Newsom signs first-in-the-nation corporate climate disclosure bills The laws will require large corporations operating in the state to disclose both their carbon footprints and their climate-related financial risks.

 (AP) — Large businesses in California will have to disclose a wide range of planet-warming emissions under a new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Saturday — the most sweeping mandate of its kind in the nation.

The law requires more than 5,300 companies that operate in California and make more than $1 billion in annual revenues to report both their direct and indirect emissions. That includes things like emissions from operating a building or store as well as those from activities like employee business travel and transporting their products.

The law, SB 253, will bring more transparency to the public about how big businesses contribute to climate change, and it could nudge them to evaluate how they can reduce their emissions, advocates say. They argue many businesses already disclose some of their emissions to the state.

But the California Chamber of Commerce, agricultural groups and oil giants that oppose the law say it will create new mandates for companies that don’t have the experience or expertise to accurately report their indirect emissions. They also say it is too soon to implement the requirements at a time when the federal government is weighing emissions disclosure rules for public companies.

The measure could create “duplicative” work if the federal standards are adopted, the chamber and other groups wrote in an alert opposing the bill.

In a statement Saturday, Chamber of Commerce president Jennifer Barrera said the law will be burdensome to businesses.

“We look forward to working with the Governor’s office on SB 253 clean-up legislation that will address some of the major concerns of our members, particularly the impact on small business,” Barrera said. “The tools developed to meet the goals of SB 253 must be cost-effective and useful.”

California has made major strides to set trends on climate policy in recent years. The state has set out to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, expand renewable energy and limit rail pollution. By 2030, the state plans to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below what they were in 1990.

This was Democratic State Sen. Scott Wiener’s third attempt to get the sweeping emissions disclosure rules passed in California. Last year, it passed in the Senate but came up short in the State Assembly. Wiener said the new emissions information will be useful for consumers, investors, and lawmakers.

“These companies are doing business in California,” Wiener said. “It’s important for Californians to know ... what their carbon footprint is.”

Major companies, including Apple and Patagonia, came out in support of the bill, saying they already disclose much of their emissions. Christiana Figueres, a key former United Nations official behind the 2015 Paris climate agreement, said in a letter that the bill would be a “crucial catalyst in mobilizing the private sector to solve climate change.”

Seventeen states already have inventories requiring major emitters to disclose their direct emissions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But the new California mandates will go beyond that to make companies report a wide range of direct and indirect emissions.

Public companies are typically accustomed to collecting, verifying, and reporting information about their business to the government, said Amanda Urquiza, a corporate lawyer who advises companies on climate and other issues. But the California law will mean a major shift for private companies that don’t yet “have the infrastructure” to report information that will include a wide range of greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

The federal rules, proposed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, would require major public companies to report their emissions and how climate change poses a financial risk to their business.

Under California law, the state’s Air Resources Board has to approve rules by 2025 to implement the legislation. By 2026, companies have to begin annually disclosing their direct emissions, as well as those used to power, heat, and cool their facilities. By 2027, companies have to begin annually reporting other indirect emissions.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill aimed at decriminalizing the possession and personal use of several hallucinogens, including psychedelic mushrooms.

The legislation vetoed Saturday would have allowed those 21 and older to possess psilocybin, the hallucinogenic component in what’s known as psychedelic mushrooms. It also would have covered dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and mescaline.

The bill would not have legalized the sale of the substances and would have barred any possession of the substances on school grounds. Instead, it would have ensured people are neither arrested nor prosecuted for possessing limited amounts of plant-based hallucinogens.

Newsom, a Democrat who championed legalizing cannabis in 2016, said in a statement Saturday that more needs to be done before California decriminalizes the hallucinogens.

“California should immediately begin work to set up regulated treatment guidelines - replete with dosing information, therapeutic guidelines, rules to prevent against exploitation during guided treatments, and medical clearance of no underlying psychoses,” Newsom’s statement said. “Unfortunately, this bill would decriminalize possession prior to these guidelines going into place, and I cannot sign it.”

The legislation, which would have taken effect in 2025, would have required the California Health and Human Services Agency to study and make recommendations to lawmakers on the therapeutic use of psychedelic substances.

Even if California made the bill a law, the drugs would still be illegal under federal law.

In recent years, psychedelics have emerged as an alternative approach to treating a variety of mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder. The Federal Drug Administration designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” for treatment-resistant depression in 2019 and recently published a draft guideline on using psychedelics in clinical trials.

Public opinion on psychedelics, which have been mostly associated with 1960s drug culture, has also shifted to support therapeutic use.

Supporters of the legislation include veterans, who have talked about the benefits of using psychedelics to treat trauma and other illnesses.

“Psilocybin gave me my life back,” Joe McKay, a retired New York City firefighter who responded to the 9/11 attacks, said at an Assembly hearing in July. “No one should go to jail for using this medicine to try to heal.”

But opponents said the drugs’ benefits are still largely unknown, and the bill could lead to more crimes — though studies in recent years have shown decriminalization does not increase crime rates. Organizations representing parents also worried the legislation would have made it easier for children and young people to access the drugs.

The California Coalition for Psychedelic Safety and Education, which opposed the measure, said more safeguards are necessary before decriminalization occurs.

