Gavin Newsom’s website is topped by a photo of him talking to a group of children, and he has repeatedly stressed that as a governor and a father, he considers nurturing them to be one of his highest priorities.

Twice in recent weeks, Newsom has acted to protect California’s children from harm.

Amidst much fanfare, he signed an executive order to battle what he described as an epidemic of nicotine and cannabis vaping among youth.

Newsom directed the Department of Public Health to launch a $20 million statewide digital and social media public-awareness campaign about the health risks of vaping and to work on placing warning signs where vaping products are sold and on vaping devices themselves.

The governor also signed Senate Bill 39, carried by Sen. Jerry Hill, a San Mateo Democrat, to impose stricter age-verification requirements for tobacco products sold online or by mail.

“We must take immediate action to meet the urgency behind this public health crisis and youth epidemic,” Newsom said as he issued the order. “As a parent, I understand the anxiety caused by the deceptive marketing tactics and flavored options designed to target our kids. With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis.”

Secondly, after much public agitation and behind-the-scenes turmoil, Newsom signed Senate Bill 714, a measure by Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, which cracks down on doctors who help parents avoid the state’s mandatory vaccination laws by issuing bogus medical exemptions.

Anti-vaccination activists packed the Capitol and noisily opposed the bill. Newsom expressed early reservations about it and asked for amendments. Pan agreed, only to face even more demands from Newsom for changes. Finally, however, a deal was struck and Newsom signed the legislation.

Newsom’s double flip on the bill was a violation of the Capitol’s unwritten protocols. But the important thing is that with his signature, more California children will be protected from dangerous, even deadly, diseases.

Having acted twice to protect children, Newsom now has the opportunity for a trifecta by signing Senate Bill 328, which would mandate later starting times for middle- and high-school classes, as virtually every children’s-health organization recommends to battle sleep deprivation.

The adults who run and staff California’s public schools dislike the later start mandate. Last year, they persuaded then-Gov. Jerry Brown to veto a bill by Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Cañada Flintridge, to set later starting times.

“This is a one-size-fits-all approach that is opposed by teachers and school boards,” Brown said. “Several schools have already moved to later start times. Others prefer beginning the school day earlier. These are the types of decisions best handled in the local community.”

Walters, Dan

Portantino reintroduced the mandate this year as Senate Bill 328. He again got it through the Legislature despite stiff opposition from school districts and their unions, especially the California Teachers Association.

The CTA is waging a campaign for another veto, saying in one mass mailing, “The legislative session has adjourned, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has a number of bills on his desk for a signature or veto. We need him to veto one bill, SB 328.”

Why would the adults who run education oppose something that is universally recommended by medical authorities who have studied sleep deprivation?

They apparently put their own convenience above the welfare of the children they are supposed to be educating.

CALmatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California's state Capitol works and why it matters.

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