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Gavin Newsom
Governor Gavin Newsom. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Signing Messages by the California Governor

Despite no constitutional provision, each Governor has used ‘signing messages’

By Chris Micheli, October 1, 2022 5:59 pm

What is a signing message and why do Governors use them? As readers may recall, Article IV, Section 10(a) requires that each bill that is passed by the Legislature “shall be presented to the Governor.” If the Governor signs the bill, then it becomes law. However, if the Governor chooses to veto the bill, the Governor returns the unsigned bill along with objections to the bill (i.e., the explanation for the veto).

Despite no constitutional provision, each Governor has used “signing messages” to accompany a Governor’s signature on a bill. The following is an example of a bill that the Governor recently signed:

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am signing Senate Bill 851, which makes technical changes that will allow taxpayers paying the Elective Pass-Through Entity Tax to fully utilize their Other State Tax Credit. These changes are clarifying of actions made this year through SB 113 {Chapter 3), a budget trailer bill. 

Although this modification may result in a revenue reduction, I am signing this bill to clarify implementation so the Franchise Tax Board can execute the program in a manner that is consistent with previous legislative action. Maintaining structural balance and resiliency of the state budget is on ongoing challenge. In the future, bills with a significant fiscal impact, and particularly tax law changes, should be considered and accounted for as part of the annual budget process.

Sincerely, Gavin Newsom

While the Governor does not have to provide a signing message for any measure he signs into law, sometimes these messages play an important role to explain why the Governor signed a bill, or to request additional law changes, or to explain why a bill was not vetoed (e.g., the example set forth above).

The following example of a signing message explains what the bill does, why the Governor signed it, and how this bill will be funded going forward, which is the main reason that the bill received a signing message:

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am signing Senate Bill 490, which will require schools that receive federal funding for prepared meals to include a requirement in their bids and contracts that the agricultural food products purchased are grown, packed, or processed domestically, beginning in 2024. I was proud to have made universal, nutritious school meals a reality for California students. This Buy American policy will benefit the California agricultural industry and agricultural workers, as well as the students and teachers consuming these meals in our schools.

Agricultural products grown and processed in California and the United States meet more rigorous requirements for food safety, environmental standards, and worker protections. California is home to the best produce in the world – more than a third of the country’s vegetables and three quarters of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. Signing this bill sends a message that California supports using our taxpayer dollars to purchase healthy, high-quality, and safe food products that also support reliable markets for our regional agricultural producers, processors, workers, and economies. This bill may result in additional costs beyond the funding for universal access to subsidized school meals provided in the budget. Any requests for additional resources to implement SB 490 will need to be reviewed and included in the annual budget process.

Sincerely, Gavin Newsom

These signing messages, again, can provide helpful explanations or even direct executive branch administrative agencies on how a bill should be implemented. The messages can also provide guidance on any future legislative or budgetary action that may be required.

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