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Brown Signs Nonbinary Gender Bill, Vetoes Presidential Tax Return Bill


Just minutes before a midnight deadline, California Gov. Jerry Brown cleared his desk Sunday night by acting on the final few dozen of the nearly 1,000 bills sent his way this year by state lawmakers.

He signed SB 5 by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), a $4 billion parks and water bond, sending it to the June 2018 ballot. He approved a first-in-the-nation bill, SB 258 by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), requiring companies that make cleaning products to list hazardous ingredients on labels. And he signed AB 567 by Asm. Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) to allow the new process of "liquid cremation" to dispose of bodies.

Californians will be able to identify their gender as “nonbinary” on official state documents after the governor signed SB 179 by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). California will become the first state in the nation to allow a third gender marker on birth certificates -- and the second, following Oregon, to allow it on driver’s licenses. The governor also approved another Atkins bill, SB 310, that will allow transgender inmates in state prisons and county jails to petition courts for name changes.

But it was Brown's vetoes that made the most news on the governor's final day of bill actions.

In a huge win for local governments and a setback to wireless companies, Brown vetoed SB 649 by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), which would have eased approval of new 5G antennas by restricting the fees and permitting requirements that cities and counties could place on them, calling in his veto message for a "more balanced solution."

Brown also rejected a publicity-grabbing measure that would have required presidential candidates to release their tax returns to qualify for the California primary ballot. "First, it may not be constitutional," Brown wrote in his veto message of SB 149 by Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg). "Second, it sets a 'slippery slope' precedent. Today, we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?"

The governor vetoed several workplace-related bills authored by Asm. Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), including one that would have required large employers to publicly report any disparities in pay between their male and female employees. The California Chamber of Commerce called AB 1209 a "job killer," and the governor appears to have agreed. In his veto message, he wrote that it could "encourage more litigation than pay equity."

In addition, Brown rejected a bill banning employers from taking adverse action against workers -- or their dependents -- for their reproductive health decisions. In his veto message of AB 569, he wrote that existing state law has long banned such action, except for religious institutions, and that those claims should remain within the jurisdiction of the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. And he rejected AB 568, which would have required school districts to provide at least six weeks of paid maternity leave.

Overall, Brown vetoed just over 12 percent of the 977 bills that the California Legislature sent him this year. That's comparable to the previous six years of his latest governorship, in which he's vetoed between 11 and 15 percent each year.

In contrast, Brown signed the vast majority of bills that reached his desk in his first stint as governor. He holds the top three spots on the list of lowest percentages of bills vetoed in a year -- including less than two percent in 1982.

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