California Governor Gavin Newsom will not give a State of the State address this year, avoiding the teleprompter that has frustrated him because of his dyslexia. institution.
It’s a break from tradition for Newsom, a Democrat and potential future presidential candidate who has tried many times to reinvent the speech for modern audiences. He has tried to dedicate the entire speech to just one topic – homelessness in 2020 – and use Dodger Stadium during the pandemic to give exhausted residents a pep talk about “brighter days ahead.”
Scripted speeches have caused problems for Newsom because of his dyslexia, a common learning disability that makes it more difficult for him to read and do other things related to reading. Therefore, he rarely uses notes in his public appearances and memorizes vast amounts of facts and figures. Last year, he invited lawmakers to listen to his speech in a large auditorium in Sacramento, in part because he could use a larger teleprompter screen.
Virtually every governor in the US gives a State of the State address, which mimics the State of the Union address the president gives to Congress each year. The California Constitution requires the governor to report to the state legislature “on the condition of the state” each year.
Prior to World War II, governors would fulfill this requirement by sending a letter to the legislature. That changed in the 1940s, when former governor Earl Warren — who would later become chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — began giving a formal address to the legislature, according to Alex Vassar, a librarian at the California State Library who acts as an unofficial librarian. historian of the state legislature. Governors have been giving speeches ever since.
This year, Newsom plans to comply with his constitutional demand by sending a letter to the state legislature. Next week, the governor’s office says, Newsom plans to take a four-day tour of the state to highlight his priorities.
“Long gone are the days of an hour-long governor’s speech on prime-time TV that everyone went to their living rooms to watch,” said Matt Barreto, a political science professor at UCLA. “Maybe the governor thinks there are more effective ways to go out in the community and speak directly to voters.”
Newsom has spoken openly about his dyslexia, including writing a semi-autobiographical children’s book in 2021 and pledging to donate all proceeds to the International Dyslexia Assn. The condition has not slowed him down. Newsom has already delivered two major speeches this year: his second inaugural address and an hour-long budget briefing for reporters, both in January.
“Building on his inaugural address and January budget, the governor looks forward to fulfilling his constitutional obligation to keep the state legislature abreast of state issues — and joining legislators across California to outline transformative policing proposals that will strengthen our communities,” said Anthony York, Newsom’s senior advisor for communications.
Tom Lackey, chairman of the Assembly Republican Caucus, called Newsom’s tour a way “to distract from his track record.”
“The format of his message is less important than its content — a state fairness should recognize that California is in trouble,” Lackey said, pointing to issues such as inflation, crime and homelessness.
In recent years, California’s State of the State speech has faded from public view. Many governors delivered the morning speech at a joint session of the legislature, far from primetime audiences. Those speeches served another purpose, marking the beginning of negotiations with legislative leaders and allowing the governor to set the agenda for the legislatures’ upcoming work.
Newsom’s biggest policy goal this year is to pass a law that penalizes big oil companies for making too much profit. Newsom says it will help curb rising gasoline costs, which hit an all-time high of nearly $6.44 a gallon last summer. The legislature has yet to act on Newsom’s proposal, and some Democrats expressed concern about the proposal at a recent public hearing.
“The number one complaint about the governor in Sacramento is that he doesn’t communicate with the legislature so they know where he stands on controversies and what he prioritizes,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego. “By canceling his one major appointment with the legislature, he could really cost himself to this insider audience.”
Not so, says Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).
“I think at least this helps build the relationship between individual members and the governor, especially at a time when we have almost a quarter of the body new,” Rendon said. “I love it. No, it’s not a sign of tension between us at all.”