With the conclusion of the 2021 Legislative Session on September 10, Governor Gavin Newsom will be considering just over 800 bills. When a bill is passed by the Legislature and sent to the Governor, there are three actions that can occur:
(1) sign the bill into law;
(2) veto the bill; or
(3) allow the bill to become law without a signature (“pocket signature”).
The options available to the Governor can be found in Section 10 of Article IV of the California Constitution.
Signature by the Governor
This year, Governor Newsom has until October 10 to act on the bills sent to his Desk. When the Governor approves a bill, he signs it, dates it and deposits it with the Secretary of State. This copy is the official record and law of the state. The Secretary of State (in consultation with the Governor’s Office) assigns the bill a number known as the “chapter number.”
The bills are numbered consecutively in the order in which they are received and the resulting sequence is presumed to be the order in which the bills were approved by the Governor. There is only one sequence of chapter numbers maintained for each year of the regular session of the Legislature. As a result, the numbers do not continue in the second year of the Session. In addition, a separate set of chapter numbers is maintained for each special session.
Veto by the Governor
When the Governor vetoes a bill, he returns it with his objections to the bill to the house of origin. The house of origin may consider the veto immediately or place it on the “unfinished business file.” The Legislature has 60 calendar days, with days in joint recess excluded, to act upon the vetoed bill. If no action has been taken during this time, then the measure is removed from the file and the veto is effective. Veto overrides are rare. The Legislature has not overridden a Governor’s veto since 1979.
Allowed to Become Law without the Governor’s Signature
California has a “pocket signature” rule. If the Governor does not act on the measure within the allotted time, then the bill becomes law without his or her signature. This rarely occurs. Governor Brown, for example, only did this with two or three bills during his second stint as governor.
Historical Look at How Many Bills Get to the Governor’s Desk
Prior to the Legislature imposing bill limits in both houses beginning in the 1990s, a typical legislative year resulted in a low of 850 bills and a high of over 2,100 bills being sent to the Governor’s Desk for final consideration. Looking back of the last twenty years and prior four Governors, we have the following statistics:
- During Governor Wilson’s 8 years in office, between 1,050 – 1,700 bills were sent to him annually, and he vetoed between 8% – 24% of them
- During Governor Davis’ 5 years in office, between 950 – 1,450 bills were sent to him annually, and he vetoed between 6% – 25% of them
- During Governor Schwarzenegger’s 7 years in office, between 900 – 1,250 bills were sent to him annually, and he vetoed between 22% – 35% of them
- During Governor Brown’s (second) 8 years in office, between 850 – 1,200 bills were sent to him annually, and he vetoed between 10% – 15% of them
Governor Newsom’s Bill Actions
The 2021 Legislative Session is the third legislative year of Governor Newsom’s time in office. The following are his statistics:
- During Governor Newsom’s first year in office, just over 1,000 bills were sent to him, and he vetoed 16.5% of them
- During Governor Newsom’s second year in office, when 9 weeks of Session were lost and the total number of introduced bills to be considered were reduced by 76%, just over 425 bills were sent to him, and he vetoed 13% of them
- During Governor Newsom’s third year in office, also impacted by the pandemic, just over 800 bills have been sent to him. So far, he has signed all 159 bills sent to his Desk. He has about 300 bills already pending and close to 400 additional measures headed his way from the final week of Session.
On October 11, we will have a determination of how many bills he signs and vetoes.
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