of a pen. Recall supporters are counting on it.
Put new limits on police use of force: One of 2019’s fiercest legislative battles was over a bill to make it more difficult for police to legally justify killing civilians. After helping to broker a compromise between criminal justice reform advocates and police unions, Newsom signed the bill into law calling on further action to “make this moment meaningful.” A CalMatters analysis found that the law hasn’t yet had the transformative impact hoped for by supporters.
Move forward with two prison closures: Newsom has been flirting with the idea of closing a state prison since his inauguration. Now, he’s pushing ahead with shuttering two: Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy by Sept. 30, and California Correctional Center in Susanville by next summer. It’s a response to a long-term decline in the state’s incarcerated population — helped along by the pandemic — but it also represents a sea change in a state once the epicenter of the “tough on crime” movement.
Push the largest economic stimulus ever: Buoyed by higher than expected tax revenue and an avalanche of federal money, Newsom proposed the largest budget in this state’s — or any state’s — history this year. It included $100 billion in headline-grabbing, poverty-targeting initiatives including direct payments to millions of Californians and billions more for housing, debt relief, pre-K education and broadband.
Expand signature anti-poverty program: At Newsom’s urging, the 2019 state budget doubled the size of California’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which sends cash to low-wage workers. That expansion, which also included a supplemental boost for taxpayers with young children, was according to one enthusiastic commentator, Newsom’s “biggest accomplishment” to date. Last year, he signed a bill extending the payments to undocumented immigrants.
Support controversial gig worker law: In 2019, Newsom signed a bill that rewrote California labor law and sent shudders through the political system. It codified a state Supreme Court ruling to make it much harder for companies to classify their workers as “independent contractors.” For freelancing Californians, this meant the prospect of less flexibility, or less work in general, but also a minimum wage, worker compensation protection and other benefits of formal employment. Corporate titans of the gig economy pushed back, placing a carve out for ride-hailing company on the 2020 ballot. Newsom didn’t take a side and it passed overwhelmingly.
Extend rent and utility debt relief: With the end of California’s eviction moratorium rapidly approaching, the governor and other state lawmakers set aside a $5.2 billion pot of federal cash to help Californians pay their back rent. Another $2 billion has been set aside to help people pay their delinquent utility bills. But both initiatives, mired in delays and confusing or complex applications, have struggled to get money out the door.
Expand early childhood education: Courtesy of the unprecedented amount of money sloshing around the state budget, the governor and Legislature hammered out a new plan that would allow every 4-year-old in California to attend transitional kindergarten by 2025.
Okay free school meals for all: During the pandemic, the federal government gave schools permission to offer free grab-and-go breakfast and lunch to all students, suspending proof of income eligibility requirements. Universal school lunch is a policy long sought by anti-poverty and child welfare advocates. This year, Newsom signed off on a legislative proposal to keep the pandemic-era program going at a cost of $650 million a year starting in 2022-23.
Overhaul charter school law: In 2019, the Legislature passed and Newsom signed a package of new bills subjecting charter schools — publicly funded but independently operated — to new rules. One makes it easier for local school districts to block the creation of new charters, while another requires that charter teachers hold California teaching credentials.
Ban future fracking: After dancing away from this hot-button campaign promise, Newsom finally moved toward a phase-out. The fracking ban isn’t slated to go into effect until 2024, but in July, the administration denied 21 additional fracking permits, citing environmental concerns.
Announce the end of fossil fuels (eventually): The governor has set two especially audacious goals for the state: an end to oil extraction by 2045 (he wants to bump it up to 2035) and a ban on new gas-powered cars by 2035. These aren’t detailed policies, and Newsom won’t be governor long enough to see them implemented, but they’re signals to both business and other policymakers where the state is headed.
Prohibit a widely used pesticide: For decades, California farmers have used chlorpyrifos to kill the pests that ravage their fields and orchards. It’s also a neurotoxin. The administration ordered it banned, though it won’t be fully outlawed for two years.
Expand Medi-Cal for undocumented residents: For years, one of the top items on California progressives’ wish list has to been to make Medi-Cal, the publicly funded health insurance program, available to the largest group of uninsured people: undocumented immigrants. In 2019, Newsom signed a law letting young adults as old as 26 sign up. And this year’s budget covers those 50 and older.
Boost Obamacare subsidies: Few states embraced the Affordable Care Act like California. In 2019, Newsom proposed a few enhancements: Though Congress stripped the federal law of the mandate to get insurance, California would add its own. The state also made roughly 1 million more Californians eligible for subsidies through the state insurance marketplace.
Enact mild rent control: In 2019 state lawmakers placed a ceiling on how much landlords can hike the rent. At roughly 7%, the cap only banned exorbitant increases. Many rent control advocates were not impressed, and they put an unsuccessful rent control measure on the ballot last November. But in a state that has long been wary of telling landlords what they can charge their tenants, it remains one of Newsom’s biggest legislative accomplishments.
Ban many evictions during COVID: In the summer 2020, COVID cases were reaching ever higher totals, unemployment rates were skyrocketing and a potential wave of evictions presented not only an economic crisis, but a public health one. So the governor issued an executive order barring evictions for non-payment of rent — though crucially, tenants still owe their back rent. The Legislature has renewed that policy twice now, most recently through Sept. 30, in part because the state has been slow to roll out rent relief. But a CalMatters investigation found that thousands of tenants had been evicted despite the moratorium.
Turn hotels into housing: In the early months of the pandemic, Newsom launched “Project Roomkey,” a program that spent federal money on acquiring vacant hotel rooms and converting them into temporary shelter for homeless Californians. It temporarily helped more than 42,000 people off the street while also curtailing the spread of the raging virus. Since then, the governor has supercharged the idea, converting 6,000 rooms into permanent supportive housing. This year’s state budget includes another $5.8 billion for the program, about half people with mental illness. That’s all part of an unprecedented $12 billion package to reduce homelessness.
Ramp up vaccinations: California may have gotten off to a rough start, but we’ve since turned a corner maintaining an inoculation rate higher than all but 12 states. Newsom has helped with the pro-vaccine campaign, from funding door-to-door vaccination campaigns, partnering with churches and other trusted community groups and, of course, emceeing those cheesy vaccine lottery drawings.
Set the record for executive orders: While the pandemic slowed the other branches of government to a crawl, the governor’s office went into lawmaking overdrive. In 2020, Newsom issued more executive orders than any governor in a single year in modern history. Of the 58 that were COVID-related, some called for lockdowns or implemented color-coded tiers, while others lifted and relaxed them; some redirected billions of dollars while others loosened restrictions on aid; and many reshaped other areas of the law in response to the public health threat, suspending evictions, extending tax filing deadlines and ensuring that every voter would receive a ballot in the mail, to name a few.
Led in acquiring personal protective equipment: In the early months of the pandemic, everyone — hospitals, households, national governments — was scrambling to get masks, face shields and ventilators. With the federal government taking a laissez-faire approach to PPE, the governor coordinated purchases with neighboring states, massaged the Trump administration for more gear and deployed a torrent of contracts to private vendors. While some of those last-minute contracts collapsed or went to eminently unqualified vendors, other no-bid deals benefited Newsom’s biggest campaign benefactors.