Pandemic preparedness, children’s health measures pulled from November ballot

California leaders scratched two voter initiatives from the November ballot on Tuesday, reaching deals with proponents to pull their measures in exchange for legislative changes.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said that backers had agreed to withdraw a pandemic preparedness measure that had been backed by disgraced former crypto executive Sam Bankman-Fried, as well as a measure sponsored by children’s hospitals that would have expanded state funding for healthcare for seriously ill children.

The deals come during a week of peak deal-making in the Capital over what measures will appear on the November ballot.

A law passed a decade ago created a negotiation window for ballot-measure backers to negotiate with lawmakers over policy changes passed by the legislature in exchange for dropping their measures from the ballot. Previously, initiatives could not be removed from the ballot once they had gathered enough signatures to qualify.

This year’s deadline to put measures on the November ballot is Thursday. Newsom must sign a balanced state budget by Sunday, another critical factor in negotiations over measures and legislation that require state funding.

The pandemic preparedness measure, which gained steam during 2021 in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, would have raised taxes on personal income above $5 million by 0.75% for a decade. The campaign supporting the measure collected more than $21 million from groups funded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and Bankman-Fried.

After Bankman-Fried was convicted of fraud and public interest in pandemics began to wane, fundraising dried up. The committee had $28.56 on hand as of March 31, according to state filings.

Newsom on Tuesday said he would sign a bill that expands the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, a little-known state program that funds medical research, and broadens its mandate to include technologies that could help with pandemic prevention. The deal does not include additional funding.

Max Henderson, the measure’s main proponent, said in a statement that the effort “will help California lead the way in preventing the loss of life, economic devastation, and large scale shutdowns from future outbreaks.”

Newsom’s office also announced a deal on a measure that would have expanded state funding for children’s healthcare.

In lieu of the measure, which was sponsored by the California Children’s Hospital Assn. and qualified for the ballot last week, Newsom said the backers had reached a deal to add more funding for children’s healthcare to the state budget.

Ann-Louise Kuhns, the president and chief executive of the California Children’s Hospital Assn., said that the budget deal will create “less stress on the state’s budget for public health, public safety, public education and public infrastructure.”