Governor Gavin Newsom must honor his promise to veto legislation whose unintended consequences would significantly harm our Central Valley economy.
Democrats controlling the California Legislature thought they could give President Donald Trump a virtual body slam with Senate Bill 1, which would blunt the president’s attacks on labor and environmental protection rules. Much of the news coverage on SB1 has focused on that California-v.-Trump political angle.
But SB1 also threatens to derail painstakingly delicate negotiations over our water supply.
That can’t happen. Whatever satisfaction might be gained by telling the president to pound sand is nowhere near as important as protecting the water supply of Modesto and thousands of farmers depending on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
We’re relieved that Newsom appears willing to stand up to leaders in his party and in the Legislature. Hours after lawmakers passed SB1 on Saturday, he said he would veto it. That’s the right call.
Months ago, the governor helped keep on track talks between bitterly divided opponents in a decades-long fight over control of our rivers. Environmentalists want more water flowing in the spring to help fish, while farmers want to continue holding it in dams to feed crops throughout the summer and fall.
These negotiations produced what’s called voluntary agreements that are subject to ongoing review, and they represent our best hope for avoiding court battles taking many years to resolve.
But the volunteer agreements could disintegrate under SB1, which would revert to environmental protections in place before the president took office and would last until the day after he leaves office, if he wins a second term. The all-important volunteer agreements, smartly, would provide flexibility based on new science, not the old science used for pre-Trump river rules.
Newsom indicated Saturday that he’s not willing to let the collaborative process unravel.
As of this writing Monday afternoon, SB1’s disappointed author, San Diego Democrat and Senate President Toni Atkins, reportedly had not sent the completed legislation to Newsom’s desk for signing. But some stake holders here in the Valley were gratified that the governor said it would be dead on arrival.
The Modesto-based Almond Alliance of California said SB1 “risked dismantling years of collaborative efforts to develop voluntary water agreements.”
“We applaud the governor’s leadership,” said a statement issued Sunday by five local members of Congress, including House Rep. Josh Harder of Turlock and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts on Monday praised the governor’s “unwavering support and leadership in advancing the voluntary agreements,” and said they’ll remain at the bargaining table.
Adam Gray, who represents Merced County and part of Stanislaus County in the California Assembly, on Monday reflected on Newsom’s “unexpected commitment” to the Valley. It seems more than “a token effort to pick up more votes,” Gray said.
His colleagues in the Legislature “proposed to trade away the best available science for political headlines and self-righteous rhetoric,” said Gray, who voted against SB1.
It’s not logical to speculate that Newsom is suddenly afraid to confront the president. California has sued Trump’s administration at least two dozen times since the governor took office a few months ago.
The governor sees value in the hard work our water leaders have done and will continue to do in voluntary agreements with environmental groups and state and federal agencies. Newsom sees more benefit in talking to work things out than forcing judges to do it in protracted court battles.
Veto away, Mr. Governor.