“We’re grateful that Governor Newsom listened to some of the top medical experts, psychedelic researchers, and psychiatrists in the country who all warned that legalization without guardrails was at best premature for both personal and therapeutic use,” the coalition said in a statement Saturday. “Any move toward decriminalization will require appropriate public education campaigns, safety protocols, and emergency response procedures to help keep Californians safe.”

State Sen. Scott Wiener, who authored the bill, called the veto a missed opportunity for California to follow the science and lead the nation.

“This is a setback for the huge number of Californians — including combat veterans and first responders — who are safely using and benefiting from these non-addictive substances and who will now continue to be classified as criminals under California law,” Wiener said in a statement Saturday. “The evidence is beyond dispute that criminalizing access to these substances only serves to make people less safe and reduce access to help.”

He said he would introduce new legislation in the future. Wiener unsuccessfully attempted to pass a broader piece of legislation last year that would have also decriminalized the use and possession of LSD and MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.

Lawmakers can override a governor’s veto with a two-thirds vote, but they have not tried in decades.

In 2020, Oregon voters approved decriminalizing small amounts of psychedelics and separately were the first to approve the supervised use of psilocybin in a therapeutic setting. Two years later, Colorado voters also passed a ballot measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms and to create state-regulated centers where participants can experience the drug under supervision.

In California, cities including Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Berkeley have decriminalized natural psychedelics that come from plants and fungi.

Despite Newsom’s veto, California voters might have a chance to weigh in on the issue next year. Advocates are attempting to place two initiatives to expand psychedelic use on the November 2024 ballot. One would legalize the use and sale of mushrooms for people 21 and older, and the other would ask voters to approve borrowing $5 billion to establish a state agency tasked with researching psychedelic therapies.

 (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill Saturday that would have made California the first U.S. state to outlaw caste-based discrimination.

Caste is a division of people related to birth or descent. Those at the lowest strata of the caste system, known as Dalits, have been pushing for legal protections in California and beyond. They say it is necessary to protect them from bias in housing, education, and in the tech sector — where they hold key roles.

Earlier this year, Seattle became the first U.S. city to add caste to its anti-discrimination laws. On Sept. 28, Fresno became the second U.S. city and the first in California to prohibit discrimination based on caste by adding caste and indigeneity to its municipal code.

In his message Newsom called the bill “unnecessary,” explaining that California “already prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other characteristics, and state law specifies that these civil rights protections shall be liberally construed.”

“Because discrimination based on caste is already prohibited under these existing categories, this bill is unnecessary,” he said in the statement.

A United Nations report in 2016 said at least 250 million people worldwide still face caste discrimination in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Pacific regions, as well as in various diaspora communities. Caste systems are found among Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Muslims, and Sikhs.

Proponents of the bill launched a hunger strike in early September pushing for the law’s passage. During their campaign, many Californians have come forward with stories of discrimination in the workplace, housing, and education. Opponents, including some Hindu groups, called the proposed legislation “unconstitutional” and have said it would unfairly target Hindus and people of Indian descent. The issue caused deep divisions in the Indian American community. Hundreds on both sides came to Sacramento to testify at committee hearings in the state senate and assembly.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of Equality Labs, the Oakland-based Dalit rights group that has been leading the movement to end caste discrimination nationwide, said she still views this moment as a victory for caste-oppressed people who have “organized and built amazing power and awareness on this issue.”

“We made history conducting the first advocacy days, caravans, and hunger strike for caste equity,” she said. “We made the world aware that caste exists in the U.S. and our people need a remedy from this violence. A testament to our organizing is in Newsom’s veto where he acknowledges that caste is currently covered. So while we wipe our tears and grieve, know that we are not defeated.”

The Hindu American Foundation and Coalition of Hindus of North America claimed Newsom’s veto as a victory for their advocacy efforts.

“With the stroke of his pen, Governor Newsom has averted a civil rights and constitutional disaster that would have put a target on hundreds of thousands of Californians simply because of their ethnicity or their religious identity, as well as create a slippery slope of facially discriminatory laws,” said Samir Kalra, the Hindu American Foundation’s managing director.

In March, state Sen. Aisha Wahab, the first Muslim and Afghan American elected to the California Legislature, introduced the bill. The California law would have included caste as a sub-category under ethnicity — a protected category under the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Nirmal Singh, a Bakersfield resident and member of Californians for Caste Equity, said the introduction of this bill “represents a shifting tide in California to understand caste-based discrimination.” Singh also represents Ravidassia community, many of whom are Dalits with roots in Punjab, India.

“The fact that caste-oppressed people were given a platform to stand up for our basic human rights is a huge win in and of itself,” he said.

Earlier this week, Republican state Sens. Brian Jones and Shannon Grove called on Newsom to veto the bill, which they said will “not only target and racially profile South Asian Californians but will put other California residents and businesses at risk and jeopardize our state’s innovate edge.”

Jones said he has received numerous calls from Californians in opposition.

“We don’t have a caste system in America or California, so why would we reference it in law, especially if caste and ancestry are already illegal,” he said in a statement.

Grove said the law could potentially open up businesses to unnecessary or frivolous lawsuits.

A 2016 Equality Labs survey of 1,500 South Asians in the U.S. showed 67% of Dalits who responded reported being treated unfairly because of their caste.

A 2020 survey of Indian Americans by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found caste discrimination was reported by 5% of survey respondents. While 53% of foreign-born Hindu Indian Americans said they affiliate with a caste group, only 34% of U.S.-born Hindu Indian Americans said they do the same.

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