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Thursday, June 1, 2023

The California Effect and Red State Pushback

Consider, she said, an internet-privacy bill she drafted last year, called the Age-Appropriate Design Code. It requires websites to ratchet up their default privacy settings to protect children from online tracking and data collection. The bill was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom over the opposition of the tech industry, which argued that it was too complicated to implement and tantamount to a state law setting national policy. That, in fact, was the point: Wicks passed the law with help from a member of Britain’s House of Lords, who had created similar regulations in her country, in the hope that if Britain and California passed the same rules, a global standard was likely to follow.

California has been so successful at bending national policy in its direction that academics have taken to calling the phenomenon the California effect. From labor and consumer protections to corporate governance, energy and animal-welfare measures, California’s laws are the most widely copied in the nation. Most corporations can’t afford to ignore its mammoth market (its $3.6 trillion economy is the world’s fifth-largest, exceeding India’s); they often end up adopting California’s rules across the country because doing so is cheaper than trying to craft two separate sets of products and policies.

For decades, California has been able to fund a sprawling administration whose agencies have federal-size budgets and wide latitude to set and enforce rules. But as the nation has fractured along cultural and economic lines, Republican governors, like Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, have sought to experiment with legislative activism of their own — a kind of anti-California effect. Recently, a number of red states have tried to create conservative guidelines for textbooks, explored ways of preventing companies from paying for employees’ abortions, tried to stop (or at least slow) the move away from fossil fuels and sought to limit Medicaid patients’ access to gender-transition care.