California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that sought to provide free condoms to all public high school students, citing concerns about the state’s budget deficit, which exceeds $30 billion.
According to data from the California Department of Education, the state had approximately 1.9 million high school students enrolled in over 4,000 schools last year.
In his explanation for vetoing Senate Bill 541, Governor Newsom emphasized that the legislation would impose an unfunded mandate on public schools and should be considered within the annual budgetary process.
Senate Bill 541 was among numerous bills passed by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature of California before the recent adjournment. Governor Newsom has been actively reviewing and making decisions on various pieces of legislation, including the rejection of bills aimed at banning caste-based discrimination, limiting insulin prices, and decriminalizing the possession and use of specific hallucinogens.
The proposed bill would have required all public schools serving grades nine through twelve to provide free condoms to students. Additionally, public schools catering to grades seven through twelve would have been obliged to incorporate condom availability into educational or public health programs. The legislation also aimed to make it illegal for retailers to refuse to sell condoms to young individuals.
State Senator Caroline Menjivar, a Democrat representing Los Angeles and the bill’s author, argued that the measure would have supported sexually active youth in protecting themselves and their partners from sexually transmitted infections, while also dismantling potential barriers that could lead to unsafe sexual practices.
Governor Newsom acknowledged the importance of programs promoting access to condoms for improved adolescent sexual health. However, he stressed that this bill, along with several others passed this year, would collectively add $19 billion in costs to the state budget. Given the ongoing economic risks and revenue uncertainties faced by the state, Newsom emphasized the need for fiscal discipline in considering bills with significant financial implications.
On the same day, Governor Newsom signed a law aimed at electrifying the state’s school bus fleet. Starting in 2035, the law will mandate that all new buses purchased or contracted by school districts be zero-emission vehicles.
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As of a 2022 report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s public school districts with their transportation own approximately 15,800 school buses, of which 10,800 are diesel-powered. This law aligns with California’s broader plan to phase out the use of fossil fuels, including the prohibition of new gas-powered car sales in the state by 2035 through state regulations.