Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice
Governor Gavin Newsom signed multiple bills in October, finalizing several key pieces of agricultural legislation. The governor completed his legislative period on Oct. 13, one day before the deadline. Among over 1,000 bills that were sent to his desk, the governor vetoed 14.9% but passed multiple bills addressing pesticide usage, water rights, labor, and climate emissions.
Despite pushback from the Ag Council, Newsom signed Democratic Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s AB 363 on neonicotinoid pesticide usage. In his approval letter, Newsom explained that the Department of Pesticide Regulation is instituted to protect people and the environment by regulating their use of neonicotinoids.
While the bill is targeted at non-agricultural users, the Ag Council stated that the legislation was not communicated with the agricultural community prior to its passing and undermines DPR’s science-based research on pesticides.
Another pesticide bill signed into law requires the DPR to establish an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to make recommendations for the department’s decision-making and policies. However, the Ag Council explained that DPR currently takes over four years to register new products even after approval from the EPA, and AB 652 would further disrupt new products aimed at pest management.
Multiple water rights bills were considered in California this year, but Newsom approved Senate Bill 389 to allow the state to investigate even the longest-standing water rights claims. The bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Ben Allen, authorizes the California State Water Board to investigate water rights claims and take action against unauthorized users.
After initial pushback from the California Farm Bureau and other water stakeholders, the bill was amended to establish due process requirements as well as a requirement for the board to explain information requests.
Despite opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, Governor Newsom signed a sick leave expansion bill— SB 616 — into law, increasing paid leave to five days. In a press release, Cal Chamber president Jennifer Barrera claimed that many larger businesses in the state already offer more than three days of paid sick leave, but small employers are not able to absorb this cost.
“Small businesses are crucial to our local communities and the overall success of our economy,” Barrera said. “Continuing to add costs to their price of doing business creates a threat to California’s long-term competitiveness.”
Following Climate Action Week in New York, Newsom reiterated his platform on climate legislation and pledged to sign several key bills.
Senate Bill 253 — which requires businesses with over $1 billion in annual revenues to track and report any direct, indirect, and supply chain emissions — was signed on Oct. 7.
In the signing letter, Newsom stated that the implementation deadlines are infeasible, but his administration will work with the bill’s author to address potential issues.
The governor also signed SB 261 into law, mandating businesses with revenues over $500 million to prepare a climate financial risk assessment on holdings and supply chain assets. Some amendments were made to delay reporting requirements to 2026 and require reports every other year instead of annually.