In a move that may have election postering written all of it, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill on Sunday that aimed to make condoms freely available to all public high school students across the state.
The bill, known as Senate Bill 541, was rejected on the grounds of being financially imprudent for a state grappling with a budget deficit exceeding $30 billion.
The legislation, one of several passed by California’s Democratic-majority state Legislature before its adjournment last month, proposed a mandate requiring all public schools with students in grades nine through twelve to provide free condoms.
Furthermore, it sought to make condoms available in schools with students in grades seven through twelve as part of educational or public health programs. It would have prohibited retailers from refusing condom sales to youth.
Legislative staff had estimated that the bill’s implementation would necessitate an annual expenditure in the low millions of dollars.
With approximately 1.9 million high school students enrolled in over 4,000 schools last year, the bill aimed to enhance adolescent sexual health and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections among youth.
State Sen. Caroline Menjivar, a Democrat from Los Angeles and the author of the bill had championed the legislation as a means to safeguard “youth who decide to become sexually active” and to dismantle barriers that “potentially shame them and lead to unsafe sex.”
In his veto message, Governor Newsom acknowledged the significance of programs that enhance access to condoms as “important to supporting improved adolescent sexual health.”
However, he underscored the fiscal implications of the bill, noting that it was one among several measures that, cumulatively, would impose an additional $19 billion in costs to the state budget.
“With our state facing continuing economic risk and revenue uncertainty, it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications, such as this measure,” Newsom stated.
Newsom may have also vetoed the bill as a strategic move to establish himself as a moderate, potentially paving the way for a presidential campaign.