Gov. Newsom Vetoes Bill That Sought to Promote More Diverse California State Workers

By Andrew Sheeler
From The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week vetoed legislation that would have required the California Department of Human Resources to develop employee “upward mobility goals” that would factor in race, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, and physical and mental disabilities.

Assembly Bill 105, authored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, was intended to give women and minority state job candidates a better opportunity to navigate the state’s civil service system.

The bill also would have required that state boards and commissions have at least one board member or commissioner from an underrepresented community.

In his veto letter, the Democratic governor acknowledged that the goals of the legislation were “laudable,” but that “elements of the bill conflict with existing constitutional requirements, labor agreements, and current data collection efforts. Therefore, it may have unintended consequences that warrant further consideration.”

One of the constitutional requirements that may have conflicted with AB 105 was Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot measure that bans the state from using race, sex or ethnicity in public employment.

California voters in 2020 upheld that ban when they rejected Proposition 16, which would have overturned Prop. 209 and reinstated affirmative action in the state.

Newsom also pointed to initiatives in his own administration that he said advance diversity in the government workforce.

“The goal of this initiative is to implement policies that promote a diverse and inclusive workforce reflective of California, ensure a respectful workplace free of harassment, and address gender and racial pay gaps in the state workforce,” Newsom wrote in his veto message.

The governor called on Holden to collaborate with his administration to address those concerns, and said that some of what the bill was intended to achieve could be accomplished through next year’s budget process.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, Holden said that he was disappointed with the governor’s veto, but that he will “take it in the spirit of which he wrote it.”

Holden said he plans to introduce legislation next year to address at least some of what AB 105 would have done.

“We think that we can come back next year with a more laser-focused bill, even though I think this one was right on point,” he said.

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