California Democrats hope to pass an election reform bill that would help Gov. Gavin Newsom stave off a likely recall election later this year.
Assembly Bill 152, first proposed in the California State Assembly in January and currently under consideration by the state Senate, would "allow the Secretary of State to certify the sufficiency of the signatures before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee has had 30 days to review and comment on the estimate if the Legislature has appropriated funds it determines are reasonably necessary to conduct the recall election and has designated funds for that purpose in the Budget Act or another statute."
Under current state law, the Department of Finance issues a cost estimate, and then the Joint Legislative Budget Committee has 30 days to review and comment on the costs.
The bill also appropriates $35 million from the General Fund to the secretary of state to "support statewide and county costs of the 2021 gubernatorial recall election, thereby making an appropriation," according to the amended text as written last Wednesday.
The revisions would speed up the recall process, a move widely considered to benefit Newsom given the governor's improving approval ratings as California moved toward a full reopening this month, reversing shutdowns meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Lawmakers in both chambers are expected to vote on the bill on Monday.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Shirley Weber's office announced recall organizers gathered enough verified signatures to force a recall of Newsom. Only 43 signatures were removed during the allotted period allowing voters to request their names be removed, with 1,719,900 verified signers remaining — well above the roughly 1.5 million needed, Weber said.
California is one of 19 states that allow voters to recall its governors. After initially enjoying high approval ratings, Newsom attracted criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with many polls showing high disapproval of his state's economic recovery and vaccine rollout in late 2020 and early 2021.
Newsom blasted the effort as a "Republican recall" by "a partisan, Republican coalition of national Republicans, anti-vaxxers, Q-Anon conspiracy theorists and anti-immigrant Trump supporters."
He has attracted megadonors in his effort to stave off a recall, including Apple CEO Steve Jobs's widow Laurene Powell Jobs, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings, each of whom cut six- or seven-figure checks in support of the governor.
Several Republican candidates are running against Newsom, with former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announcing his candidacy in February and reality television star and former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner filing paperwork in April.
Under the current timeline, the recall will likely take place this fall.