Lt. Governor Becomes 1st Woman to Sign Bill into Law in CA


By Sandra G. Leon

The Lt. Governor of California became the first woman in the state’s history to sign a bill into law when she exercised the powers of the Governor while Gavin Newsom is out of the country for a family vacation.

Eleni Kounalakis, who has served as Lt. Governor since her election in 2018, signed a bill on Thursday to extend eviction protections to renters experiencing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The renter protections, which were set to expire at midnight on Thursday, are now extended through the end of June.

The Legislature passed the urgent measure earlier in the day on Thursday and Kounalakis had the authority to sign the urgency measure into law while Newsom is out of the state. Newsom is expected to return on April 12.

“It was very humbling. And I did feel that sense of history,” Kounalakis said after signing two separate bills on Thursday.  

Kounalakis is the first woman ever elected to serve as the second-highest elected official in the state, and, in that position, assumes the powers of the Governor anytime he is out of the state or is otherwise unable to fulfill his duties.

The Lt. Governor would automatically become Governor is the current chief executive resigns or dies while in office.

Kounalakis is one of four woman currently serving in statewide constitutional offices, including Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber, State Treasurer Fiona Ma, and State Controller Betty Yee.

Before being elected Lt. Governor in 2018, Kounalakis served as the United States Ambassador to Hungary from 2010 to 2013. She earned her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Kounalakis is currently running for re-election in the 2022 elections, and is considered to be interested in running for Governor in 2026 when Gavin NEwsom would be limited from running again under term limits.

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