SACRAMENTO – A measure to regulate vaccine exemptions had just passed the state Assembly when Gov. Gavin Newsom threw lawmakers a curveball.
The bill needed more changes, his office said in a tweet, “so medical providers, parents and public health officials can be certain of the rules of the road once the bill becomes law.”
The problem? Newsom had previously said he would sign the bill, and it was too late to amend it without a separate piece of legislation.
“We were surprised at the late tweet,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told The Sacramento Bee early Saturday morning after the Legislature adjourned for the year. “It was something that we hadn’t seen coming.”
Newsom’s wavering, especially on such a tense topic, will be remembered in the state Capitol as his first year crafting bills with lawmakers comes to a close.
The Democratic governor can cite action on multiple fronts: Police will have new guidelines on when they should fire their weapons. Renters will see new protections against rent spikes. Schools districts will have more control over creation of new charter schools.
But Newsom’s first legislative year is demonstrating he still has some learning to do, which is typical for new governors, said Wesley Hussey, a political science professor at California State University Sacramento.
The back-and-forth over the vaccine bill is a good example, Hussey said.
Most voters don’t pay close enough attention to the Capitol for it to hurt Newsom in the polls, Hussey said. But it likely damaged his reputation with lawmakers he’ll need in the future to keep his campaign promises, many of which will require new laws.
“I think governors have to learn that through doing,” Hussey said. “He has to learn he can’t do things like that, particularly not with a tweet.”
Republican political consultant Rob Stutzman, who served as a top aide to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, agreed the late call for changes could haunt Newsom, especially in light of the chaos the bill caused at the Capitol.
On Friday, anti-vaccine protester dropped a menstrual cup apparently filled with blood from the Senate viewing gallery onto several lawmakers. Senators were forced to relocate to a committee room while the chamber was processed as a crime scene, capping a series of recent altercations between lawmakers and vaccine protesters.