Republicans Praise Newsom’s Veto of Legal Drug Injection Sites
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill Monday that he said could have brought “a world of unintended consequences” by allowing Los Angeles, Oakland. and San Francisco to set up sites where opioid users could legally inject drugs under supervision.
“The unlimited number of safe injection sites that this bill would authorize — facilities which could exist well into the later part of this decade — could induce a world of unintended consequences,” Newsom said.
While he said they could be helpful, he worried that “if done without a strong plan, they could work against this purpose. … Worsening drug consumption challenges in these areas is not a risk we can take.”
It was one of the most watched and most controversial measures of this legislative session.
Proponents wanted to give people who already use drugs a place to inject them while trained staff stand by to help if they suffer accidental overdoses.
The proposal came amid a spike in overdose deaths amid a national opioid crisis. But opponents said the move in effect would have condoned the use of dangerous drugs.
“Each year this legislation is delayed, more people die of drug overdoses,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who authored the California legislation.
Newsom had previously said he was open to the idea. But his decision comes as he faces increased national scrutiny as he is perceived as a possible presidential contender, though he has frequently denied any interest in running.
Wiener called Newsom’s veto “tragic,” and San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the veto by the former mayor of San Francisco is “disappointing.”
The veto left Republican leaders in the Legislature in the rare position of praising Newsom, a Democrat.
“People struggling with addiction need help, not a legal place to shoot up,” said Senate GOP Leader Scott Wilk, whose members had urged a veto in a letter to Newsom.
“We need to stop enabling criminal acts,” added Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, who had sent his own letter. “Instead, we should promote policies that will empower people to safely get off the streets and reintegrate into our communities.”
Tracy McCray, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, also praised Newsom for blocking what she said would have been “sanctioned drug dens … creating misery and chaos for the residents and businesses forced to be next to these sites.”
The first two publicly recognized overdose prevention sites in the United States opened in New York City in December and have been credited with intervening in more than 150 overdoses. Rhode Island approved testing similar centers for two years.
More than 2 1/2 times as many San Franciscans died of accidental drug overdoses in 2020 — a record roughly 700 people — than died from COVID-19 that year, Breed said earlier. She cited spiking drug overdose rates in declaring an emergency in the Tenderloin neighborhood in December.
Nationwide, drug overdose deaths increased 28.5% to more than 100,000 during the 12-month period ending in April 2021 over the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including about 10,000 Californians.
Supporters and opponents have promoted conflicting data on whether nearly 170 such sites in Australia, Canada, and Europe have been successful and whether they have encouraged nearby crime.
Newsom OKs Setting Rules for Disrupted Meetings
After months of escalating verbal assaults and threats against local government leaders, Newsom on Monday signed a bill setting standards for when officials can have disruptive people tossed out of public meetings.
Debate over the bill pitted concern for decorum and officials’ safety against the need to protect citizens’ rights to free speech and public assembly.
It’s become an issue across the United States particularly in recent years, exacerbated by opposition to restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, during social unrest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and fights over public school curriculum.
From Nevada to Virginia, the stress of threats and harassment prompted some officials to step down and others to question why anyone would want to serve.
Under the California bill, the presiding officer at public meetings could have a disruptive person removed, but only after warning them that their behavior is disruptive and will result in their ejection if it continues. Once warned, the individual may be removed if they continue the disruption. The measure also defines disrupting, which can include making threats or failing to comply with reasonable and lawful regulations.
However, the nonpartisan group Californians for Good Governance fears the bill could be interpreted by local officials “as a general license to limit public participation.”
California to Protect Health Benefits for Young Immigrants
About 40,000 low-income adults living in the country illegally won’t lose their government-funded health insurance over the next year under a new policy announced Monday by Newsom’s administration.
California already pays for the health care expenses of low-income adults 25 and younger, regardless of their immigration status. A new law scheduled to take effect in January 2024 would extend those benefits to cover all adults who, but for their immigration status, would qualify for the state’s Medicaid program.
But between now and when that new law takes effect in 2024, about 40,000 young adults who already have Medicaid in California are expected to lose their benefits because they are older than 25. Monday, the state Department of Health Care Services announced it would continue to cover those young adults through the end of 2023 to make sure they won’t lose their benefits.
Cyber Flasher Bill Goes to Newsom’s Desk
Victims who receive unsolicited sexually graphic material by text, email, app, or other electronic means could sue the sender under a bill that California lawmakers sent to Newsom on Monday.
The bill targets what’s known as “cyber flashing,” where victims receive such unwelcome surprises often from strangers.
“Just as individuals suffer sexual harassment and abuse in their physical, non-digital lives, there’s a growing incidence of individuals being harassed by receiving unsolicited, sexually explicit images and videos including from people they do not know,” said Democratic Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry when the Assembly approved the bill.
The Assembly passed the measure 76-0 on Thursday and the Senate sent the bill to Newsom on a 37-0 roll call Monday. There was no recorded opposition.
The most common recipients are young women, Aguiar-Curry said. The Pew Research Center in a report last year on online harassment found that 33% of women under 35 had been sexually harassed online, three times as often as men